20th TDF: International Competition


International Competition

George Perec’s famous novel Life a User's Manual guides the selection of this year’s IC section films

 The International Competition section of the 20th anniversary edition of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival discovers the boldest new voices of contemporary documentary filmmaking, presenting the first or second films of the most promising directors from all over the world.

This year the festival selects the 10 IC films with George Perec’s famous novel Life a User’s Manual as guiding compass; a 600-page book with 2,000 characters and hundreds of stories, which highlights life as a puzzle that can never be solved. Perec challenges the reader in a mental game that tackles concepts such as time, memory, happiness, life and death, by looking at the life stories of the inhabitants of a Parisian apartment block, over a period of one hundred years. The author plays with the game of life itself. It is no coincidence that Perec was a distinguished member of OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle), the most fascinating and literally entertaining literary movement of the 20th century.

OuLiPo’s philosophy involves the concept of the game, expanding in its various symbolisms and dimensions in art. One could argue that the selection process of the films that compete in a festival is indeed a playful self-constraining game, which, after all, does not impose any limits but rather emancipates us, by allowing us to determine its very own rules. One of OuLiPo’s founders, Raymond Queneau, once defined Oulipians as “rats who build the labyrinth from which they plan to escape.” Thus, as we also seek to escape from the labyrinth we build, we decided to use Georges Perec’s Life a User's Manual, as our guide in selecting films.

This year we invite you participate in this playful game that we could call OuFeCiPo (Ouvroir de Festival Cinématographique Potentiel). It is an alternative way to select, watch, review and reflect on films; and, of course, to experience them as a labyrinth whose walls are made of materials derived from literature and visual arts. Escaping this labyrinth is nothing but a wonderful, entertaining, educational, intellectual and, at the same time, playful game.


The films

All that Passes by a Window that Doesn’t Open by Martin Dicicco, USA-Qatar, 2017, 70’:

Workers in Azerbaijan strive to build a new railroad between Europe and Asia, while a lonely Armenian stationmaster waits for 20 years for the return of the trains. These people’s routines, dreams and regrets are reflected amidst the troubled past and present of the region, in this beautifully shot documentary.

Angkar by Neary Adeline Hay, France, 2017, 71’:

An engaging exploration of Cambodia’s recent history, as well as a personal diary about memory and identity, the film follows the director’s father who returns to the village where he lived as a prisoner and meets his former Khmer Rouge persecutors.

* Trailer: https://vimeo.com/250608925

Awaken by Jiawei Ning, China, 2017, 62’:

Spring arrives after a long winter and a fisherman in a Chinese village readies his fishing boat again. The struggle –and harmony- between man and nature is masterfully captured without any words. 

Baronesa by Juliana Antunes, Brazil, 2017, 70’: Shot on location in the outskirts of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the film offers a rare glimpse of favelas, through the women’s point of view. It introduces us to Leidiane and Andreia, who try to cope with the slum’s violence and dangers, but also enjoy friendship and love.

Las cinéphilas by María Álvarez, Argentina, 2017, 74':

Retired women from Spain, Argentina and Uruguay share a common passion for films. They go to the cinema every day and experience films as a cure for loneliness or a way to forget the passage of time, in this sensitive, bittersweet documentary.  

*Trailer: https://vimeo.com/209605249

The Distant Barking of Dogs by Simon Lereng Wilmont, Denmark-Finland-Sweden, 2017, 90’:

Set in a half-deserted small village in Eastern Ukraine, the film centers on the daily life of 10-year-old Oleg who lives there with his beloved grandmother, remarkably recording what it means for a child to grow up in a warzone.

*Trailer: https://vimeo.com/243103068

Hotel Jugoslavija by Nicolas Wagnières, Switzerland, 2017, 78’:

The legendary Hotel Jugoslavija was the biggest hotel of the Balkans, a symbol and a witness to the different moments that shaped former Yugoslavia. The documentary marks a journey through its eras and venues, documenting the country’s collective unconscious.

*Trailer: https://vimeo.com/238843730

 Meteors by Gürcan Keltek, The Netherlands-Turkey, 2017, 84’:

Blending documentary filmmaking and political commentary, and connecting the earthly to the cosmos, “Meteors” is an experimental film about memory and disappearance – of people, places and things.

*Trailer: https://vimeo.com/235559516

 The Greek films participating in the International Competition section of the 20th TDF will be announced soon.

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