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Thessaloniki Documentary Festival Tributes to Directors

The 9th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival - Images of the 21st Century (March 16-25, 2007)


The 9th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival - Images of the 21st Century, taking place within the context of the year-round activities of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, will be holding three tributes to important documentary directors. Barbara Kopple, Jon Alpert and the couple Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar will honour the Festival with their presence. A representative selection of their work will offer the audience the opportunity to get to know their significant contribution to the documentary genre, which differs from mainstream American films. Focused on people, with a social and political conscience, these four inquiring Americans highlight issues both within their country and abroad, capturing the various shades of reality each in his/her own personal style.

Barbara Kopple made her film debut by filming, under harsh and exceedingly discouraging circumstances, a mining strike in rural Kentucky. Her perseverance and hard work were rewarded as Harlan County, USA won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1977. Fourteen years later, the film American Dream, on the human "cost" of the recession suffered by the Midwestern states which had been prosperous up until that time, brought her her second Oscar. Her most recent work, the multi-award winning Shut Up And Sing, as "audacious"
as its leading ladies, the band Dixie Chicks, tops off of a thirty year career rich in trophies - not only artistic but also moral, during which Barbara Kopple has been established internationally as one of the foremost documentary makers in the USA

From the mines of Kentucky to the stage of an historic rock festival (No
Nukes) and boxing rings (Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson), Kopple's restless camera records the stories of people who are struggling, on a personal or social level, for their rights and their dignity. But what makes the 60 year old director stand out from other directors in the genre is the way she tells these stories, her unerring instinct (penetrating, multidimensional

and sensitive) in sketching out her characters. "In documentary, life holds the reins and you have to have the intelligence, flexibility and alertness to follow", she declares, thus giving us, without meaning to, her own artistic portrait.

Barbara Kopple will attend the opening of the festival from the 16th until the 20th.

Julia Reichert is known as the "godmother" of American independent film and has been nominated twice for an Oscar. Steven Bognar has managed, in spite of relatively little experience in the field of independent documentaries, to be recognized as one of its most promising representatives. Their first artistic collaboration, A Lion In The House -the chronicle of the uneven battle of five children and their families with cancer over a period of six years - screening in the Troubled Innocence section - gives us the occasion to hold a small tribute to the work of these two directors.

Born in 1946 in New Jersey, Reichert is a genuine child of the rebellious and politicized generation of the '60s. She entered the field of documentaries in the '70s, a self-educated filmmaker, with the film Growing up Female. Wishing to avoid the restrictions and compromises of the commercial distribution system, Reichert and her then collaborator Jim Klein decided to found New Day Films, an independent distribution company which eventually developed into an independent filmmaker and producer cooperative.
Union Maids (1976, the portrait of three pioneering American union women) and Seeing red (1983, a look back at the history of the American Communist Party through the personal testimonies of its members) brought Reichert her two Oscar nominations and together with her other activities (among others, the writing of the genre "bible", Doing it yourself, a handbook on independent film distribution) established her as one of the most important personalities in the independent film community of her country.

43 year old Steven Bognar doesn't perhaps belong to the restless '60s generation, he does however share its values, first and foremost that of "International thinking, local action". He admits that his biggest "school"
was his mistakes and recognizes as influences "thousands of filmmakers, writers, musicians, poets and activists who did not accept the world as it is but used their time and abilities to make it better". Even if they did not succeed in the end.

The making of A Lion In The House was for Bognar as much as Reichert (who had just survived a similar health adventure with her daughter) the experience of a lifetime. The difficulties and challenges of such a project will be the subject of study and discussion of the workshop given by the two directors, Organic Editing, which will take place during the Festival.
The directors will attend the festival between the 18th and 22nd of March.

For the first time in Greece, a tribute is being held on the important American director, producer and journalist Jon Alpert. A multiple award winner, Jon Alpert is known for his exclusive historical reports from Cambodia, Nicaragua, China, Russia, Iran and Iraq, as well as rare, exclusive interviews such as the one with Fidel Castro during his visit to the United Nations and with Saddam Hussein after the Gulf war.

Jon Alpert's journalistic genius, combined with a rare persistence and sensitivity to political and social issues, have resulted in the creation of a series of invaluable documentaries, as much for their historical significance as for the role they have played in sensitizing the audience.
Through the non-profit company he co-founded and is co-directing, Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV), Jon Alpert actively participates in the mobilization of his fellow citizens through video-arts, by offering training and guidance counseling in alternative, low cost productions, as well as programmes for minorities and disadvantaged youth.

Jon Alpert will honour the Documentary Festival with his presence and will give a Master Class Media that Matters: Documentary Ethics. During the Master Class, Jon Alpert will speak with the audience about the meaning and value of independent media.

Jon Alpert will be present from the 21st to the 25th of March.


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