Thessaloniki, Film City

Braving austerity, this year’s International Film Festival offers 200 films from 54 countries, special screenings and tributes to pioneers of independent cinema worldwide.

Circles evoking different people’s trajectories, occasionally overlapping before a cinema screen that reflects their lives and unites them, if only for a few hours, adorn the poster of the 56th Thessaloniki International Film Festival. The posters are already in evidence in the city and the festival venues, the Olympion theater and the port cinemas. Over ten days from November 6 to 16, the festival will host 200 films (118 feature films and 62 shorts) from 54 countries. This year’s guests of honor will be French director Arnaud Desplechin and Romanian director, screenwriter and actor Mircea Daneliuc.

Despite austerity and the lack of EU structural funds, the festival’s organizers have managed to secure the 700,000 euro costs. How did they do it? “A good question,” says festival director Dimitri Eipides, explaining that funding will come from the Ministry of Culture (250,000), the European Commission’s Media Program (150,000), sponsors (120,000) and expected revenues (180,000). Additional revenue, ensuring the festival’s survival into the future, is expected from the decision to include two more venues in the port, the Stavros Tornes and John Cassavetes halls, that will show films and tributes throughout the year. However, it is understood that the festival will end with debts of under one million euros this year, down from six million in 2010.

The ten-day long film fest will open with Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria, a 144-minute single take. The competition section will feature 15 first or second fiction films by directors from all over the world (among them two Greek films: Silent by Yorgos Gikapeppas and Interruption by Yorgos Zois), that will compete for the Gold (Theo Angelopoulos), Silver and Bronze Alexander, the special originality and innovation award, and five more prizes awarded by an international jury of five. The jury will be chaired by French independent producer Michèle Ray-Gavras (the wife of Costa Gavras) and includes Romanian director and screenwriter Corneliu Porumboiu, American film critic Jay Weissberg, French producer Elise Jalladeau and Greek writer Efthymis Filippou, who has co-authored the scripts of award-winning films Dogtooth, Alps, Chevalier and Lobster.

The Greek contribution to the festival will be 20 feature films (14 of which are being screened in Greece for the first time), 16 shorts that have won awards at the International Short Film Festival in Drama and 40 animation films. The festival will also honor Greek director Nikos Kavoukidis, screening the premiere of the documentary A Life Journey of 60 Years: Nikos Kavoukidis, 1955–2015. This year’s tributes are dedicated to visionary French director Arnaud Desplechin (whose film My Golden Days will close the festival) and Romanian director Mircea Daneliuc, whose work was an important influence on the new wave in Romanian cinema. There will be a tribute to Austrian cinema and special screenings of works by award-winning directors Aleksandr Sokurov (Russia) and Jafar Panahi (Iran). The Balkan Survey section will host films tackling a variety of challenging social themes, while the public’s favorite, Open Horizons, will once more highlight the crème de la crème of worldwide independent production.

Originally published in Kathimerini Newspaper

“ The Greek contribution to the festival will be 20 feature films, 16 shorts that have won awards at the International Short Film Festival in Drama and 40 animation films.”

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