55th Thessaloniki International Film Festival
Greece, October 31 - November 9 2014
The 55th Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which featured both an international and a national competition, coincided with the official celebrations of Greek cinema’s centennial. It’s hardly surprising that several of the Greek filmsin the national competition addressed, directly or indirectly, the country’s economic woes and fraught political situation, yet this emphasis, along with the high attendance for screenings of Greek films and the often lively Q&As that followed them, only served to heighten the general sense of Greece’s durability as a filmmaking entity. Not all the films in the Greek competition were strong, but I can’t think of one that wasn’t determined to leave a bold impression with a minimal amount of resources.
Thessaloniki is a seductive place to immerse oneself in movies. Three of the four cinemas used by the festival are located near the end of a sort of dock, so that when a screening finishes a side door will open and you are immediately released into the cool humid caress of the maritime air. The streets are typically bustling in this city known for its partying, and there seems to be cafés and cars and restaurants with excellent seafood in every conceivable cranny of urban space, their ambiance largely relaxed and inviting and very conducive to conversation and debate. Our jury’s schedule was fairly busy, but we were consistently able to rejuvenate our imaginations in the spaces between screenings.
The characteristic geographic and aesthetic diversity of the robust programming at Thessaloniki 2014 was reflected in its array of tributes. Actress and singer Hanna Schygulla, beloved for her collaborations with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, was honored with a trio of screenings, a collection of shorts curated by Schygulla herself, and a concert at which she performed. There were also retrospectives devoted to the work of Swedish director Roy Andersson, American director Ramin Bahrani, who gave a master class, and Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó.
The members of this year’s international jury were Austrian director Götz Spielmann Revanche), festival programmer Rasha Salti, Miroljub Vuckovic, Head of International Relations at Film Centre Serbia, Joanna Lapinska, Artistic Director of Poland’s Era New Horizons Film Festival, and Greek producer Thanassis Karathanos. Their Best Feature Award went to Perpetual Sadness (La Tirisia), from Mexican director Jorge Perez Solano. The Special Jury Award went to the Israeli film Next to Her (At Li Layla), directed by Asaf Korman. The award for innovation went to Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, directors of the Bulgarian film The Lesson (Urok), while the Best Director Award went to Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, director of the Ukrainian film The Tribe. The Fischer Audience Award was given to the Russian-German production Correction Class (Klass Korrekzii) in the international competition and to Manos Karystinos’ Dark Illusion, which was shot in Thessaloniki, in the Greek competition. (José Teodoro)
Thessaloniki International Film Festival: www.filmfestival.gr