While the hustle and bustle of Thessaloniki continues with its traffic, busy markets and occasional protest, cities from around the world are projected one by one on city screens.
With only a few more days left till the awards are determined, the pressure is mounting in the international competition. The first film debuting today is Albanian director Fatmir Koci's "Tirana: Year Zero". It is set just after the pyramid scheme collapse and political turmoil of 1997. In the film a young couple balance their options for a better life. Also showing for the first time at the festival is Japan's "Shoujyo". The film, the first one by director Eiji Okuda (a well-known Japanese actor), is about a policeman infatuated with a 15-year old who has great big tattoos on her back.
Filippos Tsitos was excited, very, showing his film "My Sweet Home" in Greece for the first time. Though the Greek/German coproduction was in the Berlin Festival's international competition, the director was eager to gauge local reactions. His film, he noted, is about a group of people who assemble in a bar, never to meet again. The search for one's home is the obvious quest in the film, as its cast is made up of new immigrants from twelve countries, who find themselves in Germany. Many languages blend together. The real inner search is that for love, family or whatever characters may need to "be at home". As for the director himself, who has been living in Germany for the past ten years, but always maintained a foothold in Greece (certainly with his short films), home will always be somewhere "in between".
Other Side of the Tracks
3X3 director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad hates it when people ask if women are allowed to be directors in Iran. She's spent a lifetime providing the answer with her actions. Chasing domestic resonance rather than international appeal, she talked about the tricky topic of women in Iran. Bani-Etemad noted that, on the one hand, there is the image of the West's "liberated woman", and on the other, the East's "romantic harem woman". Then, of course, there is reality. While the rest of the world was talking about oppressed women of Iran, she was a part of the silent revolution, where women worked even harder than before, filling the positions of power in all professions. Today visiting foreigners are stunned by what they find. "It was not in spite of - but maybe due to laws trying to restrict them," that fueled women's advances. The featured director also spoke of her interest in dealing with poverty, crime and differences in status on film. "Living in a place with as many contrasts as Iran, I must record them," she noted. Her "Nargess", the first love story since Iran's revolution, was banned in the country after only two months.
Don't Cry For Buenos Aires
A crowded panel made up of members of the Argentine filmmaking community took the stand yesterday. When asked about the secret to the boom in their country's film production in recent years, a large part of the answer seemed to reside in the Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires' film school. That's where director Lisandro Alonso and many others learned the tools of their trade. Thessaloniki jury member Quintin (who is of a different generation from the very young group) noted that the presence of that university and other filmmaking schools, that have popped up recently, have been essential. In the film school environment, students learn by making the films they want, rather than learning through commercials or menial work on big sets. "This was not the case five years ago," he added.
From Cannes to Bucharest
The makers of international competition film "Dough and Stuff" talked about filmmaking in their native Romania. "From the moment we started making the film, there were problems," noted director Cristi Puiu, referring to the lack of post-production funds and other ordeals. Though shunned initially by Romania's state organization, acceptance into Cannes initiated a change in their fortunes. Outside interest was ironically required for improved support from within.
"Because my film was covered with thorns, it bothered everybody," noted Italy-trained Greek director Dimitris Yiatzozakis. He was speaking of the film "Full Pink Ahead" which takes jabs at television, gay stereotypes, sexual mores and basically everything else contained within modern Greek society. Surely the film was better than what the critics reduced it to, he said. It is about an ambitious reporter who tries to frame a minister who is rumored to be gay. We haven't seen the last of one of Greece's most talented and tongue-untied directors.
Today's talked-about Greek films will include Stelios Harambopoulos' documentary "Log Books -George Seferis", Vangelis Serdaris' drama "The Seventh Sun of Love", Lakis Papastathis' historic "The Only Journey of His Life" and Markos Holevas' light "E-mail". Directors will be holding press conferences on these films throughout the afternoon.
From 'Metropolis' to the Digital Village
Two special events show the festival's interest in both cinema's distant past and its far future. This morning interested parties will have the second installment of a workshop coaching them on the ins and outs of digital cinema. On the second day of the workshop, a panel of experts and creators compare the processes of traditional and digital filmmaking, using Nikos Panagiotopoulos' film "Edge of Night" as an example. All of this is very relevant to Thessaloniki, as the city will host Greece's first digital cinema, at the Olympion. But while festival-goers contemplate digital cinema (the streaming of cinematic images by digital means) there will be a festival event which reaches back into film history. Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" is being shown today at 9pm at Thessaloniki's Music Hall (Megaro Mousikis). A new print of the restored film will be set to the music of Bernd Schultheis, and played by Sofia's Radio Orchestra.
"Home is wherever the next film is. I'll go wherever I can make a film." - Filipos Tsitos, director of "My Sweet Home"
"I prefer to relate stories about the problems of suffering people, rather than those who have a good life." Director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad
First shot, #100, 16/11/2000