21st THESSALONIKI DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL [1-10/3/2019]
31 short and 50 feature Greek documentaries will be screened in the 21st Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. Two of them participate in the event’s International Competition section, 28 in the various International Program sections, 12 in TDF’s new segment “From screen to Screen” and 39 in the latest addition section titled “Platform”.
In addition, the 21st TDF will present a special documentary screening to honor the late Greek filmmaker Giorgos Karypidis (1946-2019).
Society, politics, refugees, human rights, personal stories and art are the main topics of this year’s rich domestic documentary production. Here are the films presented per themes:
Solidarity comes first
Compelling stories permeated with the spirit of solidarity unfold in many documentaries of the 21st TDF. When the South Wind Blows by Kalliopi Legaki follows the brilliant work done by the therapists of the EPAPSY Mental Health Mobile Units in the North-Eastern and Western Cyclades islands, while Lefteris Fylaktos’ Shedia (The Greek street magazine) is a portrait of homeless people through the humanitarian work of the Greek street magazine “Shedia”. Other films focus on volunteer groups and initiatives that help people in need. Humans by Panagiotis Athineos highlights various solidarity groups and reflects upon the essence of humanity. Your Moment in My Life by Chara Fragou talks about GAIA, a volunteer group in Agios Nikolaos, West Mani that bridges the work of both Greeks and foreigners in favor of the local community. Bios… The Other Way by Dimitris Papadopoulos and Ioannis Kolaxizis focuses on the non-profit Social Consumer Cooperative 'Bios Coop' that provides local products without mediators in Thessaloniki. Stathis Vasiliadis’ Listen to your voice centres on the first and only municipal volunteer radio in Europe, also based in Thessaloniki.
Images of Greece
Changes in the natural and social landscape of Greece are also depicted in this year’s edition documentaries. The controversial legacy of the mines on Serifos Island and the aftermath of the 1916 bloody strike set the tone in Giorgos Zoilis’ Serifos: The Iron Island, while Fossils by Panos Arvanitakis reveals how the Greek Public Power Corporation’s activities have seriously transformed the environmental conditions in Eordaia, Northern Greece. On the island of Crete, a group of mountaineers set about to organize the first ever winter ski mountaineering race on the island aiming to resist the mega-industry of tourism in Crete Arising by Constantine Papanicolaou. Another kind of effort takes place in the film Arvanitika by Katerina Clark, regarding the dying language of “arvanitika” and the special culture of its speakers in Villia, Attica.
Taste the Mediterranean
Delicious flavors blend with interesting stories in three Greek documentaries that touch upon agriculture, winery and gastronomy. In a decaying Greek village two cousins and five women cultivate an ancient tomato seed and enter the world market with their organic products in Marianna Economou’s When Tomatoes Met Wagner. “In Vino Veritas” by Constantinos Tseklenis invites us to see the picturesque vineyards valleys and witness the winemaking process in Greece, while Eliana Abravanel’s Remedy narrates what happens when the Mykonos’ Gastronomy Club infiltrates a hospital kitchen for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary intervention.
It’s all about women
Women take centre stage in many documentaries of the 21st TDF. A journey through the memories of a young Greek immigrant in the US during the 80s takes place in Xenophon Angelopoulos’ Holy Nostalgia, while Julia Speropoulos’ Yubi tells the story of a young woman who survived a murder attempt by her father and now strives with her 99% disability. On another tone, Birth Days by Danai Stylianou tackles the issue of excessive medical intervention and Caesarean section births in Greece and “My Katines” by Vilma Meniki focuses on a Thessaloniki-based autonomous women’s group that significantly helped women between 1985 and 1995. Different types of women share on camera fascinating experiences and views; female immigrants reassert their identities in contemporary Greece in Christina Phoebe’s Amygdaliá, nineteen women candidly answer personal questions without using words in Christos Pitharas Portraits’, elderly women who live alone in remote villages of Epirus reveal their life stories in Roots by Elisa Soroga and Aigli Drakou and an old-school prostitute talks about the abrasive world of her field in Giorgos Danopoulos’ Rita.
Gay refugee couples find shelter in Greece and face the prospects of freedom but also the bleak reality of their new home in Spring by Nikos Ziogas and Ovil and Usman by Dimitris Gerou. The rehabilitation and drug prevention of immigrants and refugees in the Greek Therapeutic Centre for Dependent Individuals (KETHEA) is the main subject of Ioannis Xirouchakis’ ΚΕΤΗΕΑ ΜΟSAIC: 15 Years Mosaic of Emotions. A group of refugees and activists try to make their way from an occupation house to Germany through the Balkans in Pitzi Kampouroglou’s The Fig House. A reverse path is traced in Leonidas Vardaros’ Anti-Fascist Struggle in the Middle-East about the 1941 Greek immigrants who fled from occupied Greece to camps in Cyprus, Egypt and Syria.
The social and economical consequences of environmental damage are also explored in the films. Dimitris Gkotsis’ Fourth Wall looks at people who painfully experience the above first-hand. Set in the filmmaker’s hometown, Dimitris Koutsiabasakos’ Heracles, Achelloos and Mesochora chronicles the struggle of both the village and the director himself to save the area of Acheloos River in Pindos from the flood caused after the river’s diversion. On the Greek coast, a woman fights back a luxurious golf resort in order to protect her olive farm and uncomplicated lifestyle in A Simple Life by Myrto Papadogeorgou and Robert Harding Pittman. In Niki Velissaropoulou’s We Will Not Sell Our Future two teenage girls fight for their future in Halkidiki, Northern Greece, where a gold mining project threatens to destroy nature.
People next door become the protagonists in gripping narratives. Marco Gastine’s As Far As the Sea offers an in-depth look at the human condition through the stories of patients in the rehabilitation unit of an Athenian trauma hospital. Iro Siafliaki’s Zones and Passages is filled with images of people in labor and unemployment in various places all over Greece, while Vicky Arvelaki’s Solomos introduces us to a well-educated Cypriot homeless man who lives in the streets of Chania, Crete, after losing his job. In Quiet Life, Tasos Giapoutzis turns his camera on an ageing small community in Northern Greece in correlation with a young refugee family also residing there. A political refugee who went from West African ruling class to making a living as grocery store employee in New York is the main character in Andreas Hadjipateras’ A Forgotten Past. USA also provides the backdrop in Panayotis Evangelidis’ Irving Park that follows four gay men in their 60s exploring an unconventional lifestyle of master/slave relationships. Other kind of risky ventures emerge in Thanasis Kafetzis’ The Gospel of Michiel where an ambitious Dutch architect experiments with realizing a housing project in rural Kenya. A bold protagonist is also featured in Dimitra Babadima’s Akra; a man who swims 140 kilometers with the goal to put the easternmost island of Europe, Kastellorizo, back on the Greek map. In addition, three affectionate everyday stories share a belated romance between two reunited elderly people (The Canaries by Giorgos Kivernitis), a woman’s boat crafts and love for sea travelling (The Boats of Aunt Nelli by Natassa Iatropoulou) and the mysterious stone carvings of a special young man (Anthoula by Giannis Misouridis).
Portraits & Personalities
Documentary filmmakers draw inspiration from the extraordinary life and work of acclaimed authors such as the Greek Nikos Kazantzakis (In Search of Kazantzakis by Alexandros Skouras) and the American Philip Roth (Philip Roth - Notebooks by Maria Giannouli), as well as the unconventional poet Maria Polydouris (1902-1930, The Poet Maria Polydouris In Paris Of The Interwar by Costas Dandinakis). More distinguished personalities dominate the festival’s Greek program, including the Greek pioneer neuro-psychiatrist and member of the French Academy of Sciences Aggelos Katakouzinos (Aggelos Katakouzinos: In the Legion of Honor by Victor Dimas), but also the Athenian noblewoman Philothei who rescued hundreds during the Ottoman occupation (Philothei The Athenian, The Revolution Of A Woman by Maria Hatzimihali – Papaliou). Arts, entertainment and sports also motivate filmmakers in painting intriguing portraits. The awarded Greek director, choreographer, performer and visual artist Dimitris Papaioannou and his unique vision are highlighted in Nefeli Sarri’s Behind the Wall. Influencer Matthew Zorpas, one of the world’s most fashionable social media personas, is the protagonist in Make/Believe by Konstantinos Menelaou. A Greek magician who became famous for his extreme and controversial performances in the 80s and 90s steals the show in Kostis Asikelis’ The Blond Magician, When the Show Ends. In Eugène by Giannis Nikolaou, three generations of veteran footballers pay their respects to the Dutch coach Eugène Gerards who lived and worked in the island of Crete.
A Greek journalist travels to Venezuela and then back to Europe discovering a reality that differs from the mainstream media narrative in Make the Economy Scream by Aris Chatzistefanou. In the Peloponnese, Greece, the deposed Mayor of Zacharo is running for office again to maintain himself in power as in the past 12 years in Kimon Tsakiris’ Sugartown – For a Fistful of Votes.
Memory & History
Many films of the 21st TDF put a spotlight on landmark moments of the past. The harsh events that led to the abrupt cut of the umbilical cord between Greece and Asia Minor are examined in The East Has Set by Alexandros Papailiou. Another human drama unfolds in Thanos Tsantas’ Traces that reflects on the missing persons after the 1974 Cyprus invasion along with the stolen archaeological and religious relics, while Andreas Tsatsaias’ The History of the Folk Hospital, Asvestohori TB Sanatorium monitors the life in the sanatorium from 1920 to 1960 through a theatrical performance. The Band by Nikos Aslanidis centres on Yannis Papadopoulos, the only survivor among the members of a band that played marches during the Pontic-Greek Genocide. The Nazi occupation in Greece is the main subject of the documentaries From Terror to Resistance – Nazi Camp Pavlos Melas Thessaloniki 1941-1944 by Giorgos Keramidiotis and Flowers and Roses (The Roundup of Kalamaria) by Michalis Agrafiotis, both set mainly in Thessaloniki, Northern Greece. In December 1945, 150 Greek young artists and intellectuals escaped from war-torn Greece to Paris on a ship and the film MATAROA. The Journey Goes On… by Andreas Siadimas revisits the events. Another journey takes place in Angelos Abazoglou’s A Necessary Story, this time in the Greek and Western history from the 1929 crash to today.
The traditional instruments lyre and oud set the tone in the documentaries The Pontic Lyre They Gave Me by Angelos Kovotsos and Travelling the World with an Oud by Ioannis Remoundos respectively, both featuring two virtuoso Greek musicians. Bands playing different kinds of music are the protagonists in three more films of the 21st TDF. The 4 Levels of Existence by Iliana Danezi unfolds the story of the same-name Greek rock band of the late 70s who went on from Athens record shops to the hands of Kanye West and Jay Z, while Music for Ordinary Life Machines by Nikos Hantzis praises the underground synth sound in Greece featuring iconic groups and artists. Meletis Miras’ Diamonds in the Night Sky unfolds the story of Jazz Fm Athens, a radio station that changed the city’s culture in the 90s. Gina Georgiadou’s Giorgos Christianakis A Discreet Music Presence looks at the musical quests of the talented low-key Greek musician from the 80s to the present day.
Various other art forms drive many of the festival’s films, documenting interesting stories and events; from the Greek immigrants who became pioneer actors and producers of the American silent cinema in Nikos Theodosiou’s Greeks in Hollywood to the confessions of young male ballet dancers of the Greek National Opera’s Higher Professional Dance School in Grigoris Vardarinos’ Boys & Ballet, as well as the adventures of Greek artist Yorgos Maniatis who defines himself as “public menace” in Stavros Psilakis’ FOR NO REASONS Meetings with Yorgos Maniatis. Performance arts are also showcased in this year’s doc offerings. Victor Or Power To The Children by Carolos Zonaras records the same-title theatre play starring the celebrated Greek composer Stamatis Kraounakis. John Nikolopoulos’ Pangea captures a prolonged performance -7 weeks, 8 hours per day- by the actor Thodoris Tampas, while Homes by Leonidas Konstantarakos and Stavros Petropoulos follows the artists of ten site-specific performances. Snapshots off screen and on stage are highlighted respectively in Life in the Tomb - Making of by Vassilis Moissidis that brings together fragments of the ambitious TV adaptation of an emblematic Greek novel and Rock’s Shadow by Haris Gioulatos about two of the most popular open-air theatre venues in Vyronas and Imittos, Athens. The relation between art and urban environment is explored in Giorgos Gounezos’ Outer Space Kids about an innovative group who transforms abandoned industrial sites into open-air galleries, as well as in STACO (Street Art Conservators) by Elias Demetriou focusing on a volunteer team that protects street artworks in Athens.
Essays of life & science
Some of this year’s documentaries reflect upon life itself and reevaluate the role of science, posing exciting questions. People on the cusp of their life bestow their valuable wisdom in A Life by Dinos Giotis, a world without vision is explored through the testimonies of blind persons in Light by Nikos Kontizas, while Menios Karayannis’ Senseless Me attempts to define madness via the narratives of eight different people who release their irrationality in various ways. On an opposite, fully rational note, the documentary The Antikythera Mechanism – Narrations by Nikos Papakostas stresses the importance of Antikythera mechanism, the world’s most ancient computer. A different kind of discussion arises in Science and Orthodoxy around the World by Christos Panagos that wonders on if and how faith and science converge at some point.