Under The Sky Of Damascus

Source: Berlin International Film Festival

‘Under The Sky Of Damascus’

Under The Sky Of Damascus by Talal Derki, Heba Khaled and Ali Wajeeh won the Golden Alexander prize in the international competition of the 25th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, which closed on March 12.

The Denmark-Germany-US-Syrian co-production centres on a group of young Syrian women producing a play that lays bare the culture of misogyny and sexual abuse that has blighted their lives. The documentary had its world premiere in the Panorama section of this year Berlinale.

The Golden Alexander comes with a €12,000 and secures the place in the pre-selection shortlist for the Best Documentary Academy Award. World sales for the film are handled by Submarine Entertainment.

The Thessaloniki Documentary Festival launched two days after the country’s deadliest train disaster that killed 57 people. Most of the dead were young students travelling to Thessaloniki.

The festival’s director general Elise Jalladeau and artistic director Orestis Andreadaki decided to press on with the event. However, the festival observed a three-day national period of mourning decreed by the government, and cancelled its traditional opening and closing galas and all programmed festivities such as parties, music and social events.

The awards themselves were handed out during an austere, no frills, gathering the last day of the event.

Tünde Skovrán’s Who I Am Not won the €5,000 international competition special jury prize, the Silver Alexander. The Romanian-Canadian co-production examines what makes a male, and what makes a female. World Sales are handled by Cat and Docs.

In the Newcomers section – named in honour of festival founder, the late Dimitri Eipides – Dominica Montean-Pankow’s Polish title The Voice took the Golden Alexander and €10,000 with the special jury prize. The Silver Alexander and €4,000 went to Greek director Christos Andrianopoulos’ In the Sky of Nothingness With The Least.

Winners in the Film Forward competition included Alex Fry, Rebecca Lloyd Evans and Lisa Selby’s UK documentary feature Blue Bag Life, which won the Golden Alexander and €6,000, and Greek title Dogwatch from Gregoris Rentis, which was awarded the Silver Alexander and €3,000.

A total of €56,000 was awarded across 12 prizes.

A further €10,000 was given to the Agora-industry winners, which included Angeliki Aristomenopoulou and Anemon Productions Greek title Holy Human Ange, winner of the post-production award and the Onassis Film Award worth €5,000

Standing out among the tributes and homages was ADIO KERIDA-From Thessaloniki To Auschwitz-80 Years, dedicated to the massive deportation of 45,000 people from the thriving Thessaloniki Jewish community, who were sent to Auschwitz in 1942. Less than 2,000 came back alive.

Other tributes were to Austrian documentary film maker Nikolaus Geyrhalter and his Albanian colleague Adrian Paci.

Though attendance was back to normal after the previous two editions were affected by the pandemic, the overall ambiance was one of concern especially among the local public and the attending members of the film community.

The latter were preoccupied by the effects of government plans to merge the operations of the Greek Film Centre (GFC) and the National Centre for Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME) into one organisation.