3rd Evia Film Project - Day 3 Highlights: Masterclass by Yolanda Markopoulou, Cosmote TV’s Screening, DJ set by The Boy

Let’s get a taste of all the events and activities that took place on Thursday 4th, July, the third day of the 3rd Evia Film Project, in Edipsos, Agia Anna and Limni:

Masterclass by Yolanda Markopoulou

On the occasion of the Μixed Ρeality (MR) project Paradise Lost, currently in the development stage, the interdisciplinary artist Yolanda Markopoulou delivered a masterclass, within the framework of a specialized workshop, specifically designed for the students of the Department of Digital Arts and Cinema of the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, based in Psachna, Evia. Charalampos Rizopoulos, Professor at the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, and Katerina Antonopoulou, Assistant Professor of interactive arts at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens participated in the masterclass. Yolanda Markopoulou referred to the challenges in the creation of a Mixed Reality project in Greece.

The masterclass was prefaced by Lazaros Boudakidis, head of the Immersive - All Around Cinema section, who welcomed the students and the audience to the event, introducing the speakers and presenting the subject of the masterclass.

Initially, Yolanda Markopoulou thanked the Festival for the invitation and the students for their presence. She stated that she is optimistic as she is surrounded by young people who are at the beginning of their careers in the industry. She spoke of her great need to connect the Immersive world with the theater and talked about the creation of White Dwarf, which was showcased in 2022 as part of the 63rd Thessaloniki International Film Festival: "The original idea was for it to be an interactive project. However, with the advent of the pandemic, we had to turn it into VR. So, it became a 360-degree VR film, with a performative part that remained. It was showcased at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, in a space created specifically for it,” she stressed, thanking the Festival for its VR section, which, as she stated, “grows and improves every year.”  

Yolanda Markopoulou’s current project, entitled Paradise Lost, is in the development stage, and it is animation based. It tells the story of how a family is separated during the Asia Minor Catastrophe. She underlined that her desire is to enable the viewer to explore the digital world, while staying in touch with the real one. For this reason, she made the decision to approach this topic with a mixed reality project.

Yolanda Markopoulou referred to the world of Mixed Reality as a field that is “uncharted, with room for much experimentation,” while immediately after, she made a live casting so as the students could get a taste of the film. She noted that the fact we find it really difficult, in a Mixed Reality project, to understand what belongs to the digital world and what belongs to the real world, is interesting: "We convince our brain that this entire fabrication is real."

Immediately afterwards, the floor was taken by Katerina Antonopoulou, who made a brief reference to the courses of the undergraduate curriculum of the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens that are related to the production of Mixed Reality projects, emphasizing the interdisciplinary character of the subject: ”For the creation of such projects, cooperation between many different specialties is necessary – something that is the case in the artistic field as well,” she commented.

Next, she indicatively showed a number of student VR projects developed in the department's workshops, making a brief reference to the European projects in which the department participates. Within the framework of these projects, many workshops have been conducted and augmented and virtual reality projects have been developed.

Yolanda Markopoulou took the baton once more in order to speak on the “loneliness” prevalent in such VR creations, noting that this is due to the difficulty in designing 360° characters and giving them a soul, which results in most creators ending up creating lonely worlds. She stressed the difficulty of producing such films, particularly in Greece. She also raised the issue of storytelling and the problem of obsessing over the technological part: "A lot of times in VR we tend to “fast forward” towards the end and we are only interested in how the result will look in terms of image and presentation. Unfortunately, VR projects are often poor in storytelling," she mentioned.

She also talked about the need to think about who exactly we are addressing when we make such a film, but mainly to question ourselves on why we want to make a VR film, and whether or not this specific medium really serves us. She stressed the need for collaboration between the artistic and the purely technical fields. At this point, Ms. Antonopoulou pointed out that the new batch of students “will manage to bridge this gap in communication, as they have a variety of skills.”

Charalampos Rizopoulos stressed that, even though he is generally pessimistic, he is optimistic about the future of virtual reality and that he believes it will be more effective. Then, he posed the rhetorical question of whether ultimately "the medium serves our story, or vice versa? There is a big trap: just because we can construct something, is it really necessary to do so?” he commented. He also mentioned that when a new medium appears, it is expensive, difficult to use, and we have yet to discover the conventions in its syntax, advancing somewhat tentatively.

Next, Dimitris Haritos, Professor at the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, quoted Alvin Wang Graylin, who had spoken on virtual reality, saying that its problem is not the technology, which is flourishing, but its content, which is poor. "There is a lack of an in-depth understanding of the characteristics of the medium," he said, agreeing with Mr. Rizopoulos. The speakers expressed the belief that the weakness of VR products lies more in the way the narrative is articulated than in the technology that supports it.

After the discussion, the students had the opportunity to watch Yolanda Markopoulou’s work, as well as the projects of the students showcased by Ms. Antonopoulou through a headset. After a chat in a relaxed atmosphere and a treat from Fischer, the Festival’s sponsor, their evening came to an end.

Screenings at Elimnion

On Thursday 4th, July, the films Underwonder, produced by Cosmote TV and directed by Kostas Karydas, the short film Nothing Holier than a Dolphin by Isabella Margara, were screened at Elimnion, in Limni, in the presence of the films’ directors, as well as The Weight of Water by Kathryn Bigelow.

Prior to the screening, Program Collaborator Yannis Palavos, welcomed the audience: "We are very glad that for the third year in a row we find ourselves in Northern Evia as a Festival. It is our practical effort to contribute to the revival of this long-suffering place after the devastating fires of 2021. Above all, we are trying to pass on some know-how about green and sustainable cinema, by showcasing films of environmental interest to the residents of Edipsos, Agia Anna, and Limni.”

“We will begin with the documentary Underwonder, a Cosmote TV production. Cosmote TV is the Festival's grand sponsor, with whom we have a long-standing and close relationship. We will watch the fourth and last episode of the series written and directed by Kostas Karydas. It aired in May, enjoying great success, and reaching number one on the platform of Cosmote TV,” he mentioned and welcomed the director. Kostas Karydas thanked the audience and stated that Underwonder is “a journey of a group of divers exploring caves in Greece.” Afterwards, the screening of the documentary and a Q&A with the director followed. 

In response to a question about how the filmmaker encountered the divers of the documentary, he said: “This group of divers has been diving for a long time and when we met, they expressed the need to communicate what they see, so that the world can understand what lies under their feet. As such, we started shaping the documentary’s structure, picking out the caves from the thousands that exist in Greece, and making the trips.”

“Their sessions were seven hours long, there were intense arguments, and each person naturally had its own character,” the filmmaker remarked. “Down in the caves, organization is a matter of life and death, and of course, some things must be organized down to the last detail.” 

Regarding the huge success of the documentary series, he divulged: “I believe it has much to do with the unseen worlds. We did our best to make you feel like you gained access into the cave, and not only document the experience, but to make you a part of the dive." He stressed that the underwater footage was extremely difficult to get, because it was all shot by one diver in the team and they had zero control over filming underwater. Finally, he said that the underwater wealth of Greece may end up motivating him to continue to follow this interesting group of divers.

After the Q&A, a screening of the film Nothing Holier than a Dolphin followed, in presence of the director. Yannis Palavos presented the film, noting its participation in the 2022 Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival - the biggest short film festival in the world – during which it won the audience award.

Filmmaker Isabella Margara expressed her gratitude to the Festival for the invitation, stating that the film started from a call for environmental organizations from all over Europe, which wanted to fund a script relevant to overfishing and the bycatch of sea creatures (sea turtles, dolphins, etc.) which get caught in fishermen's nets by accident: “I found out that bycatch is a very big problem in the seas. But what moved me, and made me want to write a script about this subject, was that I read that many of these animals, although they are returned to the sea, do not survive because of the shock of being captured. This pain and the shock of captivity were what inspired me to write, and even to place a human in the dolphin’s circumstances, so that we may put ourselves in their shoes more easily," she said. 

The filmmaker speaks about loss in a more metaphorical way, relying on two myths in order to write the script: "One myth comes from Samos Island. There, it is believed that whole regions came from a boy who arrived on the shores riding a dolphin - an image very widespread in Greek folklore. The second myth originates from the Arctic Circle, where a polar bear rescues a fisherman drowning in the sea."

Finally, regarding the structure of the film, which is essentially a reenactment of an oral story, she said that initially, she wanted to shoot with real dolphins, but unfortunately, there was no budget for that: "I didn't want to move into special effects, so I had to find another way for a dolphin to exist on screen. The element of orality interested me because narrative is a cornerstone in our society, even if it's not obvious." The film was an attempt to connect different worlds, myth and reality, but also theater and cinema.

After the presentation the film was screened, followed immediately by Kathryn Bigelow’s film, The Weight of Water.