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Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Dailies from the Thessaloniki international Film Festival

The 61st Thessaloniki International Film Festival was concluded with great success, receiving the audience’s love in every possible way. More than 80,000 viewers and movie industry professionals watched the films and attended the Festival’s online events, whereas a large number films of were sold out. Agora, the Festival’s development branch, also achieved a great attendance, offering support to Greek cinema through a series of new initiatives, actions, and awards.

The 61st Festival hosted a series of exhibitions and visual art events, within the framework of TIFF’s main concept, “Intimacy: a modern tyranny”. Works of art, video mapping, as well as The Glasshouse Project installation adorned the city streets and squares, as well as the Port of Thessaloniki, offering glimpses of joy and hope to the city’s residents, who had the chance to enjoy a touch of art during their scarce walks for exercise, groceries and the covering of basic needs, amidst these hard days we’re experiencing. The goal is for these exhibitions to remain in the city’s public space even after the Festival. 



52nd Thessaloniki Film Festival Opening Ceremony

Opening film at 52nd TIFF, The Descendants (2011) by Alexander Payne. 


52nd TIFF: Opening ceremony (11/5/2011)



A modest ceremony raised the curtain on the 52nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival on Friday, November 4th, 2011, at a packed Olympion theater. The event was accompanied by the music of the four-member Basement band.

In his opening speech, TIFF director Dimitris Eipides did not fail to refer to the crucial times Greece is going through: “I am certain that there are some people in the audience wondering what is the use of having festivals and festivities when the country is sinking”, he said, adding that the answer to this question is that if Greece is to have a chance of revival, the country needs citizens who are mature, outward-looking, innovative, bold, with a vision and a plan. “We need to be entertained, to receive stimuli, to understand the world around us. This is the only way we can change this world”, underlined Mr. Eipides, adding that, under this light, the films of the 52nd TIFF “provide audiences with the opportunity to exercise penetrating and substantial interventions, to reach novel explanations of the social, political and cultural developments unfolding in the world around us”. “Only by active intervention any work is meaningful”, he added. Mr. Eipides announced that the TIFF is moving forward with the establishment of the Thessaloniki Film Archive. “The Thessaloniki Film Archive is a life’s work. It will develop and broaden the city’s cinema culture, capitalizing on the energetic core of film enthusiasts who have been cultivated by the Festival throughout the years. This is a gift worthy of Thessaloniki, which is celebrating its centenary from liberation”, commented Mr. Eipides. Welcoming audiences to the 52nd TIFF, “one of the oldest film festivals in the world, esteemed by an international community of exacting viewers and professionals”, TIFF director said he was proud for an additional reason: for the fact that more than 50% of TIFF’s budget this year is funded by European funds (specifically, by the European Regional Development Fund), without burdening the country’s national budget.

Mr. Eipides went on to summarily present the main themes of this year’s TIFF. At the heart of the festival is the International Competition Program, which features 15 debut or second films by young filmmakers from around the world. Furthermore, this year’s program includes more than 20 Greek films and a comprehensive tribute to the work of distinguished Greek filmmaker Constantine Giannaris. The 52nd TIFF also pays homage to filmmakers involved in the various aspects of independent film production: Sarah Driver from the US, Ole Christian Madsen from Denmark, Ulrich Seidl from Austria, Paolo Sorrentino from Italy and Erden Kiral from Turkey. “The Open Horizons section remains focused on the crème of the crop of the independent film scene. This year’s Balkan Survey section once more showcases the most important Balkan films of recent production, while the Experimental Forum focuses on the idea of the Disappearance of Myth. Also, this year, the TIFF’s Agora section boasts a record of entries, with more than 250 titles participating”, concluded Mr. Eipides.

In his speech marking the official opening of the 52nd TIFF, Thessaloniki Mayor and TIFF President Yiannis Boutaris said: “In this critical juncture our country and its citizens find themselves in, we insist on keeping a window open to hope and to the future, through the art of the cinema. Upon entering the dark theaters and leaving the darkness of media-sponsored gloom and doomsday scenarios, we not only keep alive and nourish our critical faculties, but we also open a door to life, since, as we all know, cinema is a wide – open window to the world”.

Mr. Boutaris stressed that for more than half a century, the Thessaloniki Film Festival has been closely linked to the history of the city and is one its most prominent events with international appeal and prestige. “The Municipality of Thessaloniki has supported the Festival all this time and shall continue to do so by all means possible; the local authorities firmly believe that the Festival is one of the major vehicles in our disposal to assist us in our effort to broaden, as far as possible, the cultural horizons of the city”, said Mr. Boutaris, explaining that accepting the chairmanship of the Festival’s Board of Directors was a move meant to demonstrate that the city’s municipal authorities are actively supporting the institution. Furthermore, Mr. Boutaris saluted the initiative to establish a Thessaloniki Film Archive, noting that this move is supportive of the effort to create, through collaborative actions, a cinema cultural network, aiming at creating a year-log festival spreading throughout the city. In his speech, Mr. Boutaris also welcomed viewers, wished filmmakers luck and acknowledged all the hard effort put by the people who worked to ensure the 52nd edition’s success.

Mr. Eipides then gave the floor to director Alexander Payne, whose latest film, The Descendants, premiered in Thessaloniki, opening this year’s Festival. “There are many things I saw tonight that have deeply moved me”, said the Greek -American filmmaker. He explained that he accepted the invitation to attend the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, not only because he thought that premiering his film in Greece would be a gesture of support to his country of origin, but also because “the Festival itself means a lot to me. This is the third time I take part since 1996, and for me it is very important that the Festival supported me when I was a new filmmaker”. Mr. Payne added that he was touched by the view, expressed by Mr. Eipides and Mr. Boutaris, that art should be promoted and supported especially during times of crisis. Referring to his family, Mr. Payne, visibly moved, said in Greek: “I am really happy tonight, because my family is here; all my 13 cousins from Athens and Aigio are here. Thank you so much, I love you all”. The filmmaker then prompted his cinematographer in The Descendants, Phedon Papamichael, who is also of Greek descent, to share the stage, stressing: “the two of us had been here together, in this theater, seven years ago, for the screening of the film Sideways”. Talking about his latest film, Mr. Payne said: “It is a child of great love and honesty”.

The director’s speech was followed by the screening of The Descendants, a film based on the novel under the same title by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The film narrates the story of a rich land baron (George Clooney), who is forced to make life-shaping decisions about the future of his family, after his wife suffers an accident that leaves her in a coma.

It should be noted, that the TIFF’s Open Horizons section, the tribute to Ulrich Seidl, the Special Screenings section, the photography exhibition by Spyros Staveris and the 52nd TIFF’s Agora section are funded by the European Union – European Regional Development Fund, in the framework of the Regional Operational Program of Central Macedonia, 2007-2013.


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About Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Industry: CROSSROADS Co-Production Forum,AGORA, script-development BALKAN FUND. Competition for directors with 1st or 2nd films. Golden Alexander Prize 37.000 €

Coverage by Vanessa McMahon, Laurie Gordon



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