ISSN: 2241-6692


The 54th Thessaloniki International Film Festival (1-10 November 2013) will undoubtedly be remembered as “the festival of Jim Jarmusch”. Not only because the very name and the films of Jarmusch are benchmarks of independent cinema worldwide, but also because the rest of the Festival developed in a quite moderate way in terms of films, filmmakers and events. Despite the crowds that were gathered outside the festival’s ticket glass cubes, the viewers’ enthusiasm during the screenings (most of which were sold out) and the overall cinephilic mood of the public, especially among young people who packed the venues in large numbers (more than 90%), the Festival programme was rather predictable, with no particular surprise regarding films, emerging national cinemas or groundbreaking film trends.

Jim Jarmusch and Dimitris Eipides

Jim Jarmusch, the legendary “prince of independent cinema”, was the undisputed protagonist of Thessaloniki, where he was invited to attend the Festival as an honored guest, a fact that enhanced the overall cinephilic atmosphere. Jim Jarmusch’s new film Only Lovers Left Alive premiered in Thessaloniki, opening the Festival at the Olympion Theatre. After an eventful parade of public officials, who annoyed viewers with their impersonal speeches about the future of cinema, Jarmusch managed to calm the spirits and to bring the Festival back to its familiar, mystical rhythms of the viewing experience.
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Αυτές τις μέρες, με τη συμπλήρωση 40 χρόνων απ’ την εξέγερση του Πολυτεχνείου, μου ‘ρθαν ξανά στο νου οι πολλαπλές περιπέτειες που έζησα με την πρώτη μου ταινία, Ανοιχτή Επιστολή. Με δανεικά από φίλους, την αμέριστη συμπαράσταση της γυναίκας μου, της ζωγράφου Τζούλιας Ανδρειάδου, (i) και τη φιλική συμμετοχή του Walter Lassally, τα γυρίσματα ξεκίνησαν στα τέλη Μαρτίου του ’67. Όλα φαίνονταν να πηγαίνουν όπως τα είχα σχεδιάσει, ώσπου ξαφνικά, το πρωί της 21ης Απριλίου λίγο πριν πάμε για το γύρισμα, ακούμε εμβατήρια απ’ το ραδιόφωνο και μαθαίνουμε πως κηρύχθηκε δικτατορία.

Νέος τότε, 31 ετών, με όνειρα που έβλεπα να χάνονται μέσα σε μια μέρα, ξανοιγμένος σε χρέη που δεν είχα να πληρώσω, με τη γυναίκα μου έγκυο στην κόρη μας, κι ένα περιβάλλον γύρω μου πνιγμένο στο φόβο, έπρεπε ν’ αποφασίσω τι θα κάνω. Τα γυρίσματα βρίσκονταν περίπου στα μισά, τα λεφτά τελείωναν, το μέλλον της ταινίας –όποτε κι αν τελείωνε– αβέβαιο, και το δίλημμα που έμπαινε πιεστικό: τα παρατάω όλα στη μέση, γκρεμίζοντας ό,τι είχε χτιστεί ως εκείνη τη στιγμή με τόση προσπάθεια κι αγωνία ή συνεχίζω όπως-όπως κι ό,τι θέλει ας γίνει; Προτίμησα το δεύτερο, κόντρα σε κάθε λογικό επιχείρημα που έλεγε ότι έπρεπε να σταματήσω.
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At a time when the civil war was raging in Yugoslavia and the Balkans were presented to the international community as a hotbed of barbarism, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations, the Thessaloniki Film Festival’s director Michel Demopoulos proceeded, in 1994, to establish a section called the “Balkan Survey”, which would be exclusively devoted to films produced in this region. This initiative aimed to showcase the creative cinematic forces of Balkan countries and to seek out bridges of communications through their common cultural roots. At the same time, however, it was an effort to offset the negative representations of the international media regarding the Balkans; to put forward a different way of seeing; and to bring to the fore the discourse and viewpoint of – mostly – native film directors. It was, therefore, a counter-proposal, which would put the Balkans back on the international map under different terms, by linking Balkan cinema to that of the rest of Europe. This move was considered extremely progressive at the time, since there was no such section anywhere on the landscape of international film festivals, and gave the Festival and Thessaloniki the chance to act as a meeting point and a place of communication within the greater region of Southeast Europe.2 Especially in regard to foreign professionals of the world of film (journalists, critics, festival programmers, producers and distributors), the TIFF offered a strong motive for them to attend it and catch up on the latest cinematic developments of the Balkans.

But the Festivals’ emphasis on Balkan cinema also sprung from the interest aroused by being neighbors with the other Balkan countries, combined with the need to overcome the substantial ignorance and, at times, prejudice of the Greek public for Balkan cinemas. With the age-long national disputes between Balkan states and the Cold War having contributed to the lack of a feeling of accord between these neighboring countries, this absence is also reflected in cinema. Each national cinema in the Balkans has developed independently of the other countries, without – up until recently – a real collaboration between them. In Greece, this cinema was, to a large degree, unknown, since most film-goers knew only the films of the most famous among Balkan directors, such as Güney, Makavejev, and Kusturica, since they were the only ones that were ever shown in the movie theaters (the same had applied in the past to commercial Turkish films). But with the emergence of talented young directors and the systematic showcasing of their work, the TIFF contributed decisively to overcoming the pre-existing isolation and the lack of contact which have characterized the cinemas of the Balkans.
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An international conference for the study of Greek Cinema was established last summer. The organisation of Contemporary Greek Film Cultures 2013, which took place at the Hellenic Centre in London on the 5th and 6th July, was a collaboration between doctoral researchers from the Universities of Glasgow and Reading, bringing together scholars of contemporary Greek Cinema from Greece, the UK, other European countries and the USA. The aim was to reflect on the recent resurgence of interest in Greek Cinema and to promote the study and theorisation of Greek film internationally. Although there were a number of trends that appeared to dominate the conference, there was a great variety of cross-disciplinary approaches and themes, covering a wide range of the filmography of the contemporary scene.

One of the most prominent trends was the scholarly attention turned to the so called ‘weird wave’ of Greek cinema [i], and specifically to Lanthimos’s Dogtooth (2009) and Tsangari’s Attenberg (2010). Each paper, however, focused on different aspects of the films − a fact that explains the willingness of the organisers to welcome numerous but diverse papers on these two films in the conference. The issues that were addressed concerned identity, language, family, politics and crisis, but also great emphasis was given to the concepts of the national and the transnational. The choice of elaborating on these topics is not coincidental, since these are recurrent themes in Greek cinema overall, and contemporary Greek cinema more specifically; themes that seem to attract great attention by audiences and researchers alike both nationally and internationally.
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