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Panicos Chrysanthou and Dervis Zaim call for Support Against Censorship

One of us is Turkish Cypriot and the other Greek Cypriot. Some years ago we began cooperating in the production of films. In this way we wanted to show people that we were aiming for peace, reconciliation and the reunification of our island. Together we made a documentary ("Parallel trips"). Panicos was the co-producer for the film CAMUR ("Mud", 2003, directed by Dervis Zaim) and Dervis is the co-producer for the film AKAMAS (2006, directed by Panicos Chrysanthou).

We went ahead with the co-production of AKAMAS because it was a challenge for both of us: A film about peace in a country that suffered from war. A film about reconciliation between people who had been enemies and fought wars against each other.

During the production we faced a peculiar and unfriendly response from the Ministry of Education and Culture of , that was participating in the production with a share of 20%:

  1. Censorship was applied to the film for purely political criteria and was enforced through coercion akin to blackmail.

  2. There were delays in the payment of sums of money to the production during the shooting of the film that caused: a). The loss of important members of the crew, b). Disruption of filming schedules, c). Serious financial losses in order to carry out replacement work, and d). The delay of about one year in the completion of the film.
  3. When editing of the film had been completed we suggested to the Ministry to receive it for a check-up. And whereas the Ministry was obliged according to the contract to respond within 20 days, their reply came after 117 days, when the film had already been selected for screening at the Venice Film Festival. In it's reply the Ministry demanded that a certain scene be removed from the film, using the excuse that this scene is not included in the scenario attached to the co-production contract. The Ministry refused to enter into any sort of dialogue with us for the issue of this scene, despite the fact the we made it utterly clear to them that we wanted to hear their opinion if they had some objection to raise, and that we were still willing to reach some sort of compromise in the case that the discussion finally proved there was truly some sort of problem.

We believe that the whole stance of the Ministry of Education is an excuse with the aim of banning the film and preventing any screening of it in public. We have received some information that the order to "ban" the film had been given a year ago, while the film was still at the stage of editing, when a group of right-wing fanatics ran a campaign demanding the banning of the film. This campaign was carried out with the excuse that AKAMAS was insulting the anti-colonial struggle in , that it is an anti-Greek film, and financed by the Turks. The campaign came to an end rather abruptly when one leading person of this campaign stated publicly that the authorities had assured them that the film would never get to be screened.

We hold the opinion that the real reason for "banning" the film was neither the "contested" scene, nor an issue of insult to anyone (something that was never our intention and in any case does not happen to be true), but is purely an attack on the message of peaceful coexistence of Greeks and Turks in , and the criticism that AKAMAS makes on the issues of nationalism and fanaticism.

The position of the Ministry of Education and Culture in towards AKAMAS also has the characteristics of a financial "war". Whereas the Ministry usually subsidises a whole range of work to be carried out on films in which the Ministry is participating (production of copies, printing of subtitles, expenses for sending the film to festivals overseas, promotion expenditure, transportation, advertising costs for screening the film in and possibly in festivals), in the case of AKAMAS the Ministry is following a policy of embargo, with the obvious aim of preventing any further promotion of the film.

We call upon directors, people of the cinema, people from art and culture, all those who believe in democratic principles and the freedom of expression, to come forth and support AKAMAS in the struggle against censorship and the attempt to curtail our freedom of expression.

Dervis Zaim

Panicos Chrysanthou


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