The curtain fell on the 17th Thessaloniki Film Festival – Images of the 21st Century with the presentation of this year’s awards, on Saturday March 21, 2015, at the Olympion Theatre.
The closing ceremony was hosted by the journalist Maya Tsokli, who noted that, March 21st, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is a “day loaded with symbolic meaning that I think should also be designated as a special day of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, since all of its categories are aligned with the day’s social messages”. Referring to the Festival’s “Human Rights” category, Ms.Tsokli presented a video against racism and noted: “The Festival’s “Human Rights” category is related to the daily battle against racism, which is still very much rooted in the collective consciousness of our societies. In 1960, a peaceful demonstration of black students was turned into a bloodbath by the police in South Africa under the Apartheid regime. The Sharpeville Massacre led the United Nations to declare today the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. We found a video that says everything we’d like to say, through its message of “Put racism in its place”.
Following Ms. Tsokli’s introduction, the Director of the Thessaloniki Film Festival and founder and director of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, Dimitri Eipides addressed the audience: “Despite the difficult circumstances of our times, and the terrible financial situation, the documentary as a genre is standing strong and evolving. The documentation of real life though a lens is a medium which is growing in popularity and becoming ever more necessary”. Referring to the films that were screened at this year’s Festival, Eipides said that “they reflect the necessity for information and education and the filmmakers offer us solutions. We are very happy that we were able to host some of them here in Thessaloniki, a city which is recognized around the world for its cinematic activity”. Eipides thanked “audiences that waited in queues, filled theatres and surpassed 50,000 tickets sales, until today”, as well as our “remarkable volunteers and colleagues that worked hard for the Festival’s success, and of course everyone that continues to support us: The Ministry of Culture, the European MEDIA programme, all of the Festival’s sponsors and supporters”.
Eipides also referred to the Thessaloniki International Fair “where the Festival was born”, as he said, and added: “In our special screenings we presented Stories of the Fair which documents 80 years of the Fair’s history. The Thessaloniki International Fair deserves a special award to signify the beginning of a new collaboration between us, for the support of the Festival’s Market”. He then invited the president of the Thessaloniki International Fair, Anastasios Tzikas, to the stage to accept the award. In turn, after thanking the Festival’s organizers, Tzikas said: “I grew up with the Festival. I remember during my first years at university, we would wait at the steps of the National Theatre overnight, to be the first there when the box-office opened in the morning, to get tickets to see works by Theo Angelopoulos and other great directors. On behalf of the administration of the Thessaloniki International Fair, I would like to thank the Festival and Mr. Eipides. We are obliged to help the Festival, and to improve our collaboration. We will personally take on new initiatives for new collaborations with institutions, because the work of the Festival is very important. We are proud that our city hosts it and we should all do everything we can to support it”, Tzikas noted. Concluding, Mr. Eipides announced the dates of the next Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, which will take place March 18-27, 2016.
The awards for the 17th Thessaloniki Film Festival were subsequently presented. The first one was the Amnesty International award for best film in the “Human Rights” section of the Festival.
This year’s Amnesty International Jury consisted of representatives of the Greek Section of Amnesty International: Katerina Kalogera and Marianna Leondaridou as well as Zoi Mavroudi (filmmaker, director of the film Ruins),
Yorgos Roussos (journalist, film columnist at the website www.tvxs.gr) and Panayotis Dendramis (Amnesty International member, filmmaker). The award was presented by Irini Tsolaki, vice-president of the Greek Section of Amnesty International, who noted: “The hidden camera shots, the immediacy and power of the images, along with the sadness for his homeland and the lyricism with which Ossama Mohammed handles images and sounds, provide us with food for thought. To think about Syria”. With these things in mind, Ms. Tsolaki presented the award to “Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait” by Ossama Mohammed & Wiam Simav Bedirxan. Tsolaki noted that: “In Syria today, youtube users film things first and then die, while others kill first and then make videos, the film’s director says. The exiled director Ossama Mohammed edits images that he found online and images from the cinematic heritage offered to him by the Kurdish director Wiam Simav Bedirxan, whose name means “silvered water”.
The WWF Award for the “Habitat” section went to Virunga by Orlando von Εinsiedel. The Jury consisted of members of the Greek section of WWF:
Yorgos Vellidis, Iason Kantas and Alexandros Kandarakis. The award was presented by the representative of WWF’s Greek Section, Georgios Vlachos, who thanked the Festival for trusting him with its “Habitat” Section.
He referred to observations he made after viewing films in the category and noted: “Understanding of environmental issues and ecological awakening have led artists around the world to create valuable cinematic documentations, through which we’ve come to realize that our natural resources are not inexhaustible”. Vlachos also noted that “The WWF once again embraces the “Habitat” section of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, focusing on an important message, the inseparable link between man and nature”.
The Docs In Progress Award of the TDF DocMarket was awarded for a third consecutive year at this year’s awards ceremony. The award involves films in their final stages of completion, which “we hope to see completed at one of our future Festivals”, as Ms. Tsokli noted. This year, for the first time in the Docs in Progress section, the Greek company post-production 2|35 Inc offered an award worth 15.000 euros in post-production services. This year’s jury consisted of: Peter Ηamilton (www.documentarytelevision.com USA), Μadeleine Avramoussis (Arte, France) and Alexandros Christoyiannis (ΟTE TV, Greece). The award went to “The Longest Run” by Marianna Economou [Production Company: Stefi & Lynx Director: Marianna Economou Producer: Daphne Panopoulou Co-producer: Taavi Vartia (Taavia Productions) Key Partner: NERIT Greece/ Finland]. According to the jury: “The central characters, two young men, touched us with their individual plight, revealing the director’s talent for opening our hearts. The material we saw gives a human face to current tragedies of war, immigration and the crisis in European society, dealing fairly with these issues.” The award was presented by Nikos Moutselos of the 2|35 Inc. Accepting the award, the director Marianna Economou thanked the jury and 2|35 Inc, saying that: “The award is a lot of help. I promise to complete the film and that it will be screened at next year’s festival”.
This year’s FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Award Jury consisted of: Massimo Lechi (Italy), president, Mo Abdi (UK), Gia Giovani (Greece), Yoana Pavlova (Bulgaria), Kirsten Kieninger (Germany). Massimo Lechi presented the award saying: “The jury and I would like to thank the Festival for having us and also the staff for supporting us in this cinematic marathon. Two awards will be presented, to documentaries that were selected among the films that premiered here and Greek films participating in competition”. The FIPRESCI Award for best Greek production went to Hail Arcadia by Filippos Koutsaftis. Accepting the award, the director thanked FIPRESCI “for the great honor”, as he said, and also thanked his collaborators, including “Nikolas Karanikolas, Ioanna Spiliotopoulou for the editing, and Konstantinos Vita for the music, and also the charitable Michael Stasinopoulos - Viohalko Foundation, which produced the film”.
The FIPRESCI Award for best foreign film went to Magnus Gertten’s Every Face Has A Name. Accepting the award the filmmaker said: “I’d like to thank the jury for recognizing my work and the Festival – truly the best festival anyone can hope to have his work recognized by. Also, its audience is one of the best I have seen and knows documentaries well. It’s great to be here. The creation of a film is a team effort. You may see me on stage right now, with the lights on me, like a rock star who gets all the girls at the after-party, but there is a very good rock band behind me, my producer Lennart Ström and my editor Jesper Osmund, who helped make the film what it is”.
The 17th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival ended with the presentation of the Fischer Audience Awards for Greek and International documentaries, over and under 45 minutes. The representative of sponsorships for the Athenian Brewery, Giannis Katsougaris noted: “I’m happy to be here tonight supporting the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival with Fischer Beer. The Festival turns 17 this year and has already managed to become one of the three best documentary festivals in Europe. In this organization, which promotes culture through documenting reality, the Fischer Audience Awards are a special distinction because they have been voted by the audience. Katsougaris thanked “all the filmmakers, who broadened our horizons, the Festival’s staff, and its 283 volunteers, and also the man who inspired, founded and continues to expand the Festival, as if it were his own child, its director Mr. Dimitri Eipides”. The awards were presented by Vasilia Limberopoulou, Public Relations coordinator of the Athenian Brewery. “The audience’s participation in the voting process surpassed our expectations. We counted 17.000 ballots this year. We’d like to thank everyone that voted”. The Fischer Audience Prize for a Greek production under 45’ went to Stavros Psillakis’ Olympia. The filmmaker thanked the Festival and the audience “that honored us with their presence. I would like to dedicate this award to the memory of Olympia, to Panagiotis, who is a happy and healthy baby, to the family of Takis Bentzios that hosted us so generously and to Iakovos Antzel, whose persistence was the reason this film was made. I’d also like to thank all the people that worked on this film and especially cinematographer Thekla Malamou”.
The Fischer Audience Prize for an international production under 45’ went to Flame, directed by Dress Code (Dan Covert and Andre Andreev). Accepting the award, Andre Andreev said he felt emotionally charged and noted that it was “a great honor to accept this recognition from the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival”. He also invited the film’s half-Greek screenwriter Martin Marinos to the stage and said that “his help was valuable and he deserves applause as much as I do”.
The Fischer Audience Award for a Greek film over 45’ went to Nikos Aslanidis’ Paradoxical Fatherland. Accepting the award the director said “This award is a surprise for me because this is my first time participating in the Festival, even though I have been making documentaries for years. Our team was very small. With Panos Skourtis, Georgios Aslanidis, Niki Fotiadou and Alexis Bitlis we tried to document the historical memory of this land, nothing more than that. I also wanted to thank the film’s protagonist Stathis Haitidis, who saw his family killed by the Nazis when he was 8 years old. I’d like to thank everyone that helped on this film, and would like to dedicate it to the all the inhabitants of the villages trying to find justice 70 years after the holocausts they suffered. Also, I would like to dedicate this award to all that were fired from their jobs at Public Broadcaster ERT”.
Finally, The Peter Wintonick Audience Award for a film over 45’ in the International Selection went to Orlando von Εinsiedel’s Virunga. The director was not present but said via a video-message: “On behalf of our team I’d like to say that we are joyous and honored to receive this award. With everything that happened while we were filming, we never would have imagined that we would win awards. This documentary was difficult and very dangerous to make. Our thoughts go the the brave guards of the Virunga park, that were very generous, allowing us to share in their work, that places their lives at risk daily. We believe that the things that go on at Virunga affect all of humanity. We owe it to ourselves to protect the last of these gorillas living on our planet and we mustn’t allow World Heritage Sites to become victims of the financial interests of big gas companies. We hope that thanks to this award, awareness will continue to be raised about the plight of Virunga park”.