Festival shows a strong 160+ films and shows little impact of Greek financial crisis.

The dramatic political and economic upheavel in Greece did not seem to affect the 52nd edition of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which wrapped with a gala screening of  Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene following the awards ceremony for films in the international competition of first and second features.

Dimitris Eipides, now in his second year at the helm, was able to streamline the event (with a smaller budget) without affecting the quality of the selection.

The festival showcased 160+ films and invited a score of directors and journalists thanks to a EU National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) grant. Guests included Sara Driver, who enjoyed a tribute at the festival, the American director Michael di Jiacomo whose film Somewhere Tonight starring John Turturro played at the Open Horizons section, the Israeli screenwriter Noa Berman-Herzberg from Mabul (The Flood) playing in competition as well as Thania Dimitrakopoulou from sales company Match Factory.

The Russian film Twilight Portrait (Portret v sumer kakh) by debutant director Angelina Nikonova was awarded the Golden Alexander and €20,000 for best film. Nikonova centers on a story of a well up to do woman who is subject to humiliations, theft and rape while  in a remote Moscou neighborhood. The director lashes out an unfliching critique at Russian society, the hypocricy of her fellow citizens and the rigidity of the public system focusing especially in police corruption. The film also received the Fipresci best film nod.

The Silver Alexander-Special Jury award and €10,000 went to another first film, the Czech production Eighty Letters (Osmdesat Dopisu) by Vaclav Kadrnka. The story is bout a mother and young son as they try to obtain an exit visa in communist Czechoslovakia during the late eighties.

Eighty Letters also received the Greek Film Critics Circle (PEKK) best film award.

The Bronze Alexander-Special Jury award for originality and innovation and €5,000 were awarded to the Colombian Porfirio by Alejandro Landes, a minimalistic portrait of a man living in a small provincial town who decides to take revenge for being reduced to paralysis by a policeman’s stray bullet.

The best director nod went to American Mark Jackson for his striking debut Without, the powerful portrait of  a young girl who travels to a remote Washington island to take care of an elderly man only to start unravelling under the pressure of her painful past and the loneliness of her daily life.

British John McIlduff received the best screenplay award for Behold the Lamb, a bittersweet road movie that he also directed.

Greek Stefania Goulioti and German Wotan Wilke Moehring were deemed best actress and actor for their respective parts in J.A.C.E. directed by Menelaos Karamaghiolis and The Fire (Der Brand) by Brigitte Maria Bertele. 

Actors Ronit Elkabetz, Michael Moshonov and Yoav Rotman received the best artistic achievement award for their parts in the Israeli, Canadian, French co-production Mabul (The Flood) directed by Guy Nattiv.

The international jury was chaired by Museum of Modern Art senior programmer Laurence Kardish and included the Kinotavr film festival programme director Sitora Alieva from  Russia, Les Arcs European film festival director Frederic Boyer from France, producer Hisami Kuroiwa from the US and director Constantine Giannaris from Greece.

Side awards included:

The human values award offered by the Hellenic Parliament backed by €7,500 to the Canadian production Romeo Onze by Ivan Grbovic.

The audience awards backed by Fischer to Mabul for a film in the international competition, to Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur for a film in the Open Horizons section, to the Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian/Hungarian co-production The Enemy (Neprijatel) in the Balkan Survey section and to the Greek Super Dimitrios.

Each award was backed by €3,000.

In the Greek films section Yorgos Kikaperas’ The City of Children (I poli ton paidion) bagged both the Fipresci award and that of the the Greek Film Critics Circle (PEKK)

According to Eipides, 90% of all screenings were sold out. Among the highlights of the event were the tributes offered to the American independent cinema  icon Sara Driver, the controversial Austrian Ulrich Seidl, Denmark’s Ole Christian Madsen, the veteran Turkish auteur Erden Kiral, the Italian Paolo Sorrentino and the Greek auteur Giannaris. They were all attending with the exception of Sorrentino.