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Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Dailies from the Thessaloniki international Film Festival

The renewed 57th Thessaloniki International Film Festival (November 3-13, 2016), with a clear focus on independent cinema, attracted the cinephile audience who filled the theaters. For ten days, films and directors from all over the world, tributes, new activities at the Agora/Industry, masterclasses and parallel events, set the tone in this year’s edition, which came to its end with the awards ceremony; The Golden Alexander was bestowed to the Hungarian film Kills on Wheels by Attila Till and TIFF will welcome its audience again next year, in its 58th edition. Meanwhile, TIFF promises the cinephile audience more fascinating cinema moments all year long, through its rich annual activity. Come back for our dailies.




Ulrich Seidl Press Conference at 52ND TIFF

Ulrich Seidl Press Conference at 52ND TIFF 


52nd TIFF: Ulrich Seidl Press Conference (11/11/2011)


Austrian director Ulrich Zeidl gave a Press Conference on Friday, November 11 at Warehouse C, during the 52nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival and in the presence of Festival Director Dimitri Eipides. This year’s edition is holding a broad tribute to Seidl’s work, screening documentaries and features that are representative of his filmography. As part of the tribute, the director conducted a workshop using his new projects Paradise and Underground.

Beginning the press conference which was coordinated by Elena Christopoulou, Mr. Eipides noted: “The presentation of the work of a leading European director, Ulrich Seidl, is one of the most important moments of this year’s edition. I personally love his cinema, and this is in fact the second time I organize a retrospective of his work – the first time was ten years ago at the Toronto Festival. We are particularly happy about his brief visit to Thessaloniki as well as for the workshop he conducted a short while ago, where he showed us previously unscreened portions of his latest work. This workshop was, at least for me, a true lesson in good, honest, inspired and dynamic cinema that touches the audience and leads it on new paths”.

The Ulrich Seidl revealed his creative origins: “Certainly there was a lengthy development before I became a director. At first I was interested in painting, the visual arts and then photography. At the age of 26 I decided to go to the Venice film school”. Explaining his “late” involvement with cinema, the director said: “It took me so many years to discover my destination because of my background, which demanded that I not have so much confidence in myself. I believed I wasn’t capable of such a thing. I come from a middle class catholic family and in that framework it was inconceivable for someone to become a director. Step by step I finally managed to make my first film. Until then I had amassed quite a bit of life experience, which was to be the best school for me: I had worked at various professions, had kept company with many marginal people, whom I particularly liked. I wanted to see the world behind its surface”.

Speaking about the differences that characterize his work both documentary and feature, and about the style he has adopted compared to his immature period, Mr. Seidl said: “For me, the issue is not whether I prefer making fiction films or documentaries. When I settle on a particular subject, exactly this will guide me as to what sort of film I will make. Of course, sometimes many fiction films happen to have elements of the documentary and vice versa. I began with documentaries and then turned to fiction, particularly after Dog Days”. He added: “At the beginning of my career I thought the documentary gave me greater freedom of movement, since with a small budget I could shoot whatever I wanted. I didn’t need a script in order to express myself cinematically. It was like beginning a journey without knowing where you will end up, since the material determines everything. When I later turned to fiction, I realized that more control and planning are necessary, while I also had a greater responsibility to the production and my collaborators. However, I now believe that fiction films are the ones which give me greater artistic and creative freedom, as opposed to documentaries which have limits by their nature – ex. you can’t make someone die in a documentary”.

Then Seidl spoke about the preproduction of a film, denying that he prepares differently for each film, since what is important to him is his choice of crew, locations, etc. “For me, there is no difference between documentaries and fiction films as far as directing is concerned. What is most important is what my purpose is, what I want to show”, he noted.

Regarding the way he views his characters, he explained: “the thing I pay particular attention to is the frames, that is, they have to be particular, since I set them up precisely, within a millimeter. For me it is a magical moment when my characters look at the lens, when they interact with the audience. It’s as if life freezes for a moment, while the characters continue to breathe”. Speaking about his view of the world, he said: “My aim is not to show a beautified world, but rather what is really happening under the surface of this beautification. Personally, I pay particular attention to the characters I choose to show, as well as their personal moments, the ones that we all know are often somewhat provocative, something that upsets us and bothers us. As a matter of fact I won’t hide that there are often times I recognize myself in something I show. But it is human for someone not to want to see how he really is, not to want to see the truth”.

When asked about his feelings, Seidl revealed that he spends a lot of time with the people he films. He also spoke about his own depression “which precedes the film” as he said. “While I am working, I become particularly close to these people and I feel for them, but when the process is over I believe I leave all that behind. However, there’s an exception to every rule. Such an exception was the film Import/Export and the first scene in the hospital with a baby. This is a scene that I can’t take even today, it is really very difficult” the director added.

Regarding Paradise, his latest project, Ulrich Seidl noted: “When I began working on it I didn’t know where it would lead me, it was a project that was meant to be in three parts, which finally ended being three different films. Each one of them centers on a different person, without these three characters being connected. This is different from the past, because in my older films people were always connected in some way”.

Asked about his religious beliefs and his position on the particularities of film compared to other art forms, Seidl declared: “To answer the first question, I have left the church, but I’m still looking for God. Answering the second, I believe it is very important, when you create cinema to do what you want, since if you can’t use the medium the way you desire you can’t grow through it. I see many young people who either can’t do what they really want to, or they have to wait for many years before they can make a second film. I went to the Vienna film school at an advanced age, where I only stayed for two years since in the end I didn’t’t believe that I had found what I really wanted there. Then it took me another seven years to make my first film”. He added: “It is understood that in order to make cinema, you need money, collaborators, production. However, the work of a painter or a writer is easier since they don’t need some means to achieve their desire. But in cinema, if you don’t have the means you can’t go ahead, and we mustn’t forget the commercial dimension as well. From the first moment we know that cinema also has a commercial purpose, and this is why I asked myself if this was the right profession for me. But in the end I am satisfied, in spite of the fact that as a director I can’t work alone, like a writer does. Cinema demands contact with many people”.

The Ulrich Zeidl Tribute is part of the Open Horizons section of the 52nd TIFF, and is financed by, along with other festival activities, the European Union – European Regional Development Fund as part of the Regional Operational Program of Central Macedonia, 2007-2013.



photos by Vanessa McMahon


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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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