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Riyadh: Filmmaker Marius Piperides first screened “Smuggling Hendricks” for Saudi audiences in Riyadh on June 16 from his home country of Cyprus.

The screening was part of the inaugural European Film Festival, which hosted a series of 14 European films at The Esplanade’s VOX Cinema.

“Smuggling Hendrix” is based on a true story revolving around a struggling musician, Yannis, who plans to leave. Her plans are thwarted by her dog Jimmy crossing the border that separates southern Greece from northern Turkey. Since animal exchanges are prohibited between countries, Yannis enlisted the help of a Turkish settler to retrieve his dog. The film contains strong political and legal commentary on the Cyprus issue, packed into a good Earth House comedy.

He told Arab News that the filmmaker hopes to have a political dialogue, share a story based on his experience and encourage people to talk about the “nature of borders”. “We set our own boundaries and keep people away, and we create this fear for the unknown.”

His film career began 20 years ago when he returned to Cyprus after completing his studies in the United States. The exchange gave him the opportunity to learn from the American film industry and return home to participate in the film scene.

The cultural exchange is akin to the Eurofest initiative in Riyadh, which aims to acquaint the Saudi public with international efforts, provide an instant introduction to Saudi filmmakers and create a space for discussion.

Because the film market is competitive, the filmmaker understands the importance of providing the audience with a reason to promote a particular film over larger, more accessible productions.

Filmmaker Marius Piperides. (Supplied)

“I think it’s about (trying to) find a way to tell something locally, but with an international appeal. If you can do that, and you can share a local story about a Cyprus Or if someone from France likes it, the condition is that you have to try and win … you have to find your own voice, “said Piperides.

The filmmaker said that as the free film scene in Europe struggles, and funding becomes more and more difficult, it is a wonder that the Saudi film industry is booming. While there were only 14 movie theaters on the island, Saudi Arabia is now home to more than 50 sites.

“It’s important to have this opportunity to exchange and understand each other’s culture through cinema, coming from a small country,” Piperides said.

“The good thing here is that you have a big market that we don’t have in Cyprus. You have a growing market that is hungry for movies. Everything is new. Now in Europe, their presence is low. Is happening, “he said during a talk as part of the festival’s supplemental calendar, moderated by TV and radio personality Muhammad Bajnid.

For the filmmaker, cinemas create a space for people to share their experiences, ideas and opinions and to discuss specific issues. “Cinema in Cyprus, during the 50’s, or until the 80’s – it was huge. There were a lot of cinemas. There were six cinemas in a small village with a population of two to three thousand. And now there is only one art. The House is a cinema, and it is struggling, “said Piperides.

“It’s important to see if they can do a parallel program,” he said.

While this is the first European film festival in Riyadh, one way to improve it is to bring art houses and independent films to the capital and neighboring cities and towns.

“There must be small art house theaters. To show more, not just European, more art house movies, not just blockbusters, American, Bollywood, or Egyptian. I’m sure there’s an audience.” For).

Earthhouse films are known for dealing with complex issues that cater to a specific genre as opposed to a wider audience, making them less popular in global markets. “Distributors (European art films) are not coming because there is no way to get their money back. Through festivals, you can watch good films or you will not get a chance,” he said.

The film had its first premiere in 2018 and has been shown in many parts of the world. “Glad to see that it’s still fresh, it’s still interesting. It’s still there because nothing has changed, basically – the political situation in Cyprus. And it’s also about the borders that still exist (a The problem is.

In a way, the film documents not only the skill of the director but also the evolution of the industry itself. Piperides highlight the important role of reflecting and constantly criticizing past works. “I see the mistakes I’ve made or the more directing, the technique, the script, the things that could have been better … at the time, that’s all I knew. You learn and you do better. It’s important to be critical of yourself and your work. “

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