From the 15th to the 25th of May, the Outview Film Festival ran for its 8th year in Greece, showcasing gay and lesbian films from all over the world.
Outview is one of the largest gay film festivals in Europe. Each year, a Best Film and an Audience Award are presented. Several exhibitions, workshops, and master classes accompany the film screenings. In the past years, high-profile and respected artists have attended the festival, such as award winning American-Canadian film director Thom Fitzgerald, Panorama curator at the International Film Festival Berlin Wieland Speck, best-selling author Sarah Waters, and Israeli filmmaker Tomer Heymann.
This year, notable guests included famous Sex and the City costume director Patricia Fields and French actor Olivier Rabourdin, among others. Fields was part of the event “House of Field Party,” a gathering held at the bar Shamone following the screening of Mars Roberge’s film The Little House that Could, a document of New York’s fashion family’s support of the LGBT community.
Other events accompanying the festival was an exhibition by the Color Youth Community in Athens, documenting homophobic incidents experienced in the daily life of young LGBT Greek citizens. A female only party titled “Vagina Party” was hosted after the screening of Anna Margarita Albelo’s film Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf. One of the more emotional and touching events, “Healing By Sharing,” screened a homemade film “The Calendar of the Queen” by Natassa Papadimitriou documenting her experience as a lesbian fighting cancer. Following the film was a panel discussion with guests speaking about the experience of getting diagnosed and recovering from cancer.
I spoke with Festival Director Maria Katsikadakou, otherwise known as Maria Cyber, about her experiences running the festival and how the event is affected by prejudice in Greek society.
As director, Katsikadakou organizes all events, chooses the programming, and leads the marketing and funding campaigns.
Reluctant to believe that the Greek government would help fund an LGBT program, my first question to the director was whether there was any support from the country’s Ministry of Culture. My suspicions proved correct. Katsikadakou confirmed that it is quite difficult to find sponsorship by the Greek government for such events. In other countries the Ministries of Culture and Tourism give significant amounts of financial support to LGBT film festivals. Katsikadakou makes sure to emphasize that even in the strained economic times, the Greek government continues to give grants to several other cultural events. So, she argues, there is no financial or budgetary excuse for the complete lack of support for Outview. She is certain that the lack of support stems from homophobia.
“The Outview festival aims not just to celebrate the LGBT community; Those involved also desire to help change perspectives on LGBT rights and issues within the Greek community as a whole.”
Private sponsors, as well as support from the French, Israel, Swedish, Norwegian, and Dutch embassies have kept Outview running. The American, Canadian, and British embassies have also contributed on a smaller level. Katsikadakou says, regardless of the difficulty, “it seems like we always find light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope that we will manage to find funding.”
Sometimes private companies will not provide money, but will provide free products. For example, the Stoli Vodka company offered free alcohol for the festival’s parties, rather than funding with money.
One way in which Greek society has evolved positively towards supporting LGBT events is through the media. “Not TV,” Katsikadakou stresses, “It is still taboo to promote LGBT events on TV.” But radio stations and online media have been very supportive and have helped market Outview to a great extent.
Another consequence of homophobia within Greek society extends past funding problems. The Outview festival aims not just to celebrate the LGBT community; Those involved also desire to help change perspectives on LGBT rights and issues within the Greek community as a whole. However, most of the audience is comprised of those already friends of the community, along with activists and cinema critics.
Katsikadakou says, “The problem is this- most of the people who are coming, they are already in the scene. Those who come love to watch films and to see LGBT films, but you will not find a group of students outside of the community looking to get educated. This is a problem.”
Katsikadakou and I discussed a film screened at the Outview festival a few years ago: It Came from Kuchar: a documentary by Jennifer Kroot about the Kuchar brothers and their legacy in the film world. I worked on this film along with Kroot, and I attended the screening. We both remembered how few people were in the audience to see this outstanding document of two extraordinary lives.
When the expenses are high to include such top quality films, Katsikadakou lamented that it is truly a shame when so few people end up experiencing them.
She believes this issue could be remedied through more cooperation from other major film festivals in Greece. In other countries, large international film festivals include LGBT programming, and they partner with the LGBT festivals. Katsikadakou says, “The cities that have the strongest LGBT festivals have the strongest international festivals. If we were included with the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, we would instantly have at least double the audience.” Thus, a wider range of people would be exposed to the LGBT point of view.
Despite the financial and community struggles, Outview has succeeded in programming the highest quality international films. Katsikadakou believes that programming establishes the worth and distinction of a festival. She only brings the strongest, most high profile films- those screened at Sundance for example, in order to maintain Outview as a competitive and strong European LGBT festival. She states, “It says a lot that filmmakers, actors, and producers pay their own fare and accommodation expenses to attend. We cannot afford to host them, but they come anyway.” The prizes do not offer a financial reward, but the distinction offered is significant due to Outview’s solid reputation.
Katsikadakou says that Outview “is about visibility…to make people understand homophobia and human rights through art. I love documentary as a type of film- and every year it’s getting better and better in the LGBT community- better than any feature film. We are given a political perspective; we are seeing the LGBT movement as it existsin countries all over the world.”
Highlights of films presented at Greece’s 2014 Outview Film Festival.