19th Thessaloniki Film Festival
3-12 March 2017
The curtain fell on the 19th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival on Sunday, March 12th 2017, with the presentation of this year’s awards at the closing ceremony, hosted by journalist and film critic Thodoris Koutsogiannopoulos.
Audience and guests were welcomed at the ceremony by the General Director of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Élise Jalladeau, and the Director of the Festival, Orestis Andreadakis. “There are no speeches today, only awards and credits. We therefore thank our supporters and sponsors, the lovely staff of the Festival and the wonderful volunteers. And above all, we thank the audience of Thessaloniki that embraces the Documentary Festival and gives us hope”, they noted.
Thodoris Koutsogiannopoulos took the floor next, welcoming the audience and guests who attended the event, highlighting: “The award ceremony of the 19th TDF will begin very shortly. Documentary is life; or its mirror. It is truth. Or maybe just grains of it? What documentary really is is a huge discussion. But we need no discussion to admit how much we love it. Only few film genres can reach us so much. They become our points of reference; part of our lives. 213 documentaries in this year’s edition became our own; our own experience. Some will receive award this week. But they all deserve a great ‘bravo’. All filmmakers deserve our warmest applause!”.
A video made by the students of the School of Film Studies of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, under the supervision of their teacher, Greek director Periklis Hoursoglou, followed next; the video is a record of various characteristic snapshots from the 19th TDF.
Afterwards, the award ceremony began, with Mr Koutsogiannopoulos noting: “And now we will surprise you. We’ll begin with the awards, not for films, but for another precious habit, food. You may say, ‘what’s food got to do with a documentary festival?’ Well, it is part of the new festival section titled ‘Food vs. Food’, in which 9 documentaries were screened in this year’s edition, revealing all aspects of food: memory, culture, human rights, life itself. The city’s restaurants participated in this festive event through a gastronomy contest for the best festival dish that was organised by the TDF. Today the audience award – your award –, as well as the jury award will be presented”.
The audience award for the best Festival dish was presented to Extravaganza restaurant, and was accepted by Antonis Moustakis. Mr Koutsogiannopoulos asked whether the restaurant became more cinephile during the days of the festival. Mr Moustakis answered that food is culture, just like cinema is, and therefore the public, to which both are addressed, is somehow the same, adding also that people embraced the restaurant and loved the new section of the festival. Afterwards, Georgia Dodou and Dimitris Koparanis, members of the jury of Food vs. Food – Nikos Stefanidis being the other member – presented the award for the best Festival dish ex aequo to the restaurants Zythos Dore and Fanos tis Polis. Despina Mavromati, who received the award on behalf of Zythos Dore, commented on this historical restaurant’s participation in a modern contest, saying that “we are tested each and every day for many years now, in order to maintain the culinary tradition of our city modern.” Mr Koutsogiannopoulos asked Eftychia Papadopoulou, who received the award on behalf of Fanos tis Polis restaurant, whether the film A Touch of Spice transformed the landscape of the city’s restaurants. “Of course it did”, she replied, “since there are roots in Istanbul. Besides, cinema and food are among the most favourite habits of the citizens of Thessaloniki”.
Afterwards, the film awards of the 19th TDF were presented, beginning with the Doc on Air award, bestowed by ERT S.A. to the best project of the Pitching Forum for an international co-production of the European Documentary Network EDN. The award, selected by the EDN committee and accompanied by a prize of 3,000 euro sponsored by ERT, was awarded to the project The Watchmen (director: Madeleine Leroyer and producer: Valérie Montmartin – Little Big Story, France). ERT Chief Executive Lampis Tagmatarhis, who presented the award, noted that, having done this many times before and from various different posts, he believes that the Festival keeps improving. “Watching the people of this institution, the General Director and the Director of the Festival, you can understand why”, he added. Furthermore, he announced ERT’s executive board’s resolution to contract a 3-year co-operation agreement between ERT and the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, according to which the amount of 200.000 euro will be allocated within the next 3-year period: 140.000 for the TIFF and 60.000 for the TDF. Moreover, following a suggestion by Kyriaki Malama, Program Director of ERT3 and member of TIFF’s board of directors, another decision was made regarding the rental of all Greek films that were screened at the festival – both in the competition and in the international sections - by ERT, thus another fund will be delivered to Greek filmmakers.
Next, the Docs in Progress 2017 award of the 19th TDF’s Doc Market was presented. The jury of this year’s Docs in Progress consisted of Yuri Averof (producer, Anemon Productions, Greece), Monika Mikušova (programme acquisitions, RTV Slovakia, Slovakia) and Francis Kandel (programme acquisitions, Canal +, France). Two awards were bestowed: The first one of up to 15.000 euro for post-production services sponsored by 2|35 Inc Post-Production House went to the film Castle by Hamed Zolfaghari – Iran (Production Company: Crazy Woodpecker Film Studio, Producers: Hamed Zolfaghari, Nina Amin Zadeh). The second award of up to 6.500 euro for music and sound services sponsored by MuSou went to the film Kiruna 2.0 by Greta Stocklassa - Czech Republic (Production Company: Analog Vision s.r.o., Producer: Veronika Kührová, Michal Kráčmer, Co-producer: Ondřej Šejnoha, FAMU). “Congratulations to both projects; we hope to watch them both as completed films at the festival”, underlined Mr Koutsogiannopoulos.
The Amnesty International Award for best film in the “Human Rights” segment of the 19th TDF was presented right after. The award was bestowed to I am not Your Negro by Raoul Peck (USA, France, Belgium, Switzerland). This year’s Amnesty International Jury consisted of Konstantinos Kyriakos (Assistant Professor of Theatre History and Greek Cinema at the University of Patras’ Department of Theatre Studies, writer), Christina Zoniou (Professor at the Department of Theatre Studies of the University of the Peloponnese, President of the Hellenic Theatre/Drama and Education Network, Founding Member of the Theatre of the Oppressed Activist Group), Kyriakos Katzourakis (Director, painter), Katerina Kalogera (President of Amnesty International Greece, scriptwriter, director) and Marianna Leontaridou (Member of Amnesty International, film critic). The Vice-President of the Greek section of Amnesty International, Ms Irini Tsolaki, who presented the award, noted that during the ten years since this award was first established, she has travelled to many different places on the planet, awarding filmmakers who recorded and reported human rights violations through their own art, trying to sensitise our conscience: “This was never an easy choice, as it wasn’t easy to choose one among the 17 documentaries of this year’s Human Rights section. The director of the film I am not Your Negro, in an excellent work and overturning the past, shows the violation of the human rights of black people and also how fabricated their image is in today’s America”.
Awarded director Raoul Peck sent a message, read by Thodoris Koutsogiannopoulos, in which he mentioned the following: “I’m sorry I couldn’t join you. It was a great honour to have our film screened at the TDF. We particularly thank the festival’s Program Directors for selecting the film, and we thank them even more for their endless devotion and passion for their work in the field of documentary. We are proud to accept the award by Amnesty International, an organisation for which I have deep respect. Undoubtedly, this award will sensitize the spectators even more on the film’s topic, which concerns not only Northern America, but Europe as well. I’m particularly glad that my film will soon be distributed in Greece by AMA Films. Thank you once more for this honourable award and your support”.
The WWF Award for a film in the festival’s “Habitat” section was bestowed to the documentary Days of a Lake directed by Pandora Mouriki (Greece). This year’s WWF Jury consisted of: Iasonas Kantas (Head of Media at WWF Greece), Vicky Barboka ("Better Life” Project Associate), Christi Sotiriou (Head of “Fish Forward” Project) and Alex Kandarakis (Communications officer at WWF Greece). The award was bestowed by Yorgos Vlachos, member of the WWF board of directors, who highlighted that, although we nowadays tend to say that Greece is in crisis, this situation produces culture, which is proved by the organisation of this festival and the topics of this year’s edition. “The crisis also produces solutions”, he added, and went on to say: “WWF Hellas has set a dialogue paper to consultation titled ‘Debt relief for a living economy in Greece’. It is based on the reasoning that the financial crisis can become the driving force of ecologically sustainable development through the utilisation of its undeniably wealthy ecology. Greece in crisis also produces messages. People must get in touch with nature by escaping the urban environment, protecting and preserving nature for the generations to come. The film we awarded tonight moves towards this direction”. The award was accepted by Ms Hara Frangou, the film’s scriptwriter and producer, who stressed that the guard of the lake, Panagiotis, taught her that human beings and nature are neither opposite nor next to each other, they are one.
The Fischer Audience Awards were presented by Dionysia Simatou, Senior Brand Manager of the Athenian Brewery. Ms Simatou commented that during the past five years of Fischer’s collaboration with the Festival the stories of the documentaries have become popular among the Thessaloniki audience, adding that she will perhaps present one of the most important awards, the Fischer Audience Award. For all the unique moments, she thanked the organisation of the festival, which manages to shape each year the cinema culture and its people with quality and respect. As she noted, the excitement for the documentaries that were screened and the response of the audience was once more quite impressive, since more than 25.000 votes were submitted this year.
The Audience Award for a Greek film under 50’ was bestowed to the documentary The Glass Dragon by Konstantina Ouroumi (Greece). The award was accepted by the director, who thanked all the film’s crew, most of them students at the Film Studies of the AUTH, since this documentary was her thesis. Moreover, she thanked the ‘Make a Wish’ organisation for realising the young protagonist’s wish to make a film out of her fight against cancer. As Konstantina Ouroumi mentioned, the young heroine wanted thus to give courage and strength to parents and children going through similar situations, but also to provide food for thought to all of us, in order to consider what the real meaning of our life is.
The Audience Award for a film under 50’ in the International Selection went to Susan Koenen’s Ahmad’s Hair (The Netherlands). The Audience Award for a Greek film over 50’ went to the documentary String-less by Angelos Kovotsos (Greece). The director accepted the award, referring to the wordplay String-less and Stringless, with regard to his film’s protagonists (the all-women band String less) and in particular the identity, the group and their special personalities. Following them at home and at work, both in happy and sad moments, the film became a record of female identity. The director also thanked everyone who contributed to the film, his protagonists, and the Festival as well, for supporting documentary films.
The Peter Wintonick Audience Award for a film over 50’ in the International Selection was presented to the documentary Nowhere to Hide by Zaradasht Ahmed (Norway-Sweden). The director sent a thank-you video message stating: “I cannot describe how happy I am. Not only because of the award, but also because I feel that this is a message that the people who voted for Nori, the film’s protagonist, wanted to send, telling that he is not alone. I’m glad there is kindness in us, without it everything falls apart. This award makes me happy, after spending six years of work for this film. I hope to see you next year in Thessaloniki, maybe with another documentary or as a member of the audience. I’m sending my best wishes to the other winners and participants. A big thank you to everyone who made this huge effort to bring me and my film to the 19th Festival”.
The Youth Jury awards were bestowed by students of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, under the supervision of their professor Betty Kaklamanidou. The Youth Jury was comprised of Anthi Antoniadi, Iliana Deligiannidou, Panagiotis Kountouras, Maria Bellou and Yorgos Tsaousakis. The Special Jury Award was bestowed to the documentary Eyes of Exodus by Alexandra Liveris (USA-Greece). It was presented by Panagiotis Kountouras, who explained the jury’s rationale saying that “through a thumbnail of a place, the filmmaker masterfully documented the position and standpoint of Greece on the refugee issue and revealed the true self of both parties in a flawless structure, with a perfect handling of the documentation tools”. The director sent a video message in which she said: “I thank the TDF, particularly the jury that has given us this special award. I want to thank the Festival on behalf of my crew, and particularly the protagonists of the film, who were brave to share their stories with us. This acknowledgement means a lot to us, since I believe with all my heart that this is one of the first steps towards the tackling of the global crisis, such as immigration is, particularly in Greece and Kastelorizo, which is such a small island. From the bottom of my heart I wish I were in Thessaloniki and I thank you for this award”.
The Best Film Award bestowed by the Youth Jury was presented to the documentary The Snake Charmer by Nina Maria Paschalidou (Cyprus-Greece). “With technical mastery, the filmmaker boldly developed her story, commenting on the power of the media, on being and seeming, with the human rights in the foreground”, remarked Panagiotis Kountouras. The director accepted the award and was asked by Thodoris Koutsogiannopoulos how she decided to get involved with the issue of sexism in Bollywood. Ms Paschalidou said that India might seem to be a distant place, but actually it’s not. “If I were Indian, I would have no choices. I would be forced to have an arranged marriage, and my dowry would have to be paid by my parents. I would be very lucky if I had a baby girl. As a westerner I have more options, or at least that’s what we think. In our neighbouring Italy, each day a woman gets murdered by a man, who often is a member of her family, while in Greece the issue of domestic violence is still a taboo. That’s why I’ve always believed that the topic is very relevant to us. I chose the story of Aamir Khan, a big Bollywood star, who chose not to stay silent, but make a difference and change the way Bollywood sees women”. The director thanked the production team and crew who helped her, but also her parents who supported her and her choices when she was younger, noting that it is a great honour to receive an award given by young people, because they are the most difficult audience for a filmmaker to please.
The Greek Film Critics Association (PEKK) Award was subsequently presented by film critic Joseph Proimakis to the documentary Village Potemkin directed by Dominikos Ignatiadis (Greece). Mr Proimakis noted: “I’m very glad that this award follows the Youth Jury award because we, film critics, continue to be much younger than what some people might think. That’s one of the many powers of cinema. Another kind of power is a clearly liberating one. A reflection of this power is the film that received the PEKK award, a film which, despite some structural weaknesses, succeeds in forcing its experiential power and genuine emotion on a hot topic which is acute and deeply political, such as drug addiction. It is, moreover, a documentary that reminds us that art - and cinema in particular - possess a clearly liberating power”. Director Dominikos Ignatiadis accepted the award and responded to Mr Koutsogiannopoulos’ question about how he feels to have made such a personal film by saying: “It’s the best question one can be asked, how one feels. I feel love for the festival because the smiles, acceptance and warmth I felt here, I hadn’t felt for a long time; all this positive energy, and I thank you. I feel proud of myself for making it and for being clean and also because I transformed an obsession of mine to action and audio-visual material, so that we can all share the experience of addiction and of being clean. I’m grateful to my partners and protagonists and dedicate this award to all drug addicts and alcoholics who suffer from addiction, as well as to those who have died”.
Afterwards, the First Vice President of the Hellenic Parliament Mr Anastasios Kourakis, presented the Human Values Award, bestowed by the TV channel of the Hellenic Parliament to a film of the International Competition section. This year’s jury, consisting of Kostas Dimos (Head of Programming), Aris Fatouros (Program Consultant) and Vassilis Douvlis (Film director) selected the documentary Machines by Rahul Jain (India-Germany-Finland). Presenting the award, Anastasios Kourakis noted that it explores through a fascinating cinematic look the pre-industrial conditions of labour, human exploitation and the vast gap between the developed world and developing countries. He added, inter alia, that this is a film that compels us to think about the quality of retail goods, for which we have to consider the conditions they are produced.
The FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) award followed next, with the Jury consisting of Roberto Tirapelle, Jury President (Italy), Bettina Hirsch (Germany) and Christos Skyllakos (Greece). Mr Skyllakos presented the award to the documentary Machines by Rahul Jain (India-Germany-Finland), explaining the jury’s rationale as follows: “The documentary takes the viewer through the inside of a vast Indian textile factory. By means of continuous unedited low tracking shots and the relentless whooshing and hammering noise, the film almost fully relies on its powerful imagery and sound to convey a dystopian atmosphere. It's a haunting reminder that the inhumane wage slavery and labour exploitation is a modern day reality, not only in India but worldwide”.
The awards ceremony concluded with the International Jury awards, which were presented by the Jury members: Paul Pauwels (Jury President), director of the European Documentary Network EDN (Belgium), Dina Iordanova, professor of Film Studies at St Andrew’s University in Scotland (Bulgaria), Laurent Rigoulet, journalist (France), Marianna Economou, film director and documentary producer (Greece). The fifth member of the jury, film director Talal Derki from Syria, had to depart from Thessaloniki earlier.
“We thank the festival for the invitation and opportunity to watch 12 interesting but very different films. The jury has selected films made by talented filmmakers who show a great directing potential and have chosen to use their talent to highlight very important social issues. It has not been an easy task and the jury has decided to create a special mention for a film they have especially appreciated”, said Paul Pauwels. The special jury mention goes to Shingal, Where are You? by Angelos Rallis (Greece, Belgium, Austria). As Marianna Economou highlighted at this point, “the documentary tells a moving story that was shot in very difficult circumstances and reminded us of a persecuted group of people who - after having briefly been in the international press spotlight - has already been forgotten again. The jury appreciated the closeness to the characters and the respect towards their culture”.
The awarded director Angelos Rallis sent a video message, in which he noted: “Today the voice of Thessaloniki joins the voice of millions of other people who denounce the Yezidi genocide in Iraq and Syria, a genocide which has been going on for centuries and is now at its peak with the ISIS attacks. I would like to read a message on behalf of the film’s Yezidi protagonists and refugees in Greece: ‘We appeal to the international community to intervene for the release of our women who are held as slaves and we demand international protection for all uprooted Yezidis, the immediate return of our land and financial aid for the complete rebuilding of our religious capital, Shingal, which is now almost ruined’. I would like to warmly thank the festival for the special mention, it is very important for our film that the great problem of displaced Yezidi refugees is acknowledged”.
The Special Jury Award, which is accompanied by a €2.000 cash prize sponsored by ERT S.A., was awarded to the documentary Machines by Rahul Jain (India-Germany-Finland). “The documentary is a clear sample of an obvious creative writing by a very promising filmmaker. It takes us deep into a situation that is unknown for many of us and makes us think about social injustice and human exploitation”, said the Jury’s rationale, expressed by Dina Iordanova and Laurent Rigoulet.
The Golden Alexander award, which is accompanied by a €5.000 cash prize, sponsored by the Municipality of Thessaloniki, was bestowed to the documentary Dream Empire by David Borenstein (Denmark). According to the Jury’s President, this is a documentary “that seduced us by the creative way the story develops from a simple situation into a compelling insightful voyage into the global dynamics of a world in development - or should we say in crisis? We appreciated the humour, strong character and aesthetics that make the film a pleasure to watch but also make the viewer aware of important issues that concern us all”.
The awarded director David Borenstein sent a video message, in which he stated: “Thank you for the honour, I thank all the organisers, jury and those who watched the film. I also thank the film’s crew, my friends and family, everyone who supported the documentary during its three years of production. But most importantly I thank the film’s heroine, without whom the film would not have existed. Without her emotional honesty, generosity and eagerness to follow me through this journey which we didn’t know where it would take us. I still think about her story constantly, and now that reality is getting all the more disturbed, I’m glad I can share it with other people in festivals like the one in Thessaloniki”.
A screening of the awarded film Dream Empire followed and the Festival renewed its rendezvous with the audience for next year’s edition, the 20th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival that will take place in March 2018.