The President of the Hellenic Republic launched the opening of the 26th TiDF - Golden Alexander to Fernando Trueba

The President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou kicked off the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival on the evening of Thursday, March 7th, in the historical Olympion cinema, marking the first time throughout the institution’s history that the Greek Head of State launches the opening of the Festival. Within the framework of the opening ceremony, Mrs. Sakellaropoulou bestowed the honorary Golden Alexander to the Oscar-winning great Spanish filmmaker Fernando Trueba, official guest of the Festival, whose film They Shot the Piano Player raised the curtain of this year’s edition.

The President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou took the stage and bestowed the honorary Golden Alexander to filmmaker Fernando Trueba. “I proclaim the commencement of the 26th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival with great delight, the commencement of a unique event which was established in 1999 by the unforgettable Dimitri Eipides, its director for more than 15 years, and evolved into an institution of international prestige, with Elise Jalladeau and Orestis Andreadakis at its helm, continuing its ambitious path. An artistic portrayal of reality, or a creative handling of an otherwise unseen aspect of it, a poetic depiction of a documented truth, or a subjective documentation of some of its dimensions, documentary is a film genre requiring cultural sensitivity, journalistic integrity, moral rectitude, conceptual purity, and political discernment. During a period when the use of technology tends to largely distance fiction cinema from the human experience, crafting evocative and often otherworldly alluring universes, documentary ventures into reconstructing, deepening, reflecting upon, and interpreting reality, without copying or, reflecting it, but also without separating it from the reason of the presumption, or detaching it from life. Great documentaries profoundly move us, broaden our understanding of the world, challenge our beliefs, prejudices, or our established assumptions. They provide a platform to voices which are not adequately represented, illuminate obscure or suppressed aspects of the human experience, unveil the abuse of power, the brutality of authoritarian regimes.  Composing a certainly subjective discourse, always based on research material, they highlight hidden aspects of events, allow new readings of accepted truths, question prominent narratives, and enrich public discourse. They are, in just a few words, a genre with profound democratic features, synonymous with freedom of expression, and unobstructed flow of ideas. Today, we are awarding Fernando Trueba, a great filmmaker who crafted a visual work of art with distinct elements of a political documentary, in collaboration with Javier Mariscal. He transports us to the years when Bossa Nova was flourishing in Brazil, and while investigating the mysterious disappearance of piano virtuoso and composer, Francisco Tenório Júnior, during his tour in Argentina, in 1976, he simultaneously touches upon subjects such as Videla’s brutal dictatorship, the authoritarian oppression, the murders of the military regime, as well as the destructive brutality of state terrorism.  It is particularly interesting that this essentially political film is being awarded within the framework of this year’s festival, which dedicates one of its many sections to the 50th anniversary since the restoration of Democracy in our homeland. This is yet another opportunity to assert our confidence in the only constitution in which there are no human beings trapped in discrimination and stereotypes, no limitations to freedom of expression, or deprivation of fundamental rights. Being aware that democracy is a fragile concept, one we must endlessly cultivate, defend, and protect. I wish every success to the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. Throughout its 26 years of life, it has already offered a lot to this remarkable genre, as well as to the way we perceive reality. I am certain it will steadily carry on its prolific path,” she said. 

Fernando Trueba, upon receiving the Golden Alexander Award from the President of the Republic, thanked the Festival for the great honor: “It’s my first time here in Thessaloniki but certainly not the last. I shot my last film in Greece and I have already missed your country; the people, the scenery, the food. It was a delight for me to collaborate with Greek actors and technicians, it was a truly unique and emotional experience. I feel at home. I hope you enjoy the film you are about to watch. Everything was born here in Greece, from democracy and philosophy to the way we observe, comprehend, endure life through the coexistence of tragedy and comedy. You also came up with a very significant concept; that of hubris. We should never harm our neighbor; it is one of the most heinous sins we can commit. Unfortunately, however, the human species doesn’t learn from its mistakes. Thank you for your warm hospitality and friendship, and I hope you enjoy the film. It also addresses the conflict between culture and violence, art and fascism.  I think this is a very relevant issue. Thank you,” Fernando Trueba stated, receiving a warm applause from the audience. 

The opening ceremony, kicked off by President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, was also attended by the Deputy Minister of Culture, responsible for Contemporary Culture, Christos Dimas, the Mayor of Thessaloniki, Stelios Angeloudis, and the Vice-Regional Governor of Health and Social Solidarity, Melina Dermetzopoulou. On behalf of the Festival, they were welcomed by Elise Jalladeau, General Director, Orestis Andreadakis, Artistic Director, Eleftheria Thanouli, President of the Board of Directors of the Thessaloniki Film Festival and the members of the administration. 

Deputy Minister of Culture, responsible for Contemporary Culture, Christos Dimas reflected on to the institution’s history and its scope. “The Documentary Festival is an extroverted, dynamic, opinionated institution, that unites not only in our country, but all over the world, a fact that is reflected in our present day and throughout time. The Ministry of Culture supports the Documentary Festival through its actions, and it shall continue doing so. There are important financial tools offered by the Greek State not only to the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, but also to all those involved in audiovisual productions, whether they are tools from the Greek Film Centre, or the National Centre of Audiovisual Media and Communication. In the near future we will be submitting a law to the parliament in order to support audiovisual productions even more dynamically.  Concluding, I would like to congratulate the president and all members of the Board of Directors, as well as the Festival’s Artistic Director for their exemplary work, all the producers, actors, technicians, who were preparing for this day and the next ones for a long time. I would like to wish them good luck and for all of us to continue to support the Festival,” Mr. Dimas concluded.  

On behalf of the Region and Apostolos Tzitzikostas, the Vice-Regional Governor of Health and Social Solidarity, Melina Dermentzopoulou welcomed the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Central Macedonia. On behalf of the Administration and Apostolos Tzitzikostas, I welcome you to the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival for an esteemed celebration of cinema, with international renown and reach.  A festival that for the last 26 years doesn’t stop pleasantly surprising us, and connecting us with human experiences which forge our world, fueling our fantasies. Thessaloniki Documentary Festival is practical proof of the constant power of cinema of transcending borders, cultures, and languages, connecting us through a collective experience of exploration." This year’s program welcomes Greek and foreign filmmakers to Thessaloniki, along with more than 250 short and feature length documentaries,  promising a rich cinematic experience to audiences.  Each film offers a unique outlook into the human condition, inviting us to see the world from a different perspective, and to face truths that may be rather uncomfortable, yet essential,” he initially mentioned. “In the Region we consistently and systematically support this great event, as part of our strategy to make this Region a protagonist in culture, extroversion, and innovation. Like every year, the Region of Central Macedonia’s Film Office will be demonstrating its support for the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, as it will actively participate in the Agora’s networking and information activities aimed at professionals.   In our Region we continue our continuous and methodical efforts in fostering the talented artistic potential of our country and rendering our region a competitive destination for audiovisual productions on an international level. The Region of Central Macedonia was, is, and will continue to be a firm supporter of both Documentary Festival and Film Festival, honoring the people of culture, and believing in the extraordinary potential of cinematic images, which move, enlighten us and remind us of the beauty and complexity of the world around us," she added, wishing good luck to this year's event and good screenings to the audience.

The Mayor of Thessaloniki, Stelios Angeloudis, praised the Festival while also making particular reference to the grand tribute, Citizen Queer: “Today, a grand celebration commences for our city. I would like to address the president, every member of the Board of Directors, the General Director, Elise Jalladeau, as well as the Artistic Director, Orestis Andreadakis, in order to thank you very much. A big thank you for the fact that, for yet another year, you and your excellent team of partners bring Thessaloniki to the forefront of pan-European and not only interest, with the organization of an innovative, daring, and fascinating Festival that abolishes stereotypes and tears down prejudices. A Festival that has nothing to envy from the major international Festivals from aboard. As it has been aptly put, documentary, it’s a relationship of love. A relationship transcending art, and becoming part of life itself,” the Mayor of Thessaloniki initially stated. “The 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival now has a lot of stories to tell: It’s the luminous reference spot of the city we envision, a city that is open, colorful and inclusive, a city that invests in culture, that practices respect for diversity. This year, by hosting 250 documentaries touching upon an extensive range of subjects, from the war in Ukraine, up to the great tribute on the LGBTQI+ community, the Festival emphasizes its paramount educational significance and evolves into a more dynamic, prolific, and creative platform for dialog and reflection on the greatest issues of our times. And in view of hosting Europride in a few months, let me tell you; I feel particularly happy that in this Festival the LGBTQI+ community’s voice is heard at last, loud and proud. With these thoughts, I welcome the opening of the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival. I am certain that the screening rooms will be packed to capacity and I can assure you that the Municipality of Thessaloniki, will be even closer to you, more actively, supporting your efforts in highlighting Thessaloniki’s different, new, contemporary side,” Mr. Angeloudis wrapped up his speech, wishing good luck to the 26th TIDF. 

The Festival’s General Director, Elise Jalladeau, shared a personal story, on the occasion of the tribute for the 50 years since the restoration of the Greek Democracy: "Fifty years ago, in the summer of ‘74, a group of children in Nantes, France, heard the word democracy for the first time. Démocratie, to be exact. My parents tried to explain to my friends and I what this word signifies. They told us that the notion of democracy was born in a country that just recently had gained it once more. All this sounded strange to our childish ears. And we couldn't, of course, understand what was happening that summer in Greece: the invasion of Cyprus, the dictatorship, the exiles. However, it was an important introduction to the real world, one which remained engraved inside us for the rest of time. The next summer we came to Greece, not only for vacation. Actually, my parents were looking for Greek films which were banned during the Junta. Shortly afterwards, with the help of the Greek Film Archive, they organized a grand tribute in France featuring those films that spoke - and still do - about democracy. That was when I heard the well-known ‘Greece-France-alliance,’ which became something beyond a mere motto for me: It turned into a promise, a hope for freedom, equal rights, and democracy throughout the whole of Europe. These ideas of democracy and fraternity have forged the connections between my two countries, the country I was born into, and the country I chose to live in. It’s my compass both in life and career.” Right after, Elise Jalladeau, referred to this year's edition’s relevant tribute. “This year, the Festival has prepared a tribute on the occasion of the fifty years since the restoration of Democracy. It’s the continuation of that promise. This year’s tribute means a great deal to the girl from Nantes, who for years has been located in Thessaloniki. Today, in a world where such notions are in danger, I am reminded of that summer, and of our responsibility towards each and every child for a just and safe world,” Mrs. Jalladeau concluded. 

President of the Board of Directors, Eleftheria Thanouli, mentioned the historical trajectory of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, simultaneously highlighting the documentary genre’s role and its evolution. “Your Excellency, Madam President of the Hellenic Republic, Honorable Deputy Minister, Honorable Mayor, dear guests, welcome to the 26th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. We welcome you with great pleasure to Thessaloniki Film Festival’s second biggest organization, which is dedicated to documentary films. Since 1999 when it was founded on the initiative of Dimitri Eipides until today, marking 26 years of operation, the International Documentary Festival has emerged as one of the most important ones internationally, a fact that fills us with great pride. This success is due, and I will never tire of saying it, to the Festival’s whole team, from the directors and the people responsible for the programme up to the ones responsible for the hospitality and its hundreds of volunteers.  Everyone works with deep knowledge and dedication, but also a sincere passion which always operates multiplicatively. I am hopeful that equally multiplicative will be the love towards the festival by the bodies of the State. The Ministry of Culture, the Region of Central Macedonia and the Municipality of Thessaloniki are timeless and invaluable supporters in our efforts to support and disseminate cinema.  In particular, as far as documentary film is concerned, I would like to dwell a little on its importance for the current situation we find ourselves in. First of all, it is the genre that marks - without any doubt - the most spectacular evolution in regards to its format. With an ever-expanding palette of narrative modes and styles, filmmakers never stop trying to detect the reality surrounding us.  Mostly, however, we must see how documentary is positioned both alongside and opposite to fiction. On the one hand, like fiction, it can focus and highlight personal experiences, but on the other hand, only documentary has the additional responsibility of describing and interpreting the world of collective experience, a commitment that is no small task. It is precisely this coupling of the individual and the collective that all the themes of the 26th edition will try to highlight, with a particular focus on the rights of the LGBTQI+ community. The common objective of all 250 films about to be screened is to aid us in better understanding ourselves, our neighbor, other people living in worlds that seem, or are far-away, different, foreign. Only if we manage to find those points of contact binding us all together in a common fate, will we have a chance to envision something better for this world,” Mrs Thanouli stated. 

Orestis Andreadakis, the Festival’s Artistic Director, thanked the President of the Hellenic Republic for the honor and provided the audience with a glimpse to the following 10 days. “Thessaloniki Documentary Festival will showcase 250 short and feature-length films. It includes five competition sections, eight dedicated tributes, a visual installation and the works of our amazing Agora, which is among cinema’s best in Europe. Among these films, 66 are Greek because the Festival’s primary goal has always been showcasing Greek filmmaking and supporting the Greek community.” 

Then he referred to the spotlight hosted by this year’s edition to the internationally acclaimed artist (director, choreographer, visual artist and performer) Dimitris Papaioannou, the Festival’s honorary guest. “During the Festival, we will watch a video installation, and two short films of the artist, along with Eva Stefani’s documentary, produced by Onassis Culture, which will be screened as a work-in-progress, dedicated to the theater production Transverse Orientation, produced by Onassis Stegi. However, most importantly, Dimitris Papaioannou has given the drawing for the poster of the 26th Documentary Festival - a kiss of love, inclusion, visibility.” Addressing Dimitris Papaioannou, who was in attendance, he said: “Mr. Papaioannou, dear Dimitris, thank you for everything.” The Festival’s Artistic Director also referred to the main tribute of the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, Citizen:  Queer, which includes 33 documentaries that celebrate the beauty of the emancipatory act of self-determination, and marked world cinema, as well as to the tribute centered on film director, screenwriter, author, and translator, Panayotis Evangelidis, who will receive an honorary Golden Alexander for his overall contribution to cinema and culture.

Mr. Andreadakis also spoke about the Festival’s role and mission during these turbulent times. “We live in an era that has made us anxiously anticipate tomorrow. The war in Ukraine has already lasted two years while the horror is unabated. While in the Middle East, a breath away, a new war has been raging for the last five months and the victims are multiplying every day," Mr. Andreadakis noted. “The Festival cannot propose geopolitical solutions, however it has a responsibility to give voice to those in need. It rejects acts of hatred, violence, radical supporters of bigotry, and racism; it constitutes an open platform of art, inclusion, dialog. It welcomes artists, films and projects from all over the world, Palestine, Israel, the Middle East. Standing against war, each and every one of them, the Thessaloniki Film Festival is a field of unity, exchange of ideas, a safe place always on the side of the vulnerable, and peace.”

Orestis Andreadakis presented a retrospective of Fernando Trueba’s great career, just before the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou bestowed the Golden Alexander to the acclaimed Spanish filmmaker. “Fernando Trueba was born in Madrid, he initially worked as a film critic and quickly moved behind the camera with the comedy, Ópera Prima, which inaugurated a new trend in Spanish cinema, the comedia madrileña. Subsequently, his trajectory was triumphant, creating films such as Twisted Obsession, The Girl of Your Dreams, and of course Belle Époque, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as Year of Enlightment, which was bestowed the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival. His last film, Haunted Heart, which hasn’t yet made its debut, was shot in Greece, in Pelion in particular, starring Matt Dillon,” he mentioned. “Fernando Trueba is also a music producer, having won two Grammy Awards and four Latin Grammy Awards. He loves Latin music, he has shot both documentaries (such as Calle 54 which we will be watching at our festival), as well as animated films, such as Chico & Rita, which was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award, and will be screened at this year’s festival. The film we will enjoy today, which is co-signed by his compatriot and renowned visual artist, Javier Mariscal, intertwines every single talent and passion of this great artist,” Mr. Andreadakis concluded.  

Following the opening ceremony, the screening of Fernando Trueba’s They Shot the Piano Player took place, an innovative documentary combining animation, music, and the political thriller genre. The Festival’s opening film and latest teaming up of Trueba with the Spanish visual artist Javier Mariscal, turns the spotlight on bossa nova music through a neo-noir animated docudrama. Jeff Goldblum (with whom Trueba had worked together 35 years earlier in the film Twisted Obsession) lends his voice to the main character, a music journalist who seeks to find who the Brazilian pianist Franscisco Tenório Júnior really was, as he investigates his mysterious disappearance during a tour in Buenos Aires. The film’s plot takes place in the 1960s and the 1970s, shortly before Latin America was immersed into a maelstrom of totalitarian regimes. Compiling information from people close to him (a series of interviews conducted by Trueba himself within a 15-year period), among whom music icons such as João Gilberto and Caetano Veloso, the movie intertwines the personal and the political element, outlining a troubled era of the Latin American history. A film filled with music, which unravels similarly to a political thriller.

The 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival is held with the support of the Ministry of Culture, the Partnership Agreement of the Central Macedonia Regional Operational Program, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan “Greece 2.0”, the MEDIA programme, the Ministry of Tourism and ERT (Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation). COSMOTE TV is Grand Sponsor of the Festival, for the 7th consecutive year, proving once again its support towards quality cinema. The Festival is happy to welcome PPC as its new Strategic Partner, and expresses its gratitude for the trust in its vision and work. Valuable is the support of Alpha Bank, the Festival’s accessibility sponsor, Aegean, the Festival’s official air-carrier, Fischer, the Audience Awards sponsor, and Jameson.