Τετάρτη, 31 Ιουλίου 2013

The first Syros International Film Festival will be held from August 6-9 2013, drawing on recent Greek and international films that deal with travel. This theme encompasses issues that are central both to the history and the contemporary situation of Syros and Greece, and brings into focus such events as diaspora, immigration, and cultural co-habitation. Like many other Greek islands, Syros has a long history of trade and shipping. However, Syros has a special affinity to this past, manifest in the structures and buildings that make up its landscape, most markedly in its largest town Hermoupoulis.  A city bearing both a heavy Neo-classical influence and the leftover traces of its industrial past, Hermoupoulis is still a crucial port which stands apart from any other town found in the Cycladic islands.

Hermoupoulis was founded in the years following Greek independence from Ottoman rule in 1821 by refugees from disputed territories such as the islands Smyrna, Chios, and Samos as well as from other areas in Asia Minor. Many of these refugees were merchants and trades people, and upon arriving to Syros they quickly developed the island into a major transit and commercial center. By the mid-nineteenth century, Syros had become a prosperous island whose economic situation had given rise to a social and cultural life to match. Hermoupoulis became a town with cosmopolitan fixtures, such as cafés, clubs, newspaper and publishing industries, an impressive town hall, and even an Opera house reputed to have been modeled on La Scala di Milano. Both wealthy families and the town council commissioned private houses and public buildings in the Neo-classical style, which resulted in a landscape very different from that of a traditional Cycladic town, one that aimed to engage with a larger European identity.

Syros’ history is much older than that of Hermoupoulis, however, and the island’s legacy of trade and travel extends back to ancient times. One of the best preserved examples of an Early Cycladic village, Kastri, is situated in the northern part of the island, where later Phoenician and Cretan influences can be observed. On one of the northern beaches, Grammata, graffiti made by sailors on rocks made to the gods of travel dates from the Hellenistic period. Ano Syros, built atop a major hill situated above Hermoupoulis, is a medieval settlement first built in the 1200’s that saw Latin, Ottoman, French, and Venetian rule. Though predominantly Catholic, Ano Syros was amenable to differences of faith. In 1870, the main Orthodox church was built on the hill opposite that of Ano Syros, and when entering the Hermoupoulis harbor, one sees the town flanked by either side by the large Catholic and Orthodox churches.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, Syros has continued to hold an important position in the Cyclades as both a commercial and administrative center. Each summer, a host of cultural programmes and festivals channel this legacy and provide new creative outlets. In 2013, Syros Island is  proud to present SIFF as the first such outlet dedicated exclusively to film.

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