Tonight, Friday, March 3 kicks off the 19th edition of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, one of Europe’s largest nonfiction events. Nearly 150 new and recent feature docs will screen at the event, which runs through Sunday, March 12, representing a mix of world premieres, regional debuts of other festival favorites, and a large showcase of work from within Greece and its Balkan neighbors. What follows are highlights, broken down by the fest’s many thematic sections:
Long non-competitive, aside from a few awards presented in partnership with other organizations, Thessaloniki this year introduces an International Competition. Among the contenders are: Dominikos Ignatiadis’ VILLAGE POTEMKIN (pictured), which follows an ex-drug addict around Athens; Angelos Rallis’ SHINGAL, WHERE ARE YOU?, a portrait of refugees displaced by ISIS; Charlie Petersmann’s DELTAS, BACK TO SHORES, comparing the stories of two migrants on opposite sides of the Mediterranean; Fernanda Pessoa’s STORIES OUR CINEMA (DID) NOT TELL, a revisitation of Brazil’s 1970s dictatorship through the softcore films which marked the period; and Paz Encina’s MEMORY EXERCISES, following the three children of an exiled Paraguayan dissident back home after more than 30 years.
Kaleidoscope, the renamed Views of the World strand, tackles contemporary stories from around the world, from the personal – such as Stella Nikoletta Drossa’s DRIFTING GENERATION, about Greek-Germans studying in Thessaloniki, and Cecilia Bozza Wolf’s VERGOT (pictured), on an Italian farming family reckoning with one son’s sexuality – to the global, including Susan Morgan Cooper’s TO THE MOON AND BACK, which investigates political motivations behind Putin’s adoption ban; Guillermo García López’s DELICATE BALANCE, a meditation on the impact of globalization spanning three continents; Lise Birk Pedersen’s TUTTI A CASA: POWER TO THE PEOPLE?, on the rise of a populist political movement in Italy; Stelios Kouloglou’s TO DIE LAUGHING, a survey of the use of humor in politics; Giulia Amati’s SHASHAMANE, about an Ethiopian community which was part of the Back to Africa movement; and, as part of the section’s Minorities Tribute, Laurent Laughlin’s TO ANOTHER LIFE, about a Syrian lesbian refugee.
The Human Rights section includes: Nada Mezni Hafaiedh’s UPON THE SHADOW, on a former Femen member and her Tunisian LGBT friends; Catherine van Campen’s ZAATARI DJINN (pictured), a child’s-eye view of life in a Syrian refugee camp; Nina Maria Paschalidou’s THE SNAKE CHARMER, following a Bollywood star’s efforts to combat sexual violence in Indian society; and Antonis Tolakis’ THE LAST DECISION, about a man making preparations for his euthanasia.
Also renamed this year is Recordings of Memory, retitled Memory/History, and addressing the collective impact of memory through films like: Timon Koulmasis’ PORTRAIT OF MY FATHER IN TIMES OF WAR (pictured), the story of a love affair experienced by the filmmaker’s father during the Nazi occupation of Greece; Ioanna Asmeniadou-Phocas’ PORTOLAGO – GHOSTS IN THE AEGEAN, on the changing uses and inhabitants of a small Greek island over time; Nikos Kavoukidis’ REMEMBRANCES, which assembles documentary footage of Greece during the tumultuous years of 1936-1952; Fotos Lambrinos’ THE GREAT UTOPIA, on the Bolshevik Revolution and its impact around the world; and Keywan Karimi’s WRITING ON THE CITY, which explores the history of graffiti in Tehran.
Two sections explore man’s interaction with the natural world. Habitat offers Menelaos Karamaghiolis’ GREEK ANIMAL RESCUE (pictured), which explores efforts to help the strays of an industrial town outside Athens; Pieter Van Eecke’s SAMUEL IN THE CLOUDS, about a ski lift operator on a Bolivian mountain whose snow has vanished; and Pandora Mouriki’s DAYS OF THE LAKE, about the human and natural ecosystems around Greece’s Lake Kerkini. Meanwhile new section Food vs Food presents Lukas Agelastos and Spiridoula Gouskou’s MY HUMAN SELF, which follows an unemployed man as he opens a soup kitchen; and Tom Heinemann’s BITTER GRAPES – SLAVERY IN THE VINEYARDS, an exposé of inhumane conditions to which South African vineyard workers are exposed.
Thessaloniki’s cultural doc programming includes sections on Music, including Angelos Kovotsos’ STRING-LESS, on a Greek women’s a capella group, and Tearepa Kahi’s POI E: THE STORY OF OUR SONG (pictured), about the national significance of a 30-year-old New Zealand song; on Cinema, featuring Maria Douza’s CINE THISSION OF ATHENS, a profile of a long-standing open-air Athenian movie theatre; and in the new Film Forward section, which includes Stuart A Staples’ MINUTE BODIES: THE INTIMATE WORLD OF F PERCY SMITH, a tribute to the cinematographic work of an early 20th C naturalist filmmaker.
Finally, in addition to featuring Greek docs throughout the various sections of Thessaloniki’s program, the festival also spotlight’s national cinema through the Greek Panorama, including: Anatoli Karypidou and Damianos Maximov’s A ROAD WITH A LONG HISTORY (pictured), on the history of the rise and fall of Georgia’s Greek villages; Stratis Vogiatzis and Konstantinos Koukoulis’ MAN AT HOME, a portrait of a homeless Ethiopian man living in Athens; Yannis Xirouchakis’ SAINT VALENTINE’S SECRET TRIP, exploring the mystery of religious relics on the Greek isle of Lesbos; Stavros Petropoulos’ I AM A DANCER, a look at dance workshops for the differently abled; Chronis Pechlivanidis’ REFUGEE HIGHWAY, which charts the path of refugees through the Aegean towards central Europe; and Aris Chatzistefanou’s THIS IS NOT A COUP, about the economic interplay between the European Union and large corporations and financial institutions.