New York.- Vicki James Yiannias
With threats of snow accompanying the “arctic chill” that recently fell over the land, visions of Greek summers hover like a dream. But “Greece, 365 days a year”, is a slogan to act on. Something new is happening in those snowy mountains where Zeus was born so many eons ago. They’re a great place to ski! Book a ticket to Crete, where the snow arrives in late December.
“Crete ranks as one of the top summer vacation spots in the world, but few people realize that it is full of mountains that receive abundant snowfall in winter,” Constantine Papanicolaou says in his inspiring documentary, “Crete Arising”, shown in the 13th Annual New York City Greek Film Festival in October. During the Q&A session that followed the screening Papanicolaou, an avid skier, when asked why he made “Crete Arising”, answered disarmingly, “I wanted to ski in Greece, so I made a ski movie.” Papanicolaou started skiing when he was 8 years old, at a small ski center in New Jersey. “I was hooked completely from the first day!”
“Crete Arising” is the story of a group of mountaineers and other people living on Crete who, concerned that the mega-industry of summer tourism has begun to alter the fabric of Crete, organized the first-ever winter ski race held on the island, the PierraCreta, on Psiloritis.
The film’s energizing interviews of PierraCreta’s founding members show unity of purpose and honest involvement in their project aimed at keeping Crete’s cultural integrity. “For me, the members of PierraCreta are rebels, fighting against the cultural deterioration of the island brought on by the mega-industry of summer beach tourism,” Papanicolaou, said when asked to characterize the individuals in the group in a recent interview with the GN.
Cinematography by Papanicolaou, Emmanouel Armoutakis and Konstantinos Gdontakis, brings you to the bright white slopes, and filming of the villagers skiing is exhilarating; children are taught to ski, and unexpected individuals take it up with a passion; even the priest learns astonishingly quickly and makes skiing part of his life. “The villages of Psiloritis that are involved in PierraCreta are Anogeia, Zoniana, and Livadia. The village which has most embraced the sport of ski mountaineering is Livadia, due in large part to Papa Andreas, the priest of the village.,” said Papanicolaou.
Impressed by the participation of even the smallest children, we asked Papanicolaou, how skiing benefits them and the village. “There are around 30 children from the villages that participate in the ski school of PierraCreta. The biggest benefit is that it has shown them that the mountain isn’t just a place for work and hardship. It’s also a place to have fun!”
The aim of the group that founded PierraCreta is to enjoy skiing as much as possible, and along with friends from all over Greece, to make ski mountaineering known to the people of Crete, inspire more people to engage with it, and show people abroad that Crete is the place for it.
“Skiing itself is an ancient way of traveling over snow,” and contemporary skis are just one type of construction for doing so, Papanicolaou says in the film, showing one ancient method of making skis that involved mats of woven fibers secured to wood.
Skiing for Cretans is a new inspiration. It seems unlikely, but perhaps unbeknownst to us, people have travelled over the snows of Crete at 1500 meters elevation before, we mused. “In a good winter, such as last winter, the snow line will drop below the elevation of Zominthos, said Papanicolaou, “This means you can literally go skiing right next to a Minoan archaeological site dating back to 1800 BC.” That is always something, he noted during the Q&A session after the film, which gives me goosebumps.”
What’s current for Papanicolaou and the PierraCreta group? “Right now, we are doing the Frozen Ambrosia film tour around Greece–screening “Crete Arising” plus three additional short films we produced last season. This coming winter we will produce four new films, which we will take on tour again, also to cities in Europe and North America, in Fall 2020. The plan is to establish the Frozen Ambrosia film tour as an annual event.
Raised in New Jersey, Constantine Papanicolaou attended the University of California, where he became interested in film and video production and earned a degree in Applied Math. He also earned an MBA from the University of Southern California, after which he began to produce and direct commercial video projects.
Papanicolaou wrote, directed, produced and edited “Crete Arising”. Music: Yannis Papatzanis, Dimitris Sideris, George Zacharioudakis. Sound: Nikos Kefaloyiannis. Co producers: Cosmote TV. Papanicolaou’s other films are the short, “The Ordinary Skier” (2011), and the documentary, “Frozen Ambrosia” (2016). We’d love to see these films, as well. There will be an opportunity: “Crete Arising”, along with the short films, will be available for download December 10th from www.frozenambrosia.com
You can see the full schedule of this year’s Frozen Ambrosia film tour, plus the trailer, at www.frozenambrosia.com and follow it on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/frozenambrosiaproject/ and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/frozenambrosia/