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  • Writer's pictureChris Vlahonasios

That’s a wrap! Byzanfest 2019

By Chris Vlahonasios

Byzanfest Founder & Director

This year’s Festival has been very special in many ways. So far, it’s been the most successful Byzanfest. Now in its third year, this international Orthodox film festival grew in ways I never imagined. Reaching audiences both online and through organised venue screenings, Byzanfest has truly cemented itself as an innovative and global cultural event.

The Global Première screening took place at St Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church, Melbourne on Sunday 21st July as a red carpet event to officially kick off the Festival. Then on Sunday 4th August in Melbourne, Australia, the winners were announced. After extensive consideration by the judging panel and global audience votes, the winning filmmakers are:

Best Film: The Throne of St Sava by Jakov Popov Best Director: Christmas Anti-Fable by Efthimios Hatzis Best Cinematography: Christmas Anti-fable by Efthimios Hatzis Best Screenplay: The Lonely Inventor by Nicholas Shaheen Best Documentary: Under the Archangels' Wings by Dinu Cristian Audience Favourite: Icons by Craig DiRienzo

The Throne of St Sava (Serbia)
Christmas Anti-Fable (Greece)

The award ceremony was streamed live on the Festival’s Facebook page with several of the nominated filmmakers appearing via Skype. It was a profound experience to be able to engage with filmmakers on the other side of the world whilst streaming to a global audience. At last count, the award ceremony has been viewed over 1,000 times.

The Festival has evolved from a virtual event to a real-world one with 11 Global Screening Partners having held venue screenings in Australia, USA, Canada, Serbia and Kenya. Most held Skype Q&A sessions after each screening where I was able to answer audiences’ questions and provide in-depth analysis of the films. Byzanfest attempted to reach audiences, despite separated by distance, on a personal level through digital technology. My favourite Skype session was with Kenya where I got to have fantastic conversations with a very enthusiastic audience of youths. Their sincere interest in Orthodox films was truly heartwarming.

For many, this was their first experience of watching Orthodox-focused films. Byzanfest is proud to be able to share with the world the richness and complexity of Orthodox visual story-telling. The Festival was accessed by over 6,500 unique audience members with films being viewed over 19,000 times! That works out to be 3 standard sized commercial cinemas, fully seated, each day the festival ran!

What also makes these statistics even more remarkable is – at the time this article was written – only five days after the Awards Night, the films were viewed an additional 7,500 times! This is due to the fact many people only just discovered the Festival. It’s for this reason the films remain available online to view long after each Festival is over.

Byzanfest was overwhelmed by the amount of media coverage from local and international news agencies. Orthodox media outlets, just to name a few, included: OCN, Pemptousia, Basilica, and Orthodox News Agency, as well as a host of other outlets, including: Herald Sun, SBS Radio, Neos Kosmos, Manningham Leader newspaper and Russian Sputnik. This PR has helped authenticate the Festival’s reputation as a prestigious and important creative event for Orthodox filmmakers worldwide.

Byzanfest is incredibly grateful to its sponsors – Orama World, Ikonographics, Al Orthodoxiya Radio and Priceless Imagery – for their support and belief in the Festival. As well as the time taken by our judges, Dr. Norris Chumley, Ivan Jovic & Nicholas Savas.

Given the profound excitement and interest, planning has already started for Byzanfest 2020. The plan is to raise greater awareness of the Festival’s goals, which are:

  • to encourage more Orthodox-inspired creative content,

  • make such films more accessible and on-demand to global audiences, and

  • to evangelise through art, culture and entertainment whilst maintaining the completeness of the Faith.

Byzanfest can organise screenings, selecting the very best short and feature-length films from its collection. Contact can be made through our website.

Just because the Awards Night has passed, does not mean the festival has ended. All 12 finalists will be still be available to view, indefinitely! The purpose is to showcase and inspire Orthodox and non-Orthodox audiences of the richness and creativity of Orthodox films. Go to to watch anytime on any device, entirely for free! Make sure to LIKE our page for Festival developments and other exciting movies.

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