56th Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Greece, November 6 - November 15 2015

The jury

Steven Yates (UK), Janka Barkoczi (Hungary), Joseph Proimakis (Greece)

Awarded films

With much enthusiasm, friendliness and hard work it is easy to see why the Thessaloniki International Film Festival (TIFF) has survived the financial hardship of Greece that has had a knock-on effect in recent years. For this latest edition, the cuts in budget have been assimilated and the task for the programmers has simply been in creating the best selection of films possible while ensuring that all the guests take away memories of a fine festival that has been no accident in reaching its 56th edition intact. One of the benefits is the historical city itself, a beautiful location on the Aegean Sea that easily compares with Cannes but with a more intimate and personal festival experience.

As for the program, there were 15 films in the International Competition and a total 20 films in the Greek Competition. Screenings took place in converted former warehouses on the harbor with additional ones just a short walk away at the impressive Olympion Cinema, now owned by the festival itself. It was here that the opening and closing ceremony as well as the competition films took place. The opening night screening of the German film Victoria (which premiered in Berlin in February) was the perfect start for an interesting program, albeit many films in the main competition had previously been festival winners because of TIFF’s schedule near the end of the calendar year.

The rest of the program fully underlined why this festival has been so enduring. There was a focus on Austrian Cinema and an extensive program on the Balkans with both feature-length films and shorts. Another extensive section was called Open Horizons, looking at new films across the world out of competition. It was complimented by a shorter section called Currents, likewise including films from such far-away places as Australia, Brazil and the USA. The Mircea Daneliuc tribute was devoted to the works of the Romanian director, taking in his films from 1972-1995. The 70 Years of Greek Animation Tribute was compiled in two shorts programs and there was also a section on the subject of Youth in films from talented directors. A special screening of the 2010 restoration of Metropolis was screened at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall with a live performance by the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra. The event organized by the Goethe-Institut Thessaloniki was part of its 60-year history celebrations.

There was a special out of competition screening of Chevalier by Athina Rachel Tsangari, the director of Attenburg (2010) who has repeated the success of her first film this year, in what was also its Greek premiere and for which the festival and country can be justifiably proud in winning prizes at major film festivals. However, what the locals can be just as proud about was in winning both Fipresci prizes this year. Silent, by Yorgos Gikapeppas, won the International Competition, following his debut success at Thessaloniki in 2011 with the Fipresci prize for The City of Children. Blind Sun, by Joyce Nashawati, won the Fipresci Greek Films prize, beating off 19 other films which, admittedly, varied in quality and production values.

This year’s closing ceremony screening was the French film My Golden Days (Trois Souvenirs De Ma Jeunesse) by Arnaud Desplechin from France. The director, who has dual French and Greek citizenship, introduced his film in circumstances he would never have guessed just 24 hours earlier. The events in Paris prompted the director to admit he felt his heart was elsewhere in what should have been an evening of celebration in a festival where he had been present with seven of his films and a masterclass. Very appropriately, there was a one minute silence at the start of the award ceremony just prior to the awards and Desplechin’s film.

As the uncompromising maverick director Jonas Mekas once said: “The world is all messed up, but Cinema is innocent and beautiful!” (Steven Yates)

Thessaloniki International Film Festival: www.filmfestival.gr