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26 May, 2024
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An unlikely love story of two soldiers separated by the buffer zone

Director Savvas Stavrou's film about a love story between two gay Cypriot soldiers is being featured at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival

by Apostolos Kouroupakis

Along with five other films, "Buffer Zone," directed and written by Savvas Stavros (produced by Peter Stephanou, Sophie Reynolds, Thomas Hawkins, and co-produced by Sholeh Zahraei, Kamil Saldun, and Andros Achilleos), will open the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, before Sally Potter's new film with Javier Bardem and Chris Rock.

Savvas Stavrou told Kathimerini that this is a great honor because the festival invited the filmmakers to screen their film at the festival's opening ceremony; the invitation came, as Savvas explained because the film had participated in the festival.  "The organizers wanted to screen the film and this is how they are doing it," they said. The festival director contacted me and asked if I would be willing to show the film, to which I immediately said yes ". According to Savvas, the film has a very Cypriot theme because it discusses the Green Line, it is about both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and it also touches on LGBT+ issues.

We shouldn't be afraid to tell our stories the way we want to tell them because we'll never get anywhere that way. I knew there would be a reaction and that some people would object,

He tells me that the difficulties they faced in making the film because it coincided with various lockdowns and barrier closures were numerous. "I feel like, in a way, working on this film, we also experienced the Cypriot problem; many times, obstacles appeared out of nowhere... and we thought it would never get made."

According to Savvas, the problems were not only technical in nature, but they also had problems with the actors, mentioning that the 18-year-old Turkish Cypriot actor who he had found and had all those elements that made him suitable, in the end, could not even participate in the auditions, because his parents discovered the story of the film, with the two soldiers falling in love, and did not allow him to take part in the end. Finally, Adnan Mustafa, an actor who lives in London and goes by the name Adnan, was chosen as the T/C. Andreas Markou, a young actor, is the Greek Cypriot star, according to Savvas. Charalambos Damianou is the third actor.

The film is a bi-communal collaboration, with both Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the cast and creators. Savvas mentions that the film was made with the assistance of the United Nations and the National Guard.

"Buffer Zone" was the first short film from Cyprus to be funded by the BFI (British Film Institute). The film was also supported by the State Ministry of Culture's SEKIN through the Independent Producers Support Programme.

"Buffer Zone" is a musical with songs by Kate Bush, Radiohead, Bon Jovi, and Despina Vandi, who have supported the project since 2019, giving their permission for their songs to be used, and is a love story about two recruits, a Greek and a Turk, who serve on opposite sides of the green line, who are bullied, and who communicate through music with well-known favorite songs. "Music brings two people who have so much separating and differentiating them together."

"Buffer Zone" serves as a sort of prelude to the first feature film that Savvas Stavrou hopes to make, also a musical, with a similar theme. "I know it's a difficult film, and it takes a long time to be ready, so I thought I'd make a short that touches on some of the big one's themes, like the military and the gay experience in the military, and I think it's a story that definitely needs to be told, and as we live it in Cyprus, so many other people around the world are living it," says the director.

"Every community is made stronger by the stories that are told and relate to it, we are the stories of our community," Savvas says, adding that he had no idea what kind of reaction he might get. We shouldn't be afraid to tell our stories the way we want to tell them because we'll never get anywhere that way. I knew there would be a reaction and that some people would object, but the idea is that by making the film, we are opening a dialogue about the LGBT+ community's issues as well as the Cyprus problem itself.

When I travel abroad, people frequently ask me, "Are you Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot?" Can't we just say we're Cypriot? And this is a conversation I hope to start."

In the coming months, Savvas tells me, they will begin applying for "Buffer Zone" participation in various short film festivals, including the Cyprus International Short Film Festival, and they hope to premiere it in Cyprus through this festival. "I'd like to have screenings throughout Cyprus, as well as at the House of Cooperation, which helped us, and there to discuss the various aspects of our film," Savvas concludes.

Cyprus  |  films  |  culture

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