For the past ten years, at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, each time the lights go down, the same agonizing question returns: Where is cinema going? Shortly afterwards, we begin our journey to distant corners of the Earth, and the answers we trace are many and varied, and often contradictory; this question has never had one single, ultimate version.
It is a fact that, during the past decade, the phenomenon of cinema underwent at least two major changes: the digital revolution, which influenced almost all levels of cinematic creation, and the global prevalence of mainstream cinema, i.e. Hollywood's entertainment production industry. By virtue of the former, all the stages of making a film were incredibly facilitated, the result being that technological developments in image and sound, in conjunction with the rapid spread of multiplexes, enhanced the commercial exploitation of the film product. In this way, the creative aspect of cinema receded significantly, while its mass entertainment aspect has been emphasized.
Some people face this agonizing -and existential, as regards the future of cinematic art- question face-on and with great bravery. They try to renew the thematic content of cinema, and promote its aesthetic function. Others hide behind the fixed and frozen conquests of past eras. Cinema appears to be an art that sometimes seeks to redefine the meaning and essence of innovation, in an age where such a quest seems to be in vain, while other times it seems to no longer aspire to dominate over new orientations, but instead limits itself to recycling its material.
However, it is necessary at this point to draw attention to the fact that, following the events of September 11, there is an ever-growing feeling that cinema should become more anthropocentric; that it should focus on the smaller, human landscape; and return to the idea that the raw material of every art (and, perhaps, even more so in the case of cinematic art), is the human adventure, and not so much the illustrated, hysterical evasion of this adventure.
Under these difficult conditions, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival has tried and continues to try to trace proposals, intentions and achievements that define the profile of contemporary and creative cinema worldwide. Our selection consists of first and second features by mostly young filmmakers. It was not only the non-viable competition with large, established festivals, such as Cannes, Berlin or Venice that has imposed this strategic choice; rather it is the need, at a time when the future of creative cinema is becoming increasingly dark, to find, to host and to promote the new forces of cinematic art. Let us not forget that, during the ten years since its establishment, the Festival's international competition section has constituted a definitive starting point for many young filmmakers, who went on to win international acclaim. Besides, even the Venice Mostra acknowledged this need and inaugurated a new competition section for first films.
This year, at the 42nd Film Festival, a central parameter of the international competition selection are the different forms of racism and social exclusion, as well as the various attempts towards racial and social rapprochement, that are taking place all over the planet. Some of the films which will be competing for the Golden Alexander approach their subject with dramatic tension, while others do so humorously and light-heartedly, keeping a certain distance.
The Greek productions seem to have increased in quantity and improved in quality. Signs of a new, dynamic presence that improves the general Image of Greek-language films are also evident in films hailing from Cyprus. For this reason, we have decided to organize, for the first time, a special service for the better and more efficient promotion of Greek films among foreign buyers and distributors who will be visiting Thessaloniki as guests of the Festival.
"New Horizons", the Festival's parallel program, which has been curated all these years by Dimitri Eipides, include important films, a representative and rich selection from world independent production. Included in this program are two tributes to New French and New German cinema.
Of special interest in this year's events is the participation of Balkan filmmakers. Both in the International Competition section and the "Balkan Review", the films of our neighbors display a rare variety and maturity.
In the past, the Festival has often focused on trends which have emerged in countries whose film production is not that accessible, such as Russia and Portugal. This year, we have organized a tribute to "New Argentinean Cinema", a cinematic phenomenon that is only just emerging on the International scene and of which we have compiled a comprehensive presentation.
The Festival will also be honoring Britain's John Boorman, a filmmaker who is known worldwide; an important director who ha renewed established cinematic genres and who has given peregrination and exotic travels the dimension of an existential quest. John Boorman will also act as President of the International Jury.
For Stavros Tornes, the poet of Greek Cinema, the time has come to re-evaluate his oeuvre, while the Festival will also be honoring Dinos Dimopoulos, a nobleman of popular cinema.
A new, restored copy of Fritz Lang's mythical film Metropolis will be screened at the Music Hall, accompanied by the a new musical score. Three exhibitions will also be held: an exhibition of film posters from pre-War Germany's UFA Film Studios; a painting exhibition by the Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski; and an exhibition of photographs by the American director Jerry Schatzberg, while a series of special screenings will include the most recent films by contemporary masters, such as Manoel de Oliveira, David Lynch, Shoei Imamura, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Jacques Rivette et al.
We believe that, during the past ten years, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival has won the approval of the city's audiences, renewing their interest in cinema. Moreover, the Festival has established itself, especially in Europe and the Balkans, as a meeting point and a forum for young filmmakers. Our aspiration and vision is for the participation in this celebration of film to become even wider and for November to become a fixed date each year for people all over Greece who love, care about and are concerned for cinematic culture.
Director of the Festival