20th TDF: Closing Ceremony

The curtain fell on the 20th anniversary edition of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival with the awards ceremony on Sunday, 11 March 2018, at a packed Olympion theater. Two steady contributors to the TDF in the last few years, Thanos Zygoulianos and Vassilis Terzopoulos, presented the event.

The curtain fell on the 20th anniversary edition of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival with the awards ceremony on Sunday, 11 March 2018, at a packed Olympion theater. Two steady contributors to the TDF in the last few years, Thanos Zygoulianos and Vassilis Terzopoulos, presented the event.

The General Director, Elise Jalladeau, and the Director of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Orestis Andreadakis, took the stage together with TIFF Board of Directors President and cinematographer Yorgos Arvanitis. Mrs Jalladeau and Mr Andreadakis welcomed the audience, noting that there would be no speeches and greetings that evening, just awards, and thanked the supporters, the sponsors, the wonderful staff, the amazing volunteers, the audience in Thessaloniki and of course the TDF’s instigator and founder, Dimitri Eipides.

Mr Arvanitis noted that preparations for the next event will begin immediately, and noted: “Besides, the TIFF’s annual activity keeps on, enriched with a new venue, Warehouse C, at the Pier A’ of the Thessaloniki Port. The Warehouse C’s concession to the TIFF became possible withthe cooperation of Mrs Katerina Notopoulou, Head of the Thessaloniki prime minister's secretariat office, and the support of the Shipping minister Mr Panayotis Kouroumblis, who is here with us tonight”.

 The two presenters made a brief mention to the profile of this year’s event, which consisted of “108 documentaries from 57 countries screened in 8 theaters, 10 sections, 10 films in the International Competition section, 53 Greek feature documentaries and 25 short ones, tributes and special screenings”. They also stressed that, “apart of any distinction, the depiction of life itself, of truth itself, by all filmmakers, is worth your warmest applause”.

Moving on to the award ceremony, they firstly talked about the distinctions of Doc Market’s Docs in Progress section, which is the TDF’s development section, the field where “the plans and films of tomorrow, the films we are going to watch in a future TDF, are born”. This year’s Docs in Progress jury consisted of Laia Aubia, Distribution Manager, DocsBarcelona (Spain), Charlotte Madsen, Buyer, SVT, Sweden, and Takis Veremis, Distributor, StraDa Films (Greece) The first award for post-production services, amounting to 15,000 euros, sponsored by the Greek post-production company 2|35 Inc, was bestowed to the film Seeds of Columbus Direction: Marianna Economou – Greece (Production: Stefi/Lynx Productions, Spyros Mavrogenis, Co-production: Rea Apostolides - Anemon Productions). The second MuSou award for sound and music services, amounting up to 6,500 euros, was bestowed to the film Staring at the Sun , Direction: Atieh Attarzadeh and Hesam Eslami – France, Iran (Production: Etienne de Ricaud, Caractères Productions, Co-production: Hesam Eslami, Atieh Attarzadeh). The jury presented a special mention to the film Gentle Warriors by Marija Stonyte – Lithuania, Esthonia (Production: Giedre Zickyte, Moonmakers, Co-production: Riho Vastrik). Furthermore, for the first time this year, the Greek Film Centre –on behalf of Film Promotion Hellas Director Kostas Aivaliotis- bestowed an award in Docs in Progress section, accompanied with a prize of 3,000 euros, to the project Tiny Souls, by Dina Naser – Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, the Netherlands, France (Production: Dina Naser and Ruba Ghazi Hannun - Mad Moshawash, Co-production:  Khaled Haddad - Jordan Prioneers, Palmyre Badinier- Urban Factory).

Consequently, the Amnesty International Award for the best film in the “Human Rights” section was bestowed. This year’s jury consisted of Marianna Leontaridou (Member of Amnesty International Greece, film critic), Stefania Filippova-Mertzimeki (Special Educational Personnel Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, University of Macedonia), Amalia Speleta (Member of Amnesty International Greece), Aris Dimokidis (Journalist) and Vassilis Loules (Film Director). The award was bestowed to Everything’s Better than a Hooker by Ovidie (France), while the jury presented a special mention to Muhi - Generally Temporary by Rina Castelnuovo & Tamir Elterman. The awards were presented by Irini Tsolaki, Vice-President of the Greek Section of Amnesty International, who said that the jury’s reasoning was as follows: “The jury decided to present a Special Mention to the film Muhi - Generally Temporary, where two Israeli film directors document the circumstances under which lives are shaped, transcending identity, religion and conflict. And a few words about the section’s award: Seventy years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948-2018), women are still treated like second-class citizens. Wherever they are, they face the same worries, the same fears, the same nightmares, which means that the constant fight for the elimination of discriminations, the fight for Justice and Equality, keeps on”. The documentary Everything’s Better than a Hooker is about a story that shocked the European public opinion, starring a sex worker that became the symbol of the fight for women’s rights. Ovidie, the film director, sent a video-message to the TDF, not hiding her feelings about being awarded and saying, among other things: “I was very proud just for the fact itself that I was taking part with my film in the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. My heart fills with joy and pride for this distinction, for an award concerning human rights, that can help fight the stigma, for no woman should be judged for her sex choices. As a former sex worker, I was always afraid I would not be taken seriously as a film director. Now, I am certain that not only I will keep the promise I gave to Eva Marie, making her story known to France, but thanks to this award I will make it known to the whole world. I am grateful to Thessaloniki and the TDF for helping me fight this stigma”.

Consequently, the WWF Hellas Award for the best film in the “Habitat” section was bestowed to Thank you for the Rain by Julia Dahr (UK, Norway, Kenya). This years jury consisted of Iasonas Kantas (Head of Media at WWF Greece), Vicky Barboka (Better LifeProject Associate), Christi Sotiriou (Head of Fish ForwardProject), Maria Livanou (Marine Program Associate WWF Greece). The award was bestowed by Yorgos Vlachos, member of the WWF board of directors, who noted: “The issue of climate change affects our country too, through the thoughtless use of mineral resources, the non-viable investments in coal and coke, and the intentions to proceed with hydrocarbon exploration in natural parks or Natura areas. When we were little, we were looking for heroes in fairy tales, and for super heroes ready to save the world. Today we are looking for conscious citizens who will make the difference. The film awarded tonight is about upbringing the citizen movement for climate justice”. The film director, who could not attend the ceremony, sent a thank you message to the Festival, noting among other things: “We made this documentary in order to prompt a positive impact. We want this film to be used as an educational tool that will become the basis for a debate among the institutions of society” 

It was the turn of Fischer Audience Awards for a Greek and a foreign film over and under 50’. Before handing the award, Yannis Katsougris, Sponsorships Manager of Athenian Brewery, said: “Once more we are back in Thessaloniki, in one of the most important Documentary Festivals of Europe, whose journey turns 20 years old this year. Beer Fisher is accompanying an infinite number of Greek and foreign documentary screenings, tens of thousands of votes by enthusiastic fans, and unique artists who attended the event. It is a great honor and joy for us to bestow the Fischer Audience Awards for a 6th year in a row. Once more, Fischer’s ballot boxes were put outside the theaters and the result is 21,529 votes -a record. Congratulations to all for their contribution in organizing the Festival, the 300 volunteers, the filmmakers, and of course the audience of Thessaloniki, whose love for documentary makes this important event able to exist. Before we proceed to the awards, we must not omit to say a big ‘thank you’ to the man who invited us in this exciting journey, the documentary festival, its instigator and founder, Dimitri Eipides”.

The Audience Award for a Greek film under 50’ was bestowed to Painting… by Dimitris Stamatis & Ioanna Neofytou (Greece), while the award for a film in the International Selection under 50’ was bestowed to The Last Honey Hunter by Ben Knight (Nepal). Also, the Audience Award for a Greek film over 50’ was bestowed to Back to the Top by Stratis Chatzielenoudas (Greece), while the Audience Award  Peter Wintonick for a film in the International selectinon over 50was bestowed to Of Fathers and Sons by Talal Derki (Germany-Syria-Lebanon).

The event presenters conveyed to the audience the thanks of the directors Ioanna Neofytou and Dimitris Stamatis on behalf of their co-production company Story Doc and the International Organization for Migration. On his part, receiving the award, the film director Stratis Chatzielenoudas thanked the Thessaloniki Festival, the film crew and the sponsors who supported this attempt. He also conveyed to the audience the message of Leonidas, the film’s main character, who despite his paraplegia attempts to climb Mount Olympos. “Thanks to all those who supported me from day one of my accident, all those who believed in me and each one in their own way helped me make my dream come true. Because it is not bad to dream; what is bad is not make your dreams come true. I dedicate this award to all those who stand by me and those who do not give up hope”. On his part, the film director Talal Derki sent a thank you video message which was screened at the ceremony. Speaking in Greek, Mr Derki said he was sorry for not being able to come to Thessaloniki, and thanked for the distinction, noting: “The TDF feels like home to me, I attend it for several years now and consider it one of the best. I wish I will be able to come next year with a more pleasant film”.     

Consequently, the Youth Jury Awards , selected by students in the Universities of Thessaloniki, were bestowed for Greek films in the International Competition section. The jury, curated by the professor Betty Kaklamanidou, comprised of Fani Chatzi, Alexandra Nikitidou, Nena Chatzisiomou, Antonis Zaoutsos and Sotiria Panantoniou, students of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Mrs Papantoniou, who announced the winners, noted: “We decided to award two films that differ very much as to their narratives and subjects. Both are sharing something very essential, though: their quality”. The Special Jyry Award was bestowed to A Tree Remembers, directed by Kostas Follas (Greece), while the Best Film Award was bestowed to Obscuro Barroco by Evangelia Kranioti (France, Greece). The award was handed to the film director by Shipping minister Panayotis Kouroumblis, who noted among other things: “I would like to congratulate the contributors to this very important artistic event which brings the city into the foreground. I would also like to express my joy for the fact that this event obtains for the first time a venue of its own at the Thessaloniki Pier by the Prime Minister’s decision and the cooperation of Ministers and all of us. I think that it was all institutional factors‘ wish that this institution acquire its own venue. The Festival and other institutions, and the Municipality of course, exploit the Port’s buildings and venues, since this city with its very important history is constantly proving that it has enough cultural sensitivity to support new attempts. I think that the Festival will be now able to expand its activities even more”. Receiving the award, Mrs Kranioti thanked the jury and noted that the TDF is just 20 years old, it is young, and youth knows everything.

The Greek Film Critics Association (PEKK) Award for a Greek film was bestowed to Kostis Papagiorgis, the Sweetest Misanthrope, by Eleni Alexandraki (Greece). The award was handed by the General Secretary of the Greek Film Critics Association, Yagos Antiochos, who after reading the reasoning said: “It is the very detailed portrait of a lonely man and a modern philosopher, which is far from hagiography. The film manages to match excellently the subject with cinema as a whole, at the same time introducing solid fiction axes. Eleni Alexandraki’s artistic soundness is combining all the above in a particularly enjoyable film”. Receiving her award, the film director thanked the Festival and PEKK, as well as Kostis Papagiorgis. The film producer Eleni Kossyfidou took the stage of Olympion and warmly thanked the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival management team, PEKK -especially for the awarding reasoning, as well as ERT and the Greek Film Centre, whose support was critical for making this documentary.

Consequently, the “Human Values” Award of the Hellenic Parliament for a film in the International Competition section was bestowed to The Distant Barking of Dogs by Simon Lereng Wilmont (Denmark, Finland, Sweden. This year’s jury consisted of  Kostas Dimos (Head of Programming), Aris Fatouros (Program Consultant) and Vassilis Douvlis  (Film director), while the award was bestowed by SYRIZA MP Triantafyllos Mitafidis, , who explained that the film “investigates from a poetic angle the impact of war for a ten year old boy who lives with his grandmother in a deserted village near the war zone”. Mr Mitafidis made special mention to the memory of Pavlos Zannas, “the cultural pioneer and fighter against dictatorship”, as he stressed. The film’s director Simon Lereng Wilmont could not attend the ceremony, but sent a video message, thanking the audience: “I feel very proud and happy with this award. Thanks to the film’s wonderful crew and our sponsors; I hope I’ll see you soon in another event”.

Continuing with ERT Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Awards, the Chair of the Governing Committee of the ERT3, Katerina Sarikaki, took the stage of Olympion and noted, among other things: “Documentaries urge us to seek the truths. It is my great pleasure to announce that the ERT Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Award, accompanied by the prize of 3,000 euros, is bestowed to the Greek documentary over 50’ that won the Fischer Audience Award in the 20th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, the film Back to the Top by Stratis Chatzielenoudas”. The award was received by the film director and the co-scriptwriter and producer Ioanna Petinaraki, who noted that this second distinction came as a surprise for the film crew and warmly thanked the TDF and ERT. It is worth mentioning that ERT also sponsors a cash prize of 2,000 euros accompanying the Doc on Air Award, which went to the best project of the EDN Docs in Thessaloniki for an EDN international co-production that is judged by the EDN jury. This year’s prize went to the project Riders of Destiny, by Michael Niermann, production Ansgar Pohle | 7T1 Media (Germany).

Consequently, the FIPRESCI Awards, whose jury comprised of Yael Shuv (Israel), Tonči Valentić (Croatia) and Joseph Proimakis (Greece), were bestowed. The FIPRESCI Award for a Greek documentary participating in TDF’s International Program was bestowed by Joseph Proimakis to Marble Homeland by Menios Karayannis (Greece), which according to the jury «glorifies the transforming power of art, a power which not only can turn a stone into a feather and light, but make an immigrant an inextricable cultural element in the country where they chose to live”. Receiving the award, the film director Menios Karayannis warmly thanked the TDF, noting that “it’s in my heart and I consider it a great festival”. The FIPRESCI Award for the best documentary of the International Competition section was bestowed by the Jury President Yael Shuv to the film The Distant Barking of Dogs  by Simon Lereng Wilmont (Denmark, Finland, Sweden), “a tender, multi-leveled drama about the constant struggle to survive on the edge of a battlefield, the endurance of love against horror, and the persistence of innocence in a vicious world”, according to the jury. The film director Simon Lereng Wilmont in another video message to the audience said: “Hello again. I’m sorry I cannot be with you and for not having the chance to meet and talk about the film. Two awards in an evening is something really special”.

Consequently, the Greek Film Centre Deputy General Director Vasilis Kosmopoulos bestowed the Centre new award. “As part of its broader cooperation with the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and the special concern about the promotion of new cinematographers, the Greek Film Centre is bestowing a cash prize of 3,000 to a debut documentary film over 50’ that premieres in the 20th TDF. For the narrative economics, the style coherence and the sotto voce handling of this sensitive subject, that predispose us to a promising continuation in the field of documentary, the award is bestowed to Christos Kapatos for the film Antonis’ Voice”. The film director thanked for the distinction, noting how great the honor is, coming from the Greek Film Centre, and thanked his parents, whom the film is about, the producer Phaedra Vokali and the film editor Stamos Dimitropoulos. 

The ceremony went on with the VR / Virtual Reality Films Competition section.  The jury consisted of Kirsten Kieninger, film critic, film editor (Germany), George Drivas, visual artist, film director (Greece), and Argyris Theos, director of photography (Greece). The award, accompanied by a cash prize of 3,000 euros sponsored by the Greek Film Centre, was bestowed ex aequo to the films Limbo by Shehani Fernando (UK) and The Last Chair 1&2 Anke Teunissen & Jessie van Vreden (The Netherlands). According to the jury reasoning, read on stage by Mrs Kieninger and Mr Theos: “We separated two films that use art and technology with opposing ways: One film that uses the camera movement, the image editing and the imposing narration to wake us up to the world of immigrants, while the other used a completely static camera, a very essential, clear description of the situation in observing the daily life”.

Consequently, the International Jury Awards were bestowed for films in the International Competition section of the 20th TDF. There were 10 films this year in this section. This year’s jury consisted of Annika Gustafsson (film critic, journalist, Sweden), Caroline Libresco (festival programmer, USA), Jan Rofekamp (sales agent, producer, The Netherlands), David Borenstein (film director, USA) and Lefteris Charitos (film director, Greece).

Commenting on the competing films’ quality this year, Mr Charitos said: “We are very satisfied with the diversity of subjects and the artistic approaches in this year’s International Competition program. We reflected on the interaction between history and the present, we took a preview of the daily rituals’ poetry, and through the camera lens we witnessed the richness of places that acquire supernatural dimensions. Above all, we witnessed a controversial mix of cruelty and humaneness that we see in times of conflict”.

The Special Jury Award accompanied with a cash prize of 2,000€  was bestowed ex aequo to the films Baroneza by Juliana Antunes (Brazil ) and Meteors by Gürcan Keltek (The Netherlands, Turkey). Handing the award, David Borenstein noted: “Since we were so impressed with two special, though different films, we decided to split the Special Jury Award between a familiar, sensual, emotive portrait of entrapment and liberation in a constrained world where violence lurks and an aesthetically risky, formalist essay film that looks bravely into dehumanization and surveillance in a war zone”. The film director Gürcan Keltek sent a video message to the TDF audience, warmly thanking the organizers and the Greek production company Heretic Outreach, and adding: “Just being able to participate in the TDF with my film was a great pleasure for me. This award makes me feel even happier and more proud. Thessaloniki is important to me, it is a city I am familiar with, a city I visit often and love very much”.

The Best Documentary - “Golden Alexander” Award accompanied by a cash prize of 8,000 euros was bestowed to the film The Distant Barking of Dogs by Simon Lereng Wilmont (Denmark, Finland, Sweden). The award was handed by Mrs Annika Gustafsson and Mrs Caroline Libresco, who noted: “We give the Golden Alexander to a film that presses all buttons of documentary narrative. It makes us sink into a world that we cannot escape from, full of dramatically differentiated characters whose future will be shaped by the war that bombards their village. The structure and rhythm of the story rewards us and raises questions on the interaction between love and violence, which infuses our daily lives”.

Touched, the awarded film director Simon Lereng Wilmont warmly thanked the Festival in a video message and noted: “The film’s main characters, Alexandra and Oleg, just like all the other characters in it, are in my heart. We worked very hard to make this film and such recognition of our work means everything to them”.

The closing ceremony of the TDF 20th anniversary edition concluded with the screening of Jean Vigo’s iconic silent documentary À Propos de Nice (1930), a poetic wandering in 1930s Nice, France, with live original score composed by Lefteris Tsavdaridis exclusively for the event and performed by the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra, directed by Thanassis Sourgounis.  The event was co-organized by the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and the Thessaloniki State Symphonic Orchestra.