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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 TIFF: Sara Driver Press Conference




52nd TIFF: Sara Driver Press Conference (11/10/2011)


American director, scriptwriter and producer Sara Driver gave a press conference on Thursday, November 10, at Warehouse C, in the framework of the Thessaloniki 52nd International Film Festival. Present at the panel was TIFF director Dimitris Eipides. The TIFF is hosting a tribute to the work of Sara Driver, who is the Jim Jarmusch’s partner in both filmmaking and life. Driver is considered one of the most important representatives of independent American cinema.

“Sara Driver’s presence at the 52nd TIFF is a very sentimental moment for me. I had the privilege of presenting her early work at the Montreal film festival, while I have enjoyed a time–honored and deep friendship with both her and Jim Jarmusch. This is the first time her entire filmography is presented in Greece. I am looking forward to watching her next projects”, said Mr. Eipides in his opening comments. In her address, Sara Driver said that she had been in Greece in the mid-70s when she was a student of classical literature. “Back in 1974-1975 I was planning to become an archeologist. However, parallel to my studies, I joined an experimental theatre group, and the theater ultimately won me over. John Cassavetes’ film A Woman Under the Influence had a big influence on me. When I returned to the States, I had already made up my mind to study film”, said the director, adding: “Back then, a very vibrant artistic scene flourished in New York; we were in touch with the entire community of musicians, painters and other artists. It was kind of anarchic, since you needed no license, you could just grab your camera and start filming on the street”.

In 1981, at the age of 24, Driver made her directorial debut with You Are Not I, based on a Paul Bowles short story, starring Suzanne Fletcher; she also wrote the script with Jim Jarmusch. “We had an idea and decided to implement it. We had friends helping us out on the set. We hadn’t even secured the book rights. But that was a different, unique time. Distinguished personalities like Paul Bowles or Allen Ginsberg worked with young people”, recalled Driver, adding: “New York was then a peculiar, almost ghost-ridden place. All those experiences and ideas were feeding my imagination and became the raw material for my film”. You are Not I had its share of adventure. At one point, the warehouse where all film copies were stored was flooded and the copies destroyed. “I only had one copy, which had been used at a festival so many times, that its quality was awful; it proved impossible to watch when I tried it three years ago. In May 2010 I got a call from an archivist of Paul Bowles’ work, who told me he had found a copy among his things at his house in Tangiers. I had sent this print to him in 1982 to thank him and I thought it would be in bad condition after all those years. It turned out that the quality was pretty good! I did all the necessary technical processing, so the copy screened at the 52nd TIFF is an excellent HDCAM”, said the filmmaker.

Five years later, Diver filmed Sleepwalk (1986) with Suzanne Fletcher again in the lead role. “After You Are Not I, I happened to attend various festivals throughout Europe, so I was ‘exposed’ to different cinema influences. When I started filming Sleepwalk I was watching Tarkovsky’s Stalker, while also reading fairy tales; many strange things were happening to me… All those things had a tremendous influence on me”, explained Driver. Sleepwalk is an open-ended fairy tale taking place in a “magical” New York city.

The transcendental element is also the main feature of her film When Pigs Fly. The film’s protagonists are two ghosts (Marianne Faithful and Rachael Bella) and an introvert jazz musician (Alfred Molina). The film is a dreamy, eccentric and at times dark fairy tale, focusing on the way the tragedy of death can make us appreciate even the most trivial details of life. Driver explained that she had always enjoyed Hollywood classics and that one of her favorites was Topper, starring Cary Grant. Topper is about a man and a woman who realize they are dead and then decide to shake up the lives of their friends as ghosts. “During the late 70s and early 80s, the East Village was swamped by drugs. We lost seven of our close friends in two years to drugs and AIDS. I was telling myself then that I hadn’t lost them; that they were still part of my life, moving around me. I believe that, when somebody dies, he leaves behind him a kind of electrical energy that surrounds us. So when I met Marianne Faithful, I said ‘that cannot be; she must be a ghost! I will put her in the movie’”.

Asked to comment on the overuse of the term “independent cinema”, she said: “there are a lot of interesting new directors out there, who work really hard and have not lost their authenticity, like Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Josh Safdie (Pleasure of being robbed) and Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture). Back then, along with Stan Brakhage, we tried, unconsciously, to be poets, to make poetic cinema. Now, Harvey Weinstein may claim he is an independent filmmaker, but I do not agree. When he says that he needs a top star in order to make a box office success out of a million-dollar film, this just isn’t right. What matters is the film, not who stars in it. It is like adapting the actor to the costume instead of making the costume fit the actor”.

Asked about the dilemma between “film vs. digital technology”, Mrs. Driver answered she preferred the former. “I like the magic of film, the impression of light, of shadows, of the depth of field. With digital technology, filming is easy, but post-production is very resource-consuming, since the vast amount of material makes editing a time-consuming and distracting process. Since film is more expensive, you need to stay focused and attentive”, noted the director.

Commenting on the experience of living and working with another director, Sara Driver explained: “When I met Jim Jarmusch, we were both lovers of the imagination. We enjoyed exchanging ideas and out of necessity we learned to make films together. After our experience with Stranger than Paradise, we learned a lot about the economic aspect of film production, but at the same time we started losing the imagination ‘flow’ between us. We decided to stop producing together, and just observe each other. Obviously problems erupt from time to time, since we are both quite bossy, but it is nothing we can’t handle”. Sara Driver said that her new project is a portmanteau film. Among the co-directors are Marjane Satrapi, Michel Gondry and Emir Kusturica. She was inspired by the myths and folktales she used to read while traveling. “I believe that by understanding the tradition of a people, we are able to understand the people itself”, said Driver in her closing comments.






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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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