Arts & Culture

Is This the World's Most Glamorous Place to Watch Movies?

A look inside Greece's Aegean Film Festival.

While many of the larger film festivals—like Sundance, Cannes, Tribeca—attract crowds that might able to be attending Art Basel, South by Southwest, Burning Man, or Coachella, many of the world’s smaller festivals have to find the right niche in order to attract film audiences and industry insiders.

This is not a problem for the Aegean Film Festival, which takes place every July in Patmos, a picturesque Greek island whose bohemian background is part of the festival’s fabric. Like a good script, Patmos itself offers spectacle and drama: behind the luminous main town, one sees the towering monastery of Saint John the Theologian (circa 1088) assiduously guarding Greek treasures; thanks to the island’s aura-defining regulars, such as John Stefanidis, Hamish Bowles, and the late Bruce Chatwin and Loulou de la Falaise, one detects the glamorous aura of lives lived nomadically.

The setting for the Aegean Film Festival.

Much like Patmos, the festival (founded in 2010) is full of juxtapositions. “We are at the Aegean,” film critic Alin Tasciyan says. “On the one hand, the program needs to reflect the openness of the sea. On the other hand, the festival’s outdoor screenings need to respect the community’s ancestry.” Indeed, the festival offers the only opportunity to watch a film on a big screen on the island—under the stars, mind you—and those outdoor screening have won the attention of international heavyweights like filmmaker Alexander Payne, Tribeca Film Festival artistic director Frederic Boyer, and documentarian Jesper Jack.

“The emphasis is on the exchange of ideas. So, naturally, documentaries are equally important to features,” Babis Tsoutsas, the festival’s youthful director, tells me. This year the program includes five films that relate to preservation of marine life and the environment, as well as pictures from Bart Layton (American Animals), Wes Anderson (Isle of Dogs), Margarethe von Trotta (Forget About Nick), and Lucrecia Martel (Zama).


For the festival, 2018 is also a year of expansion. There will be screenings on two islands: Patmos (July 17 to 22) and Paros (July 24 to July 29), and a series of Greek and foreign collaborations (Balkans Beyond Borders, Ivy Film Festival) will connect the Aegean with cinephiles on both sides of the Atlantic.

All of the international cooperation is to be commended, however watching movies on the islands under starry skies is what summer should be about.

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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