Within the framework of the 25th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, the special event Thessaloniki - Elefsina: A cultural journey took place on Sunday, March 5th, at the Green Room of the Olympion theater. The event was held in the context of the nomination of Elefsina as European Capital of Culture for the year 2023 and the collaboration between the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival with 2023 Eleusis. The event was attended by the artistic director of the 2023 Eleusis European Capital of Culture, Mr. Michael Marmarinos, and the director Syllas Tzoumerkas, to talk about the events and initiatives they organize and plan. The event was prefaced by the artistic director of the Festival, Mr Orestis Andreadakis.
"The Thessaloniki Film Festival, the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and 2023 Eleusis are preparing together some very interesting actions. We are pleased to have here with us the artistic director of 2023 Eleusis, Michael Marmarinos, as well as the director, actor, producer and friend of the Festival, Syllas Tzoumerkas, to tell us more about them. Then we also have something to reveal, a surprise," he said. As he explained before handing over the speech to Marmarinos, the collaboration between the Festival and Eleusis is based on everything that connects the two cities. "Thessaloniki has been the European Capital of Culture. It is also a port, like Elefsina. And it is also a place of migration, like Elefsina. The distance between Thessaloniki and Elefsina is a short cultural journey," he emphasized.
Mr. Marmarinos then took the floor and initially said a few words about the city of Elefsina, focusing on the elements that make it stand out. "Eleusis means the arrival of an important person, individual, object or event. Elefsina is considered one of the five sacred cities of ancient times, along with Delphi, Athens, Delos, and Olympia. And it has one element, one secret, that sets it apart from the other four. It is the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were dedicated to the goddess Demeter, Persephone, and the god of the underworld. This combination of the three amazing deities characterizes the city even today. Elefsina was also the home of Aeschylus, the father of ancient drama. At the end of the 19th century Elefsina became one of the most important centers of industrial development. In fact, for a century, 33% of the national income came from there, due to the heavy industry that was based in the area. Elefsina was also a place of the working class and a place of internal migration. For fifty years, people from all over Greece, and from Greek-speaking areas outside the borders, moved there to work in the industries as workers. It is also a city that you cannot quite define. You cannot describe it as beautiful, but you can certainly describe it as particularly charming. That's probably why many filmmakers choose to shoot documentaries there. Especially filmmakers that are attracted to realism, they are fascinated by it," he stressed.
Mr Marmarinos then focused on the close historical relationship of Elefsina with cinema. "The entertainment of the working class living in Elefsina was cinema. In this small town of 25,000 people, the smallest cultural capital in Europe that has ever existed, there were once 14 movie theaters. When it was proposed as a Capital of Culture, there was no longer a single one. Now, as part of the 2023 Eleusis European Capital of Culture program, an iconic cinema in the area called Eleusis, which belongs to the city, will reopen its doors and in collaboration with the Thessaloniki Film Festival will host a documentary film festival.”
Mr. Marmarinos, also, made a special reference to Filippos Koutsaftis, director of the iconic documentary the Mourning Rock (2000), which was filmed in Elefsina. "You probably know, and if you don't, you should learn that the documentary Mourning Rock by Filippos Koutsaftis, who is among us today, was made in Elefsina. He collected material from the city for ten years to create this documentary. Furthermore, his new film The Eleusinians is the continuation of Mourning Rock, in a way and it will be part of the official closing ceremony of the European Capital of Culture, within the framework of the new documentary film festival ‘Cine - Eleusis: In Situ realities’, which will be held in close collaboration with the Thessaloniki Film Festival. Without the crucial contribution and cooperation of the Festival, something of this scale and quality could not have happened," he noted. The Eleusinians will be screened on November 21st, as part of this new documentary festival.
At this point it is worth noting that the documentary Mourning Rock was screened at the 25th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in a universally accessible screening, with the support of Alpha Bank, the Festival’s accessibility sponsor. Before the start of the screening, the audience had the opportunity to enjoy a two-minute sneak peek from the new film by Mr. Koutsaftis, The Eleusinians, screened, also, in universally accessible terms.
Shortly before concluding his presentation, Mr. Marmarinos also spoke about the event organized by 2023 Eleusis European Capital of Culture with director Syllas Tzoumerkas and the collaboration of the Thessaloniki Film Festival. "The program is divided into three pillars. The first pillar includes all events related to cinema. The first one coming up, chronologically speaking, is ‘Panigíri’. It is a production of the Cultural Capital, a live cinema festival by Syllas Tzoumerkas that takes place with the valuable cooperation of the Thessaloniki Film Festival," he explained.
At this point, the floor was given to director Syllas Tzoumerkas to further analyze the festival-project, “Panigíri: Live Cinema - Working class – Sirens”. It is a three-day festival that will take place in Elefsina in April, co-curated by Lorenzo Esposito and Maria Chatzichristodoulou aka Maria X, incorporating a plethora of unique events and performances. "It is a very curious and unique festival which will be held from April 21st to April 23rd. It will have the celebration of Saint George at its center. Nearby is the Labor Center of Elefsina. There will be a pop-up cinema set up in a club that is right next to the ruins of the city. With this festival, the city will be filled for three days with cinema, new media and public dialogue. On Friday, there will be a six-hour public discourse marathon with important personalities such as Karlovy Vary's artistic director Karel Och, Donatella Della Ratta, Blast Theory's Matt Adams and many other speakers, who will talk to the audience for thirty minutes each about the relationship between cinema and the working class, but also the different uses of real-time techniques. When we talk about real-time techniques, we mean those moments in cinema where real time and cinematic time coincide in an electric way, whether we are talking about documentaries, single shots, porn films, or anything else. There will also be simultaneous roundtable discussions, open to the public. Additionally, for three days and three nights, a film marathon is being organized in the pop-up cinema, featuring a very unique and eclectic collection of films that have used real-time techniques, video art, and new media. In fact, in the cinema space, one can even sleep if they wish. At the same time, at the trade union center, the amazing group ZU-UK will do two interactive VR performances open to the public, with material from their famous works that have been presented in England and many other parts of the world. Furthermore, Elke Margarete Lehrenkrauss, whom some of you may know from the amazing documentary Lovemobil, and I will live the craziest adventure. We will shoot two real-time films during the festival. Then, we will do the post-production process in front of the audience, and on Sunday we will screen the films, in their most raw form, in the pop-up cinema. It will be a very open cinematic experience. People will have the opportunity to be present in a process that usually takes place behind closed doors. Finally, there will be, of course, a fair where people will dance and drink, as they do in a traditional one, only this year we will make it bigger. There will, of course, be other names and participants in the festival, which we will announce in due time. We hope to see you there for this crazy three-day feast," he concluded.
Mr. Andreadakis mentioned that the new documentary festival Cine – Eleusis: In Situ realities will take place from November 17 to 22, saying that he hopes that it becomes an institution.
“We have to mention that these are the dates of the closure of 2023 Eleusis European Capital of Culture and at the same time the beginning of a project for the future, that will be a legacy not only for Elefsina. That could never have happened without the collaboration of the Festival” he concluded.