Thessaloniki Documentary Festival 2019 Overview

The 21st Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

March 1-10

More than 160 new documentary features, plus shorts and additional retrospective work, are showcased at this respected Greek event.


The fest’s International Competition includes: Panos Arvanitakis’ FOSSILS, which explores the transformation of northern Greece by the energy industry; Francesca Mannocchi and Alessio Romenzi’s ISIS, TOMORROW: THE LOST SOULS OF MOSUL, which profiles children orphaned by ISIS suicide bombers; Joanna Reposi Garibaldi’s LEMEBEL, on the transgressive Chilean artist and author; and Christina Phoebe’s AMYGDALIÁ, a meditation on borders both literal and figurative.


In the Human Condition section, world premieres include: Fabrizio Maltese’s CALIFORNIA DREAMING, which explores the myth of California through the stories of individuals on the margins; Marco Gastine’s AS FAR AS THE SEA, following accident victims as they try to regain independence; Pitzi Kampouroglou’s THE FIG HOUSE, a portrait of a household of refugees and activists in Thessaloniki; Dimitra Babadima’s AKRA, about a man’s quest to bring attention to his island home; and Panayotis Evangelidis’ IRVING PARK; which profiles an unconventional household of gay slaves and masters.


Among other sections, The Paper Chase tells stories of individuals caught in bureaucracy, and includes world premieres such as Loghman Khaledi’s GOODBYE PARTY, in which a hub for Iranian artists faces demolition; and Ruth Walk’s BORDER OF PAIN, an investigation into the practice of admitting Palestinians to Israeli hospitals; while the Human Rights strand offers the debuts of Nicolas Blies and Stéphane Hueber-Blies’ ZERO IMPUNITY, which aims to expose sexual violence in war; Julia Speropoulos’ YUBI, about a young woman who struggles with a tragic past; and Michael Niermann’s RIDERS OF DESTINY, on the dangerous lives of Indonesian child jockeys.


Two sections addressing history and politics include Memory/History, with Alexandros Papailiou’s THE EAST HAS SET, on the historical connections between Greece and Asia Minor; and Max Geilke and Mario Forth’s SALONIKA: A CITY WITH AMNESIA, on Thessaloniki’s past diverse makeup; and Catherine Lurie-Alt’s BACK TO BERLIN, following a group of Tel Aviv bikers on a road trip to Berlin; and the Everything is Politics strand, with Aris Chatzistefanou’s MAKE THE ECONOMY SCREAM, an in-depth look at Venezuela’s economic crisis; and Kimon Tsakiris’ SUGARTOWN: FOR A FISTFUL OF VOTES, following a former mayor’s questionable campaign to reclaim power.


Environmental and food-themed films appear in Habitat, with titles like François-Xavier Drouet’s THE TIME OF FORESTS, on the impact of the industrialization of forests; Aleksei Vakhrushev’s THE BOOK OF THE SEA, focused on Inuit fishermen in the Bering Strait; and Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė’s ACID FOREST, which explores a dying forest in the Baltic Sea; and in the Food vs Food strand, with Alia Yunis’ THE GOLDEN HARVEST, on the importance of the olive tree to the Mediterranean; Nicolás Carreras’ THE BEST SOMMELIER IN THE WORLD, about the most important sommelier competition; and Benoît Bringer’s THE CARNIVORE’S DILEMMA, an investigation into the consequences of meat consumption.


Arts and culture offerings appear in several strands, including Music, with Meletis Miras’ DIAMONDS IN THE NIGHT SKY, on an influential Athens radio station; and Paul Duane’s WHLE YOU LIVE, SHINE, on the transformative power of Greek folk music on an American musicologist; Cinema, with Kuba Mikurda’s LOVE EXPRESS: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF WALERIAN BOROWCZYK, which revisits the work of the forgotten Polish auteur; and Paul Grivas’ FILM CATASTROPHE, which investigates the links between Godard, a cruise ship, and the fall of Europe; and The Artist Is Present, with Marjoleine Boonstra’s THE MIRACLE OF THE LITTLE PRINCE, on translators of the classic children’s book; and Thorkell S Hardarson and Örn Marinó Arnarson’s NEFERTITI – THE LONELY QUEEN: STORIES FROM THE WORLD OF LOOTED ANCIENT ART, which focuses on attempts to reclaim stolen antiquities.


The work of Greek filmmakers takes center stage in Platform, which includes world premieres such as: Kostis Asikelis’ THE BLONDE MAGICIAN WHEN THE SHOW ENDS, on the “Greek David Copperfield;” Iro Siafliaki’s ZONES AND PASSAGES, a look at unemployment in modern Greece; Tasos Giapoutzis’ QUIET LIFE, which contrasts an aging community in northern Greece with young refugee transplants; Dimitris Yeros’ OVIL AND USMAN, following a gay Muslim couple as they seek refuge on Lesbos; Thanasis Kafetzis’ THE GOSPEL OF MICHIEL, in which a Dutch architect realizes his vision through a housing project in rural Kenya; Katerina Clark’s ARVANITIKA, on efforts to preserve the titular dying language; Andreas Hadjipateras’ A FORGOTTEN PAST, about an elite Sierra Leone family turned working class refugee in America; Vilma Meniki’s MY KATINES, in which members of a Thessaloniki feminist collective reflect on their former organization; Yorgos Keramidiotis’ FROM TERROR TO RESISTANCE: NAZI CAMP PAVLOS MELAS THESSALONIKI 1941-1944, which explores the titular prison camp; and Nikos Theodosiou’s GREEKS IN HOLLYWOOD, a look back at Greeks who worked in America’s silent cinema era. From Screen to Screen showcases the work of additional Greek filmmakers, made for television, such as Konstantinos Tseklenis’ IN VINO VERITAS: HISTORY OF GREEK WINE; Élodie Lélu’s tribute to Théo Angelopoulos, LETTER TO THEO; and Elias Dimetriou’s STACO, on a volunteer group dedicated to preserving Athens’ street art.


Remaining sections include the innovative sidebar, Film Forward, with Lei Lei’s BREATHLESS ANIMALS, a tale of loss during China’s Cultural Revolution; and Shengze Zhu’s PRESENT.PERFECT, which explores the need for connection via Chinese live-stream participants; a special spotlight on human/animal connection, Why Look at Animals?, with Manfred Karremann’s THE HIDDEN SIDE OF ANIMAL TRANSPORT; and Docs for Kids, with Reetta Huhtanen’s GODS OF MOLENBEEK, about the friendship between two young boys in Brussels.

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