Press Conference: International Competition Jury

 In the press conference given today, Monday, November 24th, 2003, at Warehouse C, the Director of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Michel Demopoulos presented the seven-member jury of the international competition section. The members coming from different parts of the world and with different cultures and experiences have comprised the jury of the Festival in order to carefully select the best films.

The press conference took on a political undertone when the president of the jury, director Otar Iosseliani from Georgia, was asked about the political situation in his country. “I greatly respect Mr. Shevardnadze and everything he’s done in his life. I’m unsure, though, of what the future holds. However, the contest for influence in Georgia -a country of 5 million citizens and a crossroad between the East and West- will be a bipolar one between the United States and Russia. I am not involved or mixed with these affairs. Still, until today, Georgia was amidst chaos. Pensions never exceeded 7 dollars per month. It’s always easy though to criticize and blame a single person, as if they were responsible for everything”.

Mr. Iosseliani also spoke about the events after the recent elections in Georgia: “The chaos after the elections was very well organized. The 24 opposition parties, despite their debates, were able to appoint someone else to lead this movement and deal with the current situation. Shevardnadze was able to resign without any bloodshed. They call it the ‘velvet’ revolution. I suspect that it was very well organized. I’ve been told that the arrival of people from rural areas to Tbilisi was organized. The citizens of Tbilisi never became involved. These people received 25 dollars per day to protest and this seems to me like a Bolshevik method. It frightens me to see such a group coming to power”.

Hurray for diversity!

The members of the jury come from different parts of the world. Disarmingly, Egyptian film critic, Samir Farid said, “We represent different cultures of the world. I am black, next to me is a Chinese man, etc”. Actress Tamila Koulieva (Greece-Russia) said, “If the art of cinema was defined by borders then it would have lost its meaning, as would have the Festival”. Otar Iosseliani stated, “I hate being part of a jury, but I’ll do it since I have to”, and added that he would be happy if Greece, being the cradle of civilization, would become the nucleus of cinema.

Iranian director Jafar Panahi said, “Cinema is what brings us together. We might even award the wrong films. If the jury was comprised of different members it might have awarded different films but we try to converge our opinions”. Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai, promised to sleep well and carefully watch all the films. He added that the Thessaloniki Film Festival has greatly improved since his last visit ten years ago. The Thessaloniki Film Festival also impressed Swiss director Jean-Francois Amiguet and British vice-president of the jury and cinematographer, Walter Lassally, who lives on the island Crete. “I adore Greece since August of 1995 when I first visited. Now I’m in Crete and I am extremely happy to live near Stavros, the beach where we filmed ‘Zorba’”.

The criteria

The criteria for film selection will be based on quality”, claimed the president of the jury Otar Iosseliani, and added, “Cinema is not meant to endlessly experiment. Experimental cinema is that which is not phrased correctly and incomprehensible. A film that is rational or based on rational thought can be made both by an experienced director, as well as a newcomer. Cinema is meant to convey meanings about the modern world to the audience and to future generations. All films are welcome, but it makes us happier, of course, when newcomers present films that are better than those of the more experienced directors”.