Thessaloniki Film Festival director Orestis Andreadakis was on summer vacation last August when he got a call from Stavros Benos, the head of the newly appointed National Reconstruction Committee, which was tasked with responding to a series of devastating wildfires that had recently swept across the island of Evia.
Just weeks before, Greece’s second-largest island had been a densely wooded paradise famous for its production of honey and resin. But nearly a third of Evia was reduced to ash and cinders during a scorching summer that saw an estimated 300,000 acres of forest and bushland incinerated by wildfires across Greece, as soaring temperatures hit a record high of 115.3 degrees.
Benos was calling the festival topper with a plea. “He said, ‘You know, this situation is tragic. We need ideas, and we need to include cinema,’” Andreadakis told Variety this week at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. “And I said, ‘Ok, I’ll call you when I get to Athens.’ And he said, ‘No, you don’t understand. Half of Evia is completely destroyed. We need an idea tomorrow.’”
Andreadakis swept into action, convening an emergency meeting with Yianna Sarri, the head of the Thessaloniki Film Festival’s industry arm, Agora, and Leda Galanou, who would become the project manager for what in the ensuing days the trio conceived of as the Evia Film Project.
The goal was to take the festival’s experience at mounting large-scale public events and contribute to the economic and cultural regeneration of the devastated island through a series of film screenings and industry events focused on issues such as climate change, ecology and sustainability. The Evia Film Project – which takes place from June 15-19, with submissions open until April 15 – is supported by Greece’s Ministry of Culture and Sports within the framework of its wider regeneration plan for the island.