September 4, 2006

Movie on forbidden love stirs Cyprus passions

By Michele Kambas

NICOSIA (Reuters) - A film about forbidden love in Cyprus
has stirred passions on the ethnically partitioned island, with
its showing at the Venice Film Festival this week embroiled in
a row over funding.

Citing a contractual breach in a sponsorship deal, the
Cypriot government has withheld funds for the 123-minute movie
"Akamas" due to be screened in Venice on Saturday.

Its director says the move smacks of political censorship
-- which the government denies -- because he defied calls to
cut a controversial scene.

The movie, the first Cypriot entry at the festival, is the
story of a Turkish Cypriot man and a Greek Cypriot woman
defying family disapproval and war to stay together.

"I would describe it more as an epoch," says Greek Cypriot
director and producer Panicos Chrysanthou. "They love one
another through it all, and end up living on their own in a
village everyone else abandons."

The movie blends in elements of Cyprus's turbulent history,
including a Greek Cypriot uprising against British colonial
rule in the 1950s, inter-communual violence between Greek and
Turkish Cypriots and Turkey's invasion of the island in 1974
after a brief Greek-inspired coup.

But incensing authorities, the film includes a scene where
Greek Cypriot guerillas fighting British rule execute a
suspected traitor in a church. The script which the government
approved had it occurring in a coffeeshop.

"They asked me to remove the scene and if I didn't I would
not get any more money," said Chrysanthou. "They also sent me a
letter saying that they don't approve of the public showing of
the film, which is basically saying 'don't show it,'."

Chrysanthou says the government capitulated to complaints
by former guerilla fighters worried the film portrayed them in
a bad light.

Killings of suspected collaborators by the EOKA fighters'
movement did occur, but remain to this day a taboo subject
among a community which regards the guerillas as independence

Authorities do not deny they had asked for the church scene
to be cut. "The director has violated the contract ...
therefore the Education Ministry cannot respond to demands for
additional financing," a government statement said.

The original script had the killing in a church, which the
government asked to be changed to the coffeeshop and
Chrysanthou agreed to that, one official source said.

Chrysanthou said he told authorities he reserved the right
to keep to the original script if he saw fit.

"They are attempting to control thought. People of the arts
produce ideas, and they are acting as though I am one of their
subcontractors," he said.

Authorities had given 120,000 pounds ($267,260) to the
project, but would not pay the remaining balance of 15,000
pounds or help promote the film, the official said.