The 13th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival-Images of the 21st Century and its concurrent Doc Film Market wrapped on Sunday, presenting a 220 title-strong selection across ten sections, an ample panorama of the situation in the documentaries field worldwide.
The event was held this time on a shoestring budget as artistic director and founder Dimitri Eipides struggled after inheriting €6 million debt from parent group The Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which handles the administration of the documentary festival.
The only visible sign of the delicate financial situation of the festival and the debt-ridden country itself was Eipides’ decision to cancel the cash prizes in this edition of the documentary festival. In fact there were also new initatives, such as parts of the festival programme also being presented in a number of provincial cities parallel to the main event.
In the international selection, audience winners were Tears of Gaza (Gazas tarer) by Vikebe Lokkeberg from Norway (over 45 minutes); and The Other Town (Oteki Kasaba) by Nefin Dinc from Turkey (under 45 mins). Greek selection audience awards went to Alma Bonita by Vivi Zografou and Alexis Ponce; and Satsang, Sitting by the Truth (Satsang, syntrofia me tin alitheia) by Marianna Astraka and Yiorgos Fotiadis.
The Fipresci awards went to Paradise Hotel (Hotel Rai) by Sophia Tzavella from Bulgaria (international selection) and Only the Words Continue (Mono oi lexeis synehizoun) by Kalliope Legaki (Greek selection).
Among the many titles that stood out in the international selection were Amir Bar-Lev’s The Tillman Story and Allard Detiger’s The New Saint, both dealing with the subject of soldiers whose death in the battlefield were exploited by their respective governments for propaganda reasons.
Other hot titles included Laura Poitra’s The Oath, by Luc Cote and Patricio Henriquez’s You Don’t Like the Truth-4 Days inside Guantanamo, Robin Hessman’s My Perestroika, Kim Longinotto’s Pink Saris, Eyal Sivan’s Jaffa, the Orange’s Clockwork, Alejandra Sanchez’s Agnus Dei: Lamb of God and Marshall Curry’s If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.
Jim Jarmusch’s brother Tom presented in person the world premiere of his last effort, Sometimes City, a gritty and personal documentary portrait of Cleveland, Ohio.
Odette Orr’s Beating Time (Israel) deals with the struggle of a group of young men with ALS to collect funds towards further investigation for a cure, while Jon Kent’s Embraceable (a world premiere in Thessaloniki) presents the beauty and charisma of people with a rare genetic disability (Williams Syndrome) who display a distinctive talent and passion for music.
The latter formed part of the 30 titles-strong tribute which, put together by curator Elena Christopoulou, focused on people with mental retardation, autism and development difficulties.
The tribute and the accompanying panel discussion was organized on the occasion of the Special Olympics World Summer Games to be held next June in Athens. The notable success of the tribute has resulted into plans to have it presented across the country before and during the games and in specific locations where participating athletes will be housed.
Another outstanding tribute was the nine title-strong Midlle East Spotlight, which launched the Thessaloniki Cultural Crossroads scheme set to highlight every year the culture of a particular geographical region and its links with Thessaloniki.
Retrospectives honoured Russian master documentary filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, Czech Helena Trestikova, Greek Angeliki Malama as well as former East German director Rainer Simon.
Loznitsa, whose fictional film My Joy was in Competition in Cannes last year, offered a masterclass on his films and treatment of the documentary genre.
Simon offered a lecture on censorship at DEFA (The East German Film Institution) and its abolition after the German reunification.
Joining the Malama documentaries was a record number of no less than 80 Greek titles, dealing with such hot local topic as that of illegal immigrants, environment degradation and the social situation in this debt-ridden country. Notable among them were, Christos Karakepelis’ Raw Material, Thanassis Karanikolas’ Khaima, Katerina Patroni’s Docville-99 Laskareos street, Lefteris Fylaktos’ The Road to Here, Anna Tsiarta’s In this Waiting, Pedro Olalla’s In Company with Kalliyanni as well as Alexis Ponce and Vivi Zografou’s Alma Bonita (Beautiful Soul).
On the business side the Doc Film Market presented a record number of 535 titles and was attended by 60 foreign and local professionals.
Yianna Sarri, head of the market noted interest in titles such as Embraceable, The Divine Pig sold internationally by NPO, the Italian-US co-production The Peasant and the Priest, the UK production The Boy Mir-Ten Years in Afghanistan, My Playground sold internationally by the US Objective Cinema as well as the Greek productions Docville-99 Laskareos Street, Greek Crisis Explained and 26-2 The Road to Here.
Sales agents and TV commissioning editors/buyers returning to Thessaloniki such as Jan Rofekamp (Film Transit), Madeleine Avramousis (Arte), Francis Kandel (Canal+), Kathrin Brinkmann (ZDF/Arte) and Jenny Westergard (YLE) were circling around several titles.
The Greek Film Centre (GFC) sales executive Stavroula Geronimaki said there was bidding on Shooting vs. Shooting from both France and Germany.
Also, the Modiano-ERT Public TV Greek co-production Nymphs of Hindu Kush attracted lots of interest from buyers.
Deals are said to be in the works for other titles including My Sweet Canary, Steam of Life, Backlight, Battle of Brooklyn, Village Without Women, In The Name Of The Family, Recessionize! For Fun and Profit, Love etc., Where Is Gary?, Family Instinct and Arab Attraction.
The European Documentary Network (EDN) held its traditional Pitching Forum for the 13th year with the participation of 19 projects.
Other awards went to:
Amnesty International award to a film dealing with human rights
Everlasting Sorrow, Life after the Death Penalty (Une peine infinite, histoire d’ un condamne a mort) by David Andre, France
World Wild Life award to a film in the Habitat section
Close to Heaven (Dem himmel ganz nah) by Titus Faschina, Germany/Romania
ERT3 Award, backed by Euros 3,000 plus the broadacst of the film by ERT3
A Future without Oil (Une idée simple et revolutionnaire) by Laetitia Moreau
ERT Doc on Air Award backed by Euros 7,000 to the best EDN Pitching Forum 2011 project
The Return, produced by Anita Rehoff Larsen, Sant and Usant Documentary Film, directed by Tone Andersen, Norway.