26th TiDF (7-17/3/2024): Golden Alexander and tribute to Panayotis Evangelidis

The 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival is hosting a tribute to the fearless and pioneering cinema of Panayotis Evangelidis, which places the issues of the visibility of the LGBTQI+ community under the spotlight, intertwining the personal element with social reality and the necessity of change. His films, featuring both timely and timeless messages, always find the way to extract the most complex meanings and the tenderness through the most profoundly humane stories that break free from the conventions, stereotypes and safe spaces. The Festival, in addition to hosting a tribute to his work, will bestow an honorary Golden Alexander to Panayotis Evangelidis for his overall contribution to cinema and culture. 

“For me? A Golden Alexander? What can I say, I’m feeling a little awkward, I am not used to such honorary distinctions for my “overall contribution”, let alone a golden one. I thank you so much,” commented the Greek filmmaker. 

Panayotis Evangelidis was born in Athens where he lives and works. Among other things, he has been a film director, a screenwriter, an author, a literature translator and a traveler, to name what can be said out in the open. He has published four novels. He has translated literary works mostly from Japanese and Spanish to Greek. From time to time he delivers lectures on Japanese art, poetry and culture. He has written scripts for Greek films, among which Panos Koutras’ Real Life, Strella and Xenia, where he teamed up with the Greek film director. His work as a director mainly focuses on observational and human-centered documentaries. Portraits of everyday people, movies that usually take place in rooms behind closed doors, featuring people who open up their souls. 

Seven documentaries directed by Panayotis Evangelidis will be screened at the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, among which the exceptionally up-to-the-minute Tilos Weddings, which will be screened with universally accessible terms, as well as his latest works, Sylvia Robyn (2024) and A Portrait of the Collector as a Mature Man (2023). 

The acclaimed documentary Tilos Weddings (2022) focuses on one of the most crucial social issues of our times, and will be screened with universally accessible terms, thanks to the support of Alpha Bank, the Festival’s Accessibility Sponsor. The documentary turns its spotlight on the first gay and lesbian weddings to be held in Greece, in 2008, in the island of Tilos. This documentary is of pivotal importance in the history of the LGBTQI+ rights in our country, serving as a historical recording and precious testimony for the generations to come. In the year 2008, the mayor of the island of Tilos in the Aegean Sea agreed to perform the first gay and lesbian civil marriages ever held in Greece. The film follows the story of these two civil marriages through visual material that was shot ad hoc, but also through footage from the Gay Pride of the same year, Press conferences and other demonstrations regarding the same topic.The documentary will be screened with Audio Description for the blind and the visually impaired, and Subtitles for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing. 

In Sylvia Robyn (2024) we are set to discover that there may be a beginning, but there’s certainly no no middle or end to the constant transformations, discoveries, self-definitions and reinventions of the self in the process of the emergence and construction of what we are, what our gender is, how we can communicate with the outside and the others. Can our bodies and desires be put into words, and what are they each time? For Sylvia, the biggest thing would be to be able to talk and have someone listen to her. The lights of a lonely show flicker and illuminate the darkness.

A Portrait of the Collector as a Mature Man (2023) introduces us to the collector Dimitris Pyromallis. When he was four years old, Maria Callas took him into her arms and danced with him. At twenty, long after she had 'departed,' he began to discover her work and grew fascinated by her. He never went on holiday; every drachma and euro he made, he set aside to buy recordings, books, photos, posters, and programmes related to her, and money was always short. Alongside his life, as he worked two jobs to make ends meet, with his misfortunes, romantic disappointments, jealous friends, an accident that led to ten surgeries and a disability, his collection grew. Haunted by the two women in his life—his mother who died too young and the Diva, a constant reference and reverence for him—he grew and found fulfillment along with his collection. Now, he is serene with many joys and memories from his life, dreaming of the afternoon when his mother will knock on his door, and they will share a coffee together. He would sacrifice everything for that moment, even his collection. 

Irving Park (2019) unfolds the story of four gay men in their 60s who live together in Chicago, exploring an unconventional lifestyle of master/slave relationships. A family based on free choice and the consent to lose one’s personal freedom in favor of the desire of the other. The documentary won the Mermaid Award at the 21st Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival. 

They Glow in the Dark (2012) is a touching portrait of the lives of Michael and Jim, two middle-aged gay friends and ex-lovers, penniless and with HIV, reunite after twenty years. They try to make a living in post-Katrina New Orleans, making and selling small figures from the Cajun pantheon. They carry past glorious loves as a secret refuge from the present mediocrity and, although they revolt against the hardships of their lives, they depend on each other and stick to their commitment to go on trying to survive together until death do them part. The film was shot in June 2010 in New Orleans and won the FIPRESCI Award at the 15th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival. 

The Life and Death of Celso Junior (2012) ponders over what is more important: The boots or the man wearing them? In a storeroom in Brazil, a pair of leather boots catches the eye of little Celso. He is in awe. His brain is sealed forever. Today he is an artist living in Switzerland. The life and musings, the art and the many deaths of a fetishist.

In Chip & Ovi (2006) we watch the story of the two titular heroes, who met in an orphanage near the city of Cluj-Napoca in Romania when they were teenagers. Ovi was born with disabilities in his arms and Chip has a severely damaged leg from polio. They' ve been together for about a year and a half trying to make it, facing poverty, social discrimination and currying their dreams and their personal demons.