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A ghost city in Cyprus surrounded by barbed wire and armed troops inspires a daughter’s quest to realize her exiled mother’s dream of bringing divided Greek and Turkish Cypriots together to create a model ecocity at the crossroads of three continents. Can the work of building a shared ecopolis reunite these two communities and inspire the world?
The district of Varosha in the city of Famagusta, is located on the northeastern coast of Cyprus, a divided island. Following the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and subsequent evacuation of Famagusta by its Greek-Cypriot residents, the Turkish army surrounded six square kilometers of the Varosha tourist district in barbed wire and has held it as a ghost town since. As the residents fled in haste, they left laundry hanging on the lines and half cooked rice on the stove. Forty-four years later, Varosha remains a shell of a once vibrant community; a mere bargaining chip for Turkey's negotiations with Cyprus. Its crumbling buildings are guarded by armed troops to this day, as its aging citizens continue to await a return home.
Waking Famagusta provides a historic snapshot of one of the most conflict-ridden regions in Europe revealed through a mother-daughter story of ancestral awakening and the birth of an international movement.
In 2003, Vasia Markides, captivated by her mother’s stories of her birthplace, the divided city of Famagusta, on the war-torn Mediterranean island of Cyprus, decides to venture to her maternal ancestral land – a journey that would prove to be life-changing.
Vasia, just 24 at the time, becomes fixated with the ghost town of Varosha, the once booming tourist district of Famagusta, which has been surrounded in barbed wire for 44 years. Motivated by the fact that her family’s home lies trapped within Varosha's rusty fences, she is hooked, filming for over a decade its abandoned neighborhoods and the Turkish Cypriots that now live along its perimeter. She befriends Ceren Bogac, who grew up facing these abandoned buildings her entire life. Vasia’s own understanding of her island’s history begins to unravel, setting into motion a chain of events that opens the door to an entirely new world, as surprising as it is revolutionary.
Emily, Vasia's mother, overcoming the pain of her loss, dreams to see the city revived as a model of ecology and peace in the troubled region. She manages to capture Vasia's imagination, leading her to pursue her mother’s lifelong dream. Can Vasia, Emily and Ceren forge a new path ahead for the city, the island, and the region, with the motley crew of Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots they have gathered along the way?
If the island is reunited, Famagustians will be given the right to return home. When this happens, they will confront one of the largest reconstruction challenges Europe has seen since the end of World War II.
Waking Famagusta has garnered international attention from news organizations worldwide, including a well-received feature in BBC Magazine along with write-ups on CNN and Al-Jazeera. From local Cypriot city councils to Ivy League classrooms in the U.S., Waking Famagusta has sparked conversation about the way we live and our ever-changing times. The film has shined a bright light on a nearly forgotten ghost-town, weaving its way into on and off peace talks involving Turkey and the UN, which have alluded to the possible return of the abandoned Cypriot district.
As such, we aim to complete Waking Famagusta in 2018, in an effort to deliver our message of sustainability, opportunity, and hope in an increasingly grim global climate.
To read more about The Famagusta Ecocity Project, visit: www.ecocityproject.com
Vasia Markides - Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Editor: Director of Waking Famagusta and Founder/Director of The Famagusta Ecocity Project; A painter originally, Vasia completed her first documentary short in 2008. Hidden in the Sand is a chronicle of her mother’s hometown under Turkish occupation, which is now off limits within the six square kilometer fenced off abandoned district of Varosha. Hidden in the Sand has screened in venues and festivals across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Germany, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, France and Portugal. As a media maker, Vasia has worked with clients such as Oxfam America, Global Nomads Group and other human rights organizations. After launching the Famagusta Ecocity Project and directing a documentary about the effort, her team’s work gained worldwide media attention (CNN, BBC, Associated Press, Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, National Geographic, Boston Globe, ABC News, U.S. News & World Report, TedX Limassol & more). In addition to working on her personal projects, she freelances as a filmmaker and video producer mostly in Maine, New York City and Cyprus.
Maria Stylianou - Producer: An independent film and media producer for fifteen years, Maria has worked on award winning films Stratos, Blunder of Bleeding Land (Doc), Semele, Dorothea, and The Palace (Academy Nomination Selection). She has worked with international media companies such as Discovery, History, Showtime, Konami, Bloomberg, iTv, Polsat, and BBC. Maria is also an active member and advocate of women and mothers in the film industry. Her most thrilling experience was riding a British Army Helicopter during a BA TVC filming, and producing two TEDx events in Cyprus.
Erika Sutter - Editor: Erika Sutter has been editing film, television and commercial content for over fifteen years. She has created work for a range of broadcast networks, independent directors, non-profit organizations and musicians. Her editing has been recognized by The New York Times and The International Wildlife Film Festival as well as receiving a CINE Golden Eagle Award and an Emmy Nomination.
Christina Lenis - Associate Producer: Christina Lenis is a documentary film/television producer. Her work has appeared on a variety of networks, both nationally and internationally, including SHOWTIME, PBS, History Channel and National Geographic. Show credits include: FRONTLINE’s Emmy-award nominated, “Middle School Moment”, SHOWTIME’s, Emmy-award nominated, “The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth”, and History Channel’s “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History”, in which Ms. Lenis was part of the team that recovered the infamous 9/11 flag, raised by firefighters at Ground Zero. She is based in NYC, however is a die-hard Red Sox fan.
Armando Garma-Fernandez - Motion Graphics: Co-founder of the Famagusta Ecocity Project; Architect, Educator, and Visual Artist who is preoccupied with the environment and the construction of energy conscious infrastructure. His architecture experience focuses on renovation, restoration, adaptive reuse and the socially responsible use of resources. He also freelances as a motion graphics creator, animator, and editor. https://vimeo.com/user12416572; www.ecocityproject.com