64th TIFF - Ghosts: Τhe Festival’s big tribute

64th Thessaloniki International Film Festival [2-12/11/2023]

Ghosts: Τhe Festival’s big tribute


Invisible and tangible ghosts, both scary and familiar, real and allegorical, will take center stage in the large-scale tribute of the 64th Thessaloniki International Film Festival, curated by the artistic director of the New York Film Festival and internationally acclaimed film critic, Dennis Lim. 


The Festival, held from 2 to 12 November 2023, brings forth one of the most powerful symbolisms in the history of mankind and cinema: ghosts, the spectral forms that haunt us and reside at the very place where imagination pairs up with folklore beliefs, unspoken fears and the timeless attraction of the humankind towards the otherworldly.


“An art of illusion and reanimation, cinema is perhaps the ghostliest of mediums. Ghosts are themselves cinematic in essence, automatic disruptions in space and time. I’m thrilled to collaborate with the Thessaloniki International Film Festival on a program that brings together a wide array of cinematic hauntings, in hope of illuminating the deep kinship between ghosts and movies” says Lim.


Ghosts were born and traveled across the centuries through folk tales and myths, as an inextricable part of a universal tradition. Balancing between the invisible world and the gaze of the visible, ghosts can be interpreted as a human mind’s effort to comprehend the intangible, the irrational and the transcendental. The ghosts that inhabit dark theaters invite us into the realm of a magical and enchanted universe, governed by shadows, illusions and visions.


Through the tribute, the Festival explores the underlying symbolisms and the hidden allegories behind the depiction of ghosts in films. The ghosts of history that do not allow the collective traumas to heal. The ghosts of politics that still shape the way we see and perceive the world. The ghosts of faith that retrace our most profound agonies. Our personal ghosts that mirror the losses of yesterday and the expectations of tomorrow.


The tribute is the source of inspiration for the 64th TIFF’s  main visual art exhibition. The Festival is reshaping its time-honored exhibition, introducing a new curatorial approach with an innovative direction in mind and many surprises in store.


Τhe Festival’s bilingual special edition will be dedicated to ghosts and will include texts and analyses by film theorists and creators, an editorial text by Dennis Lim, as well as a presentation of the films.


Let’s take a glance at some of the tribute’s films:


Vampyr (1932) by Carl Theodor Dreyer


A traveler arrives at the inn of a small village and witnesses a vampire attack on a young woman. One of the first films in the history of cinema to deal with the mythology of vampires, Vampyr, directed by the great Danish Carl Theodor Dreyer resembles an immersion in a spectral nightmare, where the desires and fears of the subconscious are transformed into menacing monsters with a real presence.


Ugetsu (1953) by Kenji Mizoguchi


In a village in medieval Japan torn apart by civil wars, Genjuro, a poor potter, dreams of artistic glory and riches, while his son-in-law, Tobei, aspires to become a glorious samurai. Tobei becomes a samurai by lying about killing an enemy general, while Genjuro falls for a ghost. Mizoguchi's masterpiece features regularly on lists for the bests films of all time and takes its inspiration from ghost stories, balancing masterfully the realistic with the uncanny.


Duvidha (1973) by Mani Kaul


Based on a folk tale from India, Mani Kaul's film is a metaphysical love story. On the day of a couple's wedding, a spirit falls in love with the young bride and, taking advantage of her husband's absence, decides to take his form and live with her. Combining magical realism with social criticism, the film makes a timely comment on the position of women in a feudal society and is one of the most original ghost stories in the history of world cinema.


The Hunters (1977) by Theo Angelopoulos


On New Year's Eve 1976, a group of hunters discover in the area near the lake of Ioannina, in the thick snow, the body of a Civil War rebel. The blood still runs fresh from his wounds, even though thirty years have passed. The hunters, all representatives of the bourgeoisie, political and economic, take the corpse to their hotel, where they will spend a night filled with the ghosts of their past and their fears. A great political allegory, a visual poem that completes the trilogy that began with the film Days of '36 and continued with The Travelling Players.


D'est (1993) by Chantal Akerman


With the Soviet Union collapsed, Chantal Akerman, following the vital momentum, picks up the camera to capture the reverberations of a world-historical change that reaches into the present day and the form that the ghosts of History take in real time. The road movie by the Belgian creator of the famous Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, is a great document in itself, free of dialogue and on-camera testimonies, and begins from East Germany during the summer to end up in Moscow during the winter. The film is documenting what is left of society, man and its constants, as these have been fundamentally overturned.





O Fantasma (2000) by João Pedro Rodrigues


Consumed by an insatiable desire, Sergio lives in a world that suits him to perfection. He spends his days between a rented room in a cheap bed-and-breakfast, anonymous sex with men, and his job. He has long been trapped inside a childhood state and he is unaware of the shadows trying to encircle him; the love of Fatima, a workmate; the strange vigilance of a policeman; the foreman's ambiguous desire. But one night he sees the phantom of his dreams, and he decides to follow him. A courageous film about obsession, loneliness and love.


Pulse (2001) by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


After a young student commits suicide, residents of Tokyo witness terrifying visions transmitted via the Internet. Mysterious disappearances and terrifying figures appear on the screens in an excellent example of Japanese horror cinema that comments on the isolation of the world wide web and is now considered one of the best genre films of the last decades.


Inland Empire (2006) by David Lynch


The latest cinematic creation by the great David Lynch is a borderline (in every possible sense) film of unbridled modernism, an experience which can hardly be expressed in words. Based on the story of an actress who immerses herself dangerously into the role she is called upon to play, Lynch reflects on what it means to be consumed by your past, duty, art, purpose in life, and delivers a great cinematic allegory about cinema as a ghost of the collective unconscious. Extreme in its formalism -even by today's standards of experimental cinema- sweeping in its existential intensity, Inland Empire still haunts us.


Yella (2007) by Christian Petzold


Inspired by the creeping Carnival of Souls, the legendary horror film from the ’60s, Yella is one of the most beautiful films of a director whose filmography is full of references to the concept of ghost. The German Christian Petzold, one of the most talented European directors of our time, consistent to his (delightful) obsessions, tells a story that balances between a traumatic past, an uncertain present and a future that looks like it is moving away, as the heroine of the film tries to grasp it. The film features a -consistently- amazing Nina Hoss, who won a Silver Bear for her performance in the film.


The tribute, also, includes ten surprising short films from the early days of cinema until the present day. The full list of films will be announced soon.