Next week, I’ll be returning to the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival for the second time, catching the second half of the event’s 15th anniversary edition, which begins this Friday, March 15 with opening night film FIRST POSITION, and runs through Sunday, March 24.
Once again, I’ll be covering the festival for Indiewire, but am also planning on offering a round-up of additional films on w(n)td following my return. Director Dimitri Eipides and his team have put together an impressive program for their anniversary edition, which tallies to approximately 200 films – shorts and features combined – the bulk showcasing new international and Greek productions, as well as a retrospective series of favorites from the fest’s first fifteen years, and a tribute to Chilean master director Patricio Guzmán. What follows are highlights of newer titles that I haven’t yet seen that I’m hoping to have a chance to view while in Greece.
Going section by section, “Views of the World” puts a spotlight on contemporary world issues. Among the titles on my list here are Ilya Chorafas’ ADESPOTA, STRAY DOGS IN THE HEART OF ATHENS (pictured), on the unlikely symbolism the capital’s street dogs have attained during the ongoing crisis; Alicia Cano’s THE BELLA VISTA, about the many and unexpected uses of a single house in a small conservative Uruguayan town; and Volker Goetze’s GRIOT, exploring the tradition of the West African oral historians and the radical changes they are facing in the modern era.
“Stories To Tell” focuses on the individual and personal, including Pierre Morath’s CHRONICLE OF A FORGOTTEN DEATH, an investigation into why a Swiss man’s corpse lay undiscovered for two and half years; Juan Ignacio Fernandez Hoppe’s THE FLOWERS OF MY FAMILY, following the developments between the director’s grandmother and mother as a new relationship threatens their usual routines; Marianna Economou’s FOOD FOR LOVE (pictured), focusing on the role food plays between Greek mothers and their children (something about which I know all too well); Yiorgos Varelas’ HIPPIE-HIPPIE MATALA! MATALA!, a look back at an infamous Cretan fishing village that became a haven for international countercultural types; Yiorgos Moustakis and Nikos Labot’s THE IMMORTALS AT THE SOUTHERN POINT OF EUROPE, in which Russian scientists flock to the Greek isle of Gavdos, generating rampant speculation; Beatrix Schwehm’s HUNGRY MINDS, about mobile libraries around the world instilling a love of reading to rural and remote communities; Eliana Abravanel’s ROUGHCUT, a profile of a Filipino hairdresser, passing as a woman in Greece; and Panayiotis Evangelidis’ THEY GLOW IN THE DARK, about former gay, HIV+ lovers in New Orleans.
Thessaloniki’s “Recordings of Memory” section explores living history. Films of particular interest here are Nahid Persson Sarvestan’s MY STOLEN REVOLUTION (pictured), in which the director revisits the stories of prisoners of the Iranian regime, post-Revolution, including her brother; Stelios Kouloglou’s NEO-NAZI: THE HOLOCAUST OF MEMORY, investigating why Greek cities that suffered under Nazi times have become supportive of Neo-Nazi candidates; and Dieter Sauter’s ADIEU ISTANBUL, on the situation of minority Greeks living in Istanbul.
Portraiture takes center stage in “Portraits: Human Journeys,” which includes Dimitris Athiridis’ ONE STEP AHEAD, a look at the mayoral campaign of Thessaloniki’s Yiannis Boutaris; Youlian TABAKOV’s TZVETANKA, about a woman whose life story encapsulates Bulgaria’s move from kings to dictators to presidents; and Bruno Chouinard’s PAOLO CHIMNEY SWEEP (pictured), which reveals father-son dynamics through an atypical vocation.
Thessaloniki looks to the environment and our interactions with it in “Habitat.” Catching my eye here are Menios Karayiannis’ SKAPETA (pictured), a portrait of a hermit and what he needs to live; Christina Koutsospyrou & Aran Hughes’ hybrid TO THE WOLF, about two shepherds’ struggle to survive in a remote Greek mountain village; Nikos Dayandas’ LITTLE LAND, a look at new settlers on the remote isle of Ikaria, known for its longevity; Sourav Sarangi’s CHAR… THE NO-MAN’S ISLAND, about an island between India and Bangladesh that is home to poor smugglers; and Herbert Sveinbjornsson’s ASH, which follows farmers who were affected by Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption.
“Human Rights” explores a range of pressing issues, from Arab democracy to immigration struggles, religious freedoms, and child abuse. A few that I’d like to see are: Antonio Bellia’s THE BLACK SAINT, in which the story of two Congolese asylum seekers mirror that of their adopted city’s patron saint; Daniele Vicari’s THE HUMAN CARGO, about a 1991 attempt by 20,000 Albanians to cross into Italy on a single ship; Irit Gal’s WHITE NIGHT (pictured), following Palestinians passing as Israeli to work as cleaning women at night in Jerusalem; and Andrea Mariani & Nicola Zambelli’s TOMORROW’S LAND – HOW WE DECIDED TO TEAR DOWN THE INVISIBLE WALL, looking at a Palestinian village’s efforts to resist attacks by Israeli settlers.
The arts are the focus of the fest’s “Music & Dance” program, which features, among other titles, Andreas Siadimas’ MUSIC VILLAGE (pictured), about an attempt to create a utopian musical community in a small Greek village; and Ricardo Iscar’s THE PIT, an indepth look at the members of a Barcelonan orchestra.
Finally, in addition to the Greek films peppered throughout the other program sections, Thessaloniki spotlights local filmmaking in the “Greek Panorama.” Making my list are, among others: Dimitris Koutsibasakos’ THE GROCER, following a year in the life of a man who brings fresh food to dying villages; Vangelis Efthymiou’s CRAFTED BY TIME (pictured), about one of the last wooden boat builders in a remote fishing village; Yorgos Avgeropoulos’ EXANDAS: CASSANDRA’S TREASURE, looking at the debate spawned by the crisis-influenced sale of mineral rights; Lefteris Haritos’ SCHOOL-TUBE KYTHERA, in which teenagers film their lives, offering insight into the experiences of Greek youth; and Dimitris Kitsikoudis and Katerina Karayianni’s TRACING: THE LIGHTHOUSE OF THE WORLD, a portrait of a youth center catering to a Roma ghetto on the west side of Thessaloniki.