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A land of contrasts
Link to video: http://vimeo.com/57802993
Cyprus is known for its sun and sand but nature here offers far more than that, a man making a film of the island’s flora and fauna tells ALIX NORMAN
In any gathering of more than two you’re bound to overhear conversational doom and gloom: there’s no money, no jobs, the politicians don’t have a clue, it’s colder than it used to be, house prices are ridiculous. Be honest, you’ve talked about at least one of these in the last week. But when you stop and think, we’re actually extremely lucky. Did you know Cyprus is the sunniest country in the European Union? Our crime rates are incredibly low, our standards of medical care are good, kids tend to remain in school. And the unique beauty of Aphrodite’s birthplace is unparalleled: two major mountain ranges, huge forested areas, the most Blue Flag beaches per capita in the world, and three world heritage sites. Not only are we the only place with moufflon, over 10,000 flamingos grace our salt lake with their beauty every year, turtles have chosen our beaches to lay their eggs, and there are 140 species of flowering plant found nowhere else in the world. It’s a mystery why we’re not all traipsing the countryside at weekends, exclaiming at the wonders of our native soil.
Evgenios Zosimov shares this view. Half Russian, half Cypriot, he considers Cyprus his home and is passionate about its splendours. A film director and post-production specialist, he’s travelled the world for his work but always returns to the island. “Every time I land at Larnaca I exhale with relief,” he says. “We are spoiled here: the culture, the easy pace of life, the natural beauty – this small patch of land is a paradise and we shouldn’t ever forget that.”
When it comes to raising our awareness of the attractions of Cyprus, Evgenios is a man with a plan. He’s in the process of making a non-profit film focused on the natural beauty of the island. “It’s much in the style of the BBC’s Blue Planet,” he explains, “there’s no narration, no visible human presence: the footage will stand alone as a testament to the unique wildlife and geography of Cyprus.” Having worked on BBC featured documentaries in the UK, Evgenios brings expertise to the project. I’ve seen the trailer, and it was captivating: the essence of our island captured in fascinating detail, from the elegant flights of flamingos to the curiosity in the eyes of the moufflon, the soaring pines of Troodos to the undulating pastures of the plains. It’s not quite a documentary, not quite a film, but there’s a storyline there that opens one’s eyes to the wonders that surround us. How did he come up with the idea?
“It was on the 12th of December, 2012. I’d been chosen to participate in the One Day on Earth project, a worldwide venture whereby on 12.12.12 filmmakers across the planet recorded their experiences, contributing their creation towards a shared archive and film. My passion has always been the sea, so I chose to film at Aphrodite’s Rock. I got lucky with the day: there was a huge storm, heavy grey clouds and battering waves created an amazing atmosphere. I set the piece to music, uploaded the footage and waited.” In less than a day the video had received thousands of hits. “People were using words like ‘hypnotised’ and ‘entranced’. The scenery obviously caused powerful emotions, and yet this is something we, in Cyprus, can see every day. Take the rural road instead of the highway, and it’s all there. You just have to stop and look.
“Many of the viewers suggested that I should develop the idea, focus on the whole island, and I’ve taken their advice, not with a scientific purpose in mind, but to focus on artistic representation and raising awareness of where we live.” Evgenios plans to make the finished work devoid of both human presence and narration. “I want to pass on the message without words, focusing on the positives: no politics, no people, just natural beauty. Other countries see us a land of beaches and palm trees, but Cyprus has so much more to offer, it’s a land of contrasts.” He intends to release the work in segments, like a mini-series, with the finished article published as a full-length feature. Filled with enthusiasm, he lists some of the fauna that will figure in the film: indigenous reptiles, insects, birds, marine life. Certain sections will be shot as motion time lapse, and Evgenios plans to traverse the island, capturing time lapse shots of sunrises and sunsets, dawn and dusk as the seasons change, working on his own time and money wherever necessary.
“Many people think I’m trying to make a commercial undertaking out of this, but in fact it’s just the opposite: the finished project will be freely available through the internet, I’m hoping it will go viral.” He explains that he already has the necessary equipment: “I use a digital cinematic 35mm camera, capable of capturing 4K resolution; this gives a massively detailed image, much more so than you would see on High Definition television. And a super-slow motion camera allows me 500 frames a second - 20 times slower than a normal camera - so I’m able to capture moments that you’d otherwise never see: a bee taking nectar from a flower – the naked eye can’t fully appreciate a moment that lasts only a split second.”
Although funding and sponsorship will allow Evgenios certain privileges such as aerial photography, he’s clear on the point that there’s no financial incentive: “Many people have offered their expertise, which is incredibly valuable to this undertaking.” Three renowned local composers are vying to create the soundtrack, while Maria Stylianou, the well-known producer, is working on the organisation and production. The submarine footage is in the hands of expert underwater photographer and international free diving judge Andreas Demetriou, and a number of organisations have pledged time and equipment: Birdlife Cyprus and Turtlewatch notify Evgenios when interesting species are spotted or exciting events occur, and Nireas Marine Research have offered the use of their yacht for the offshore shots. With this abundance of help, Evgenios hopes to complete the project by the end of the year. “Although I’ve always been a bit of a one-man-band in terms of my work, it’s been amazing to have so many people on board with such a personal project.”
“I’m in love with this place, this island. I’ve lived here most of my life and it fuels my creativity,” he ends. “I want people to stop and notice that the nature of Cyprus is beautiful.” Next time I head out of town it will be by the back roads, taking the time to stop and notice.