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16th TDF: Closing Ceremony (3/23/2014)


The curtain fell on the 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival - Images of the 21st Century with the closing ceremony that took place on Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 at the Olympion theater. The awards of the festival’ s 16th edition were bestowed during the ceremony. 

The ceremony was presented by journalist Maya Tsokli, who made special reference to the recently deceased, dear friend of the Festival, Peter Wintonick. The 16th TDF paid tribute to the acclaimed Canadian documentary filmmaker. “Alas, we have only been given one life, and we desperately try to prolong it, enriching the number and variety of our experiences and memories. This is exactly the value of the documentary genre”, said Tsokli, adding that the documentaries screened “allowed us, the audience, to partake in events and conditions from the real world that we would have never experienced, but which are now part of the “drawer” of our personal experiences and memories. In that sense, documentaries do extend the duration of our existence in this world. I feel as if I had a personal experience of the trenches of Homs, and I am genuinely worried about the fate of Basset, wondering whether he is still alive. I am wondering if Or’s father accepted his son’ s decision and if the young boy Linar is now living a normal life. I am thinking of the women in Afghanistan, who play with fire every day, and I am profoundly concerned about how safe Loukas may feel, lost in the many paradoxes of his life. All those people entered my life these past few days and I shall be carrying them with me”. Tsokli also commented that “the 16th edition of the Festival, which keeps investigating issues and making suggestions with the same panache, has ended after meeting its ambitious goals, but the institution faces a precarious future.”

Mr Dimitri Eipides, Director of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, said in his opening speech: “Another edition of the Documentary Festival has come to an end. We met our goals once again, and the audience responded once more with enthusiasm. The screening theaters were packed, and the films gave rise to debates and productive interactions. Our guests are leaving with the best of impressions, and our Festival is steadily growing its international status and appeal. Thessaloniki is now established as an ideal destination for every cinema lover across the globe. With the support of the city’s audience I am confident that the institution will have a great future.” Mr Eipides added: “I wish to thank you all. All my associates and our volunteers, who worked tirelessly. I would also like to thank our faithful supporters: the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Municipality of Thessaloniki, Public Television, the MEDIA programme and of course the European Union and NSRF and all the sponsors of the Festival. Let us meet again next year, for the 17th Documentary Festival, that will take place from 13 to 22 March 2015”.

After Mr Eipides’s speech, the 16th TDF awards were presented. The first one was the Amnesty International award for best film in the Human Rights section of the festival. This year's committee consisted of Amnesty International representatives  Irini Tsolaki, Katerina Kalogera, Maro Savvopoulou and Marianna Leontaridou, as well as Effie Voutira (Anthropologist, Professor at the University of Macedonia) and Aris Hadjistefanou (Journalist, Director). Ms Tsolaki, vice president of the Greek Section of Amnesty International, thanked the Festival for promoting films that depict cases of human rights violations from across the world. “Selecting a documentary that it both is technically exceptional and it highlights human rights violations is hard. What we could not ignore in such a selection was the films’ role in revealing human rights violations by police violence and state power abuse.” That criterion led the committee to give the award to the documentary Çapulcu - Voices from Gezi by Benedetta Argentieri, Claudio Casazza, Carlo Prevosti, Duccio Servi and Stefano Zoja.

The WWF Award for best film in the Habitat section of the Festival was presented to the documentary Winter by Cristina Picchi. The WWF Jury consisted of Yorgos Vellidis, Iason Kantas and  Alexandros Kandarakis. WWF representative Natalia Kalevra presented the award and commented: “From the many excellent participating films, we selected the one that intrigued us the most with its artistic value and excellent cinematography. The film showed that the harmonious coexistence of man and nature is possible even under adverse circumstances. This is a vision that we have been promoting for decades at WWF Greece.”

For the second time the Docs in Progress Award, part of the Agora - Doc Market section, was presented, which is accompanied by a 15.000 euro award equivalent to services by the Authorwave Post Production house. This year’s international jury consisted of  Anne Grolleron, Claudia Neuhauser and Evi Papamichail. 

The jury awarded Sad People Factory, directed by Michèle Dominici and produced by Karina Si Ahmed, Jean-François Lepetit – Flach Film Production. Authorwave representative Panos Bisdas said: “Authorwave is an avid supporter of this very successful institution.” He also expressed his thanks to the filmmakers and said he hoped that they have the opportunity to present their completed projects in one of the Festival’s future editions. Producer Karina Si Ahmed, who received the award, thanked the Festival and talked about the subject of the film, which investigates the widespread phenomenon of depression.

The FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) award was bestowed next. This year’s jury consisted of Annika Gustafsson (president), Fritz de Jong,  Alexey Gusev, Frédéric Ponsard and Michael Pattison. Before announcing the winners, Ms Gustafsson talked about the difficulties documentary filmmakers face, taking cue from a talk she had with Israeli director Yaron Shani, whose film Life Sentences was screened at the Festival. In 2009, at the 50th Thessaloniki Film Festival, the director had won the Golden Alexander for his feature Ajami. Now, as a documentary filmmaker, he admitted that he had faced much bigger obstacles in his attempts to secure funding and distribution. His documentary won an award  at the Jerusalem Film Festival but was afterwards screened only a couple of times by two Israeli film societies and a specialized documentary TV channel. “The experience is similar for many filmmakers from countries without strong tradition in the genre, which is why the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival is such an important event. I know that it serves as a school and inspiration for Greek documentary filmmakers,” said Ms Gustafsson, who also thanked Mr Eipides and his associates for organizing a festival that is becoming better every year in both its international and Greek sections, adding: “it gives me great hope to see all those children visit the Festival with their teachers, since they are the film lovers of tomorrow.” By unanimous decision, the FIPRESCI award for a Greek film was bestowed to Kalavryta - People and Shadows by Elias Yannakakis. According to the Jury rationale, the film was awarded “for investigating what is an ongoing historical trauma for the Greek people, and for documenting the importance of anti-fascist struggle both in the past and with regard to the present.” In his speech, the director thanked the jury, the Festival for screening his film, his crew and the people of Kalavryta. “The award and this entire effort belong to them,” said Yannakakis, adding: “The film was made on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Kalavryta massacre. The timing was unique, as the film coincided with the financial crisis, the problems Greece has with the German government and the resurgence of neofascism in Greece. We believe that this documentary, together with all the others filmed on the matter in recent years —and those that I am sure will be made in the future — can serve as a weapon to show reality without resorting to an anti-German rant. A terrible massacre took place at Kalavryta in 1943. If we use this documentary properly, we will succeed in satisfying our rightful claims and eliminating neofascism in Greece.”

The FIPRESCI award for an international film was bestowed to On the Edge of the World by Claus Drexel, “for involving the viewer in the unsteady milieu inhabited by Parisian 'clochards' in an enchanting and unexpected way. Director Claus Drexel and cinematographer Sylvain Leser demonstrate a full stylistic control, filming their characters from a distance and vantage point that makes these homeless people stand out as individuals with dignity and wisdom”. The German director greeted and thanked the audience in Greek, and he said he was surprised and moved for receiving an award “from this wonderful Festival, in a country I love deeply.” 

The 16th TDF award ceremony concluded with the four audience awards for Greek and foreign documentaries. Marketing manager of Fischer Yorgos Makrygiannakis, who presented the awards, said that Fischer has been supporting the Thessaloniki Film Festival for seven years and the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival for two. “We are honored, happy and satisfied that we are able to offer our support to such a prominent institution, that promotes culture in our beloved Thessaloniki. It is a great honor for us to present the awards selected by you, the audience and friends of the Festival.”

The Audience Award for a Greek film under 45’ was bestowed to Social Conservatory - Notes by Thekla Malamou and Alexandra Saliba. The filmmakers thanked the teachers, students and volunteers at the Social Conservatory and expressed their hope that the documentary will inspire more people to participate in collective action. They added that their documentary is part of the wider  “Caravan Project”, which brings to light stories that go untold by the mainstream media, but have the power to inspire and inform people.

The Audience Award for a film under 45’ in the International Selection went to Beach Boy by Emil Langballe, who thanked the audience and said that this distinction means a great deal to him.
The Fischer Audience Award for a Greek film over 45’ went to Becoming an Actor by Dimitris Koutsiabasakos, who thanked the Festival for the opportunity to present his film, his associates for their invaluable help and of course the audience for their vote. “To make this film, we depended on volunteers and had to struggle daily, having no support at all,” said the director, who dedicated the award to the memory of his brother, writer Petros Koutsiabasakos.

The ceremony ended with the presentation of the Peter Wintonick Audience Award for a film over 45’ in the International Selection, which went to Four Letters Apart - Children in the Age of ADHD, by Erlend E. Mo. The film was screened as the closing film of the 16th TDF.

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