By Chris Vlahonasios
Get ready for the world’s biggest film festival dedicated solely to Eastern Orthodox Christian filmmakers. Going live on Sunday 21st July, Byzanfest is free and on-demand.
Submissions came from all over the world including: Greece, Serbia, Romania, Georgia, USA, Canada and even Australia. They were all of outstanding quality; the best way to describe them as ‘cinematic theology’. The sci-fi/noir film from Greece by Efthimious Hatzis, Christmas Anti-fable, tells the story of an alternative retro-future where the humble worm is on the brink of extinction. Despite being such as lowly creature, the disappearance of the worm means ecological disaster for the planet and mankind. Despite the do-or-die severity of this threat, will man be able to humble himself to become a worm? This film is set to be a Festival favourite, nominated for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography.
The Middle Way, a Canadian documentary, offers a glimpse into the life of Jasper, a young man who resides gracefully between two worlds: fronting a rock band, the other, a Church chanter. It explores Japer’s journey to walking the ‘middle way’.
One of our most entertaining films is by Nick Shaheen from North America, called M.A.R.C. In his film, a man buys a drone called M.A.R.C (Meteorological Assisted Robotic Computer) capable of controlling the weather. This sci-fi comedy shows the miracles and pitfalls when technology and buyer’s regret collide.
The only Australian finalist is from The Brothers Robinson, a popular YouTube channel. The Alternate (nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay) a mysterious guide walks the delicate line between our dimension and a parallel world. A vibrant and beautiful film about how our world could be.
Another potential Festival Favourite is, The Throne of Saint Sava. Commemorating the 800th anniversary of the autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church, this is Byzanfest’s first ever animation done in claymation style. What makes this remarkable film even more interesting is that it was done by 14-year old Jakov Popov from Serbia.
Byzanfest is not a typical festival. It is not limited by the physical constraints of traditional venue-based festivals. Byzanfest looked ahead towards the future of entertainment and wanted to engage globally with both Orthodox and non-Orthodox audiences. The Festival encourages interactivity where viewers can share through all social media platforms. The Festival showcases films which reflect Orthodox Christian themes, beliefs, culture and values, as well as being artistically creative. The name ‘Byzanfest’ is in honour of the great Byzantine Empire, a place of wisdom, art and faith. Although it may no longer exist, the mindset and values of Byzantium are embodied in the creative works of Orthodox Christians in the Digital Era. It is worth mentioning all funds raised from this Festival will go towards funding small individual Orthodox film and art projects.
The Festival is known by many in the Orthodox filmmaking circles and provides a vital platform for them to be inspired and be discovered. This Festival is important because it is here that filmmakers have the opportunity to express themselves and to hopefully one day become Cinematic Masters, such as, Andrei Tarkovsky and Pavel Lungin.
Byzanfest is an initiative of TRANSFIGURE MEDIA, an online organisation that specialises in showcasing, distributing, networking, mentoring and funding the creative works of Orthodox filmmakers and artists. The primary goal is to prove to artists and the world that someone who lives the Orthodox faith can integrate that phronema flawlessly into their creative process. Just as Christ transfigured before three of His disciples to reveal His Glory, may we through art express Christ and transfigure the world and culture around us.
All these films, including others, will be made available online to watch and share from Sunday 21st July from 8pm (Melbourne time zone). Audiences need to go to www.byzanfest.com which will take you directly to the YouTube channel hosting this Festival. Audiences are also able to vote for Audience Favourite by clicking the ‘thumbs up/like’ button under their favourite film.
What also makes this year’s Byzanfest special is the growth in the number of Global Screening Partners (GSPs). These are Orthodox churches/organisations that host live venue screenings. Last time we had two live venues in North America, this year we have 11 GSPs. The purpose of GSPs is to take the Festival from being just a digital event to a real-world event, connecting intimately with fellow Orthodox communities around the global. These events provide churches and youth groups the opportunity to connect with their communities and strengthen fellowship within a friendly and fun social environment. You can find where these events are happening on the Byzanfest website.
We are also blessed to have an outstanding judging panel of Orthodox Christian filmmakers. Dr. Norris J. Chumley is an EMMY award-winning executive producer, author, director and professor, who is best known for his film, Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer. Ivan Jovic, from Serbia, is the filmmaker behind The Healing and Legacy. Nicholas Savas is a U.S. based actor and producer with over 17 film/TV credits.
The Festival is incredibly grateful for the massive support of its Platinum Sponsors who have contributed not just to operational costs, but donated beautiful hand-written icons as prizes: Orama World, Ikonographics and Al Orthodoxiya Radio. As well as Festival Sponsor, Priceless Imagery, and Communication Partner, Orthodox Christian Network (OCN).
We hope you enjoy Byzanfest 2019 and fully immerse yourself with the online experience. Again, the finalists will be available for viewing from 21st July 2019 on www.byzanfest.com
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