16th Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival

Greece, March 14 - March 23 2014

The jury

Annika Gustafsson (Sweden), Alexey Gusev (Russia), Fritz de Jong (The Netherlands), Michael Pattison (UK), Frédéric Ponsard (France)

Awarded films

The 16th edition of Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, Images of the 21st Century, took place from the 14th to the 23rd of March in the second biggest city in Greece. Once again director Dimitris Eipides and his team succeeded in showing that this broad, rich film event is, with all its sidebars, one of the most important documentary festivals worldwide. They did it in spite of the nation’s severe economic and social conditions.

Thessaloniki is a crossroad for documentary and about 190 films from 42 countries were screened in the different sections: Human Rights, Views of the World, Portraits: Human Journeys, Recordings of Memory, Stories to Tell, Society, Habitat, Arts, and Greek Panorama. There were a great variety of films, dealing with issues from a besieged city in Syria to clochards in Paris, from Indian women struggling for the right to clean water to Moroccan women going to court fighting for their children to be recognized by their fathers, and so on.

In the Greek Panorama, one could see films reflecting upon how the crisis is affecting people and leading them to seek alternative ways of living as well, as documentaries about censorship during the military junta and the German soldiers’ massacre in Kalávryta in 1943. In a time when a neo-Nazi party such as Golden Dawn plays a part in Greek politics, it is important to let younger generations know about the past.

The festival paid tribute to late Canadian filmmaker and critic Peter Wintonick, one of the greatest advocates of free communication, and screened some of his most representative films. Another filmmaker who also came into focus was the French Nicolas Philibert. The festival showed the greater part of his filmography. Philibert visited Thessaloniki and introduced and discussed some of his films with the audience.

For a couple of years now the festival has had a special program for children, Docs for Kids. Each morning, one could see school classes entering the cinemas together with their teachers, which is a good way of culturing future generations of filmgoers. Thessaloniki Doc has always had a big audience of students and young people.

At Agora, the festival’s market, approximately 500 films were hosted together with market talks and Docs in Progress.

Thessaloniki Doc is in principle a non-competitive festival but hosts a FIPRESCI jury, which gives one prize to an international film and one prize to a Greek film.

This year the prize for an international film was presented to the French film On the Edge of the World (Au bord du monde) by Claus Drexel. Together with cinematographer Sylvain Leser Drexel, Drexel involves viewers in the unsteady world of Parisian clochards with full stylistic control. Filming their characters from a distance and low angle, the work makes these homeless people stand out as individuals with dignity and wisdom. On the Edge of the World was screened in the section Habitat.

The prize for a Greek film was presented to Kalávryta — People and Shadows by Elias Yannakakis, in the section Recordings of Memory. It is a film about the massacre in December 1943 in the town of Kalávryta. It investigates what is an ongoing historical trauma for the Greek people and documents the importance of anti-fascist struggle both in the past and with regard to the present. (Annika Gustafsson)

Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival: www.filmfestival.gr