21st THESSALONIKI DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL [1-10/3/2019]
In a warm closing awards ceremony, the curtain fell on the 21st Thessaloniki Documentary Festival on Sunday 10 March 2019 at Olympion theater.
The journalist Kostis Zafeirakis, presenter of the event, made an entrance covered with the cloth which became the trademark for the visual identity of this year’s edition saying: “Imagine us all walking like this down the streets, going to the movies, to work, to the tax office. Documentarists would die of boredom; because this cloth is not just a veil of mystery, it is the threshold of a documentary. Which means that the filmmaker comes close, talks to me about their vision, wins my trust and eventually the veil goes away and what remains is the truth. This of course is a great achievement, so let’s have a big round of applause for all those who attended the 21st Documentary Festival”.
Moving on to the award ceremony, mention was made to Doc Market -TDF’s development section- distinctions. In this year’s edition, the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and the Mediterranean Film Institute (ΜΙΚ) bestowed the new award ΜΙΚ Doc Lab to the project Phoenix, directed and produced by Daire Collins (Ireland, United Kingdom, Romania, Spain, Germany). The winner is awarded a stipend of 1,200 euros and a stay at Nisyros and Rhodes islands, where MIK takes place this year.
The TDF’s Doc Market - Docs in Progress award in post-production services sponsored by Two Thirty Five (2|35) was bestowed to Four Seasons by Katerina Patroni - Greece (Production: Eleni Chandrinou, Maria Kontogianni -Steficon). The project is also granted free accreditation and accommodation in this year’s edition of Visions du Réel. The award of up to 3,500 euros in music and sound services sponsored by MuSou music company was bestowed to Our Choices by Salah al Ashkar – Syria, France (Production: Etienne de Ricaud, Caractères Productions & Ariel Cypel, L’atelier des artistes en exil). Moreover, the Greek Film Centre award to a film participating in the TDF Agora Doc Market’s Docs in Progress section, accompanied by a 3,000 euros cash prize, was bestowed to School 54 by Dimitra Kouzi – Greece (Kouzi Productions). The Docs in Progress international Jury comprised of Rada Šešić - Sarajevo Film Festival, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Elisabeth Hagstedt - Histoire TV, France and Menios Karayiannis - Director, Greece
Consequently, the WIFT GR Award was presented by the Greek Chapter of WIFT (Women in Film & Television) and was bestowed to a woman filmmaker of a film that participates in the festival’s official program and promotes non-stereotype views on gender. The jury comprised of Antoinetta Angelidi (Film director), Lena Rammou (MEDIA expert) and Rea Walldén (Film theorist), all members of WIFT GR’s Board of Directors. The award was bestowed to #Female Pleasure by Barbara Miller (Switzerland, Germany), “a subversive and multicultural film that takes a brave approach to taboo subjects relating to millions of women in the world; a film which is a source of inspiration and fight”, according to the jury’s rationale.
Consequently, the Amnesty International Award for best film in the “Human Rights” section was also bestowed to #Female Pleasure by Barbara Miller (Switzerland, Germany). This year’s jury consisted of Andreas Vasileiou (Member of the Human League for Human Rights), Betty Kaklamanidou (Assistant Professor, School of Film Studies, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), Marianna Leontaridou (Member of Amnesty International Greece) and Chrysa Tzelepi (Director-Producer). The awards were presented by Stelios Nestor, Honorary Member of Amnesty International Greece, who explained the jury’s reasoning: “We are happy because the film we selected is not about the usual human rights violations by governments or revolutionary groups, which under normal circumstances would be considered as criminal acts. It is about human rights violations committed by society itself. This means that society does not condemn them; instead, it encourages and in the best scenario tolerates them. That’s why it is so hard to fight against such violations. We need to change the customs and practices of a whole society. That’s why we selected a film which needed bravery on behalf of the women who made it, but mostly of those who spoke on camera for things contrary to social beliefs”. The awarded director Barbara Miller sent the TDF a video message where -deeply moved for her two awards- she said: “It is an honor for us to receive the human rights award by Amnesty International, and WIFT GR’s award. It’s great. The fact that you recognize this film’s significance means that we are now able to hear the voices of women all over the world, and in awarding us you express solidarity admitting it is a crucial global matter”.
Subsequently, the WWF award for best film in the “Habitat” section was bestowed to Soyalism by Enrico Parenti and Stefano Liberti (Italy). The WWF jury consisted of Katerina Christofilidou (Journalist), Lefteris Fylaktos (Film Director) and Dimitris Karavellas (General Director WWF Greece). The award was presented by Mr Karavellas, who congratulated all participants and noted that “this year we had some excellent documentaries and I have to admit that the selection was hard. The winning documentary manages to showcase the absurdity of the global nutrition system and the over-consumption of meat and its consequences for nature and man, and send its own powerful messages for a number of critical environmental problems”.
It was the turn of Fischer Audience Awards for a Greek and a foreign film over and under 50’. Ioanna Stroubi, Senior Brand Manager at Fischer, who presented the award, said: “Fisher Audience Awards are once again here to support one of their favorite events. This year, the 227 films managed to connect us to reality, fascinate us with overwhelming realism, make us think about the heroes’ experiences, admire the life and works of great directors and once again single out tomorrow’s talents. We are very proud for supporting this celebration of the seventh art and helping the audience have a say, with their vote, in the films they were fascinated by. And we think this is one of the biggest pleasures in this festival. Exchanging ideas and finding the unique cinematic moments that make us feel something special. We have to thank the TDF crew for the excellent organization and for the fact that thanks to their special devotion each year, we are offered unique cinematic experiences. This year we had 174 films and it was really a pleasant surprise to see more than 22,300 votes”.
The Fischer Audience Award for a Greek film under 50’ went to The Canaries by Giorgos Kivernitis (Greece), who did not hide his emotions saying: “I made a film with no budget at all, an email came saying that I was accepted in the festival and now this. Thank you so much”. The Fischer Audience Award for a film under 50’ in the International Selection went to Yesterday/Tomorrow by Raúl Riebenbauer (Spain). The director thanked the TDF audience via a video message and dedicated the award to the memory of his recently deceased father, saying that both for himself and his crew “this documentary is a bright immigrant story full of empathy. Winning the audience award is great news. I am the son of two immigrants, Joaquin and Lote. I became an immigrant myself in the recent crisis. Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t hard for me to understand the Others. In fact, we all are the Others. The far-right does not want to accept this idea. Not even here. But we will keep telling them. We all are the Others”.
The Fischer Audience Award for a Greek film over 50’ went to The Band by Nikos Aslanidis (Greece). As the director said, “this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Pontic-Greek Genocide. The Band is our commemoration for the 300,000 victims of that genocide. I want to thank my partners for doing the best they could, Ivan Savvidis Foundation for funding the production, which would have been impossible to complete without their help, and most of all you, who watched the film, liked it and voted for it. I also want to say that to go forward we must look back”. And last, the Peter Wintonick Audience Award for a film over 50’ in the International Selection went to The Silence of Others by Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar (Spain).
Consequently, the Youth Jury Awards, selected by students in the Universities of Thessaloniki, were bestowed for Greek films in the international program segments. The jury, curated by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki professor Betty Kaklamanidou, comprised of AUTh students Magdalini Karabasi, Aspasia Angelou, Yannis Kozaris, Evangelia Danadaki, Apostolis Moustakas and Eleni Bouroutzika, who bestowed the Special Youth Jury Award to The Fig House by Pitzi Kampourouglou, noting that it is “a film about a burning issue in Greek society, viewed from the perspective of youth, very humorous and very humane”. The director thanked the audience upon receiving the award. In her turn, Magdalini Karabasi bestowed the Best Film Award to Make the Economy Scream by Aris Chatzistefanou (Greece), noting that it is “a well-informed documentary on a contemporary subject, which raises concerns and questions about the modern world”. Aris Chatzistefanou noted that “normally we say the names of all the people who helped us, but if I do such a thing I would finish in the morning; they are more than 700, because it’s a crowd funding production, and it’s thanks to them that this journey was made possible. However, I’d like to thank Aris Triantafyllou, Thanos Tsantas, Ermis Georgiadis, Myrto Symeonidis, and because in every documentary you steal some people’s lives, one of them is Katerina Kitidi, without whose assistance we would have done nothing”.
The Greek Film Critics Association (PEKK) award for a Greek film was bestowed to 4 Levels of Existence by Iliana Danezi (Greece). The award was presented by PEKK president Vassilis Kehayas, who explained that it goes to “a documentary which quickly avoids the pitfalls of conventional narrative to transform into a journey to time. From Greece in older times it takes us to modern Greece, highlighting the relationship between personal concessions and frustrations and our national adventure. It revives the atmosphere of those times, looks our country in the eyes and thrills us, ultimately leaving a leeway for optimism”. The director took the award saying that “I started this film on a difficult period of my life; for me, it was a restart point. I wanted to make a very optimistic film. History is made by companies of friends. I think I’m in a state of euphoric shock right now. The most important think I have to say to filmmakers is that no matter if you’re making a film with hardly the basics, or you are a housekeeper cooking beans, do it with love and passion. Many thanks to my crew”.
Consequently, the “Human Values” Award of the Hellenic Parliament for a film in the festival’s International Competition section was bestowed to In Touch by Paweł Ziemilski (Poland, Iceland). This year’s jury comprised of Kostas Dimos (Program Director), Aris Fatouros (Program Consultant) and Vassilis Douvlis (Film director). The award was presented by Anastasios Kourakis, Vice President of the Hellenic Parliament, who thanked the TDF, the filmmakers who participated, and Thessaloniki audience for promoting an event which sets trends, shapes thinking and raises questions, as he underlined. Mr Kourakis went on to add: “The Hellenic Parliament’s jury had a very difficult task for yet another year. All productions possessed those elements that boost the human message. Animals and respect of their stand-alone dimension, gender identity, the environment, life in times of war, interaction of human relations with technology, all these subjects inspired the productions we watched this year in the International Competition section. The richness and variety of these concerns proves that the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival is at the forefront and plays a part in giving shape to positive social representations. In this sense, ‘Human Values’ Award could be granted to all productions in the International Competition section”. The selected documentary highlights the historic dimension of human relations and how it acquires new meaning via the new technologies”.
Continuing with ERT Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Awards, the Director General of ERT3, Alexandros Kanter Bax, said among other things: “This ERT-TIFF/TDF relationship goes a long way back and its most important trait is quality. I would dare to say that these two are old friends. However, even old friends have to meet in order to find their pace and be updated on the basis of today’s needs. With that in mind, the ERT administration met today and had a comprehensive talk with festival’s management team. ERT has decided to include many specials on TIFF/TDF in its program from now on, not only for the 10-day festival periods, but also throughout the year”. As to the ERT Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Award, accompanied by the prize of 3,000 euros, it went to the Greek documentary over 50’ that won the Fischer Audience Award in the 21st Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, the film The Band by Nikos Aslanidis. The director was very happy to accept the award since, as he noted, “Alexandros Kanter Bax was co-directing the TV show I did with ERT for many years. Even though I don’t work there anymore, I still feel a part of ERT”. It is worth mentioning that ERT also sponsors a cash prize of 2,000 euros accompanying the Doc on Air Award, which is bestowed to the best project of the EDN Docs in Thessaloniki for an EDN international co-production that is judged by the EDN jury. This prize was bestowed this year to Intimate Outsiders by Roser Corella (Producer: Roser Corella, Ana Catalá, Moving Mountains Films, Germany).
Subsequently, the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Awards, whose jury comprised of Carolin Weidner (Germany), Žiga Brdnik (Slovenia) and Yannis Totonidis (Greece) were bestowed. Yannis Totonidis presented the FIPRESCI Award for the best Greek film participating in TDF’s international program sections to When Tomatoes Met Wagner by Marianna Economou, with the reasoning: “In a world striving to maximize the size and speed of production, and increase profits in any possible way, a former mathematician and a group of older women choose a totally different path: patience and Wagner. An honest and passionate approach, which however has to deal with the constant uproar, the demands and the madness in the global market. We want to award this film for its humor, its insistence on being optimistic and its activism, and also for its philosophical dimension and the vivid Greek color”. On her part, Mrs. Economou thanked the jury and the TDF saying that "this award belongs to the people in the small village of the film, a village of 33 people, and to all those who live in the countryside and cultivate land for us who live in the city”. Carolin Weidner went on to present the award for best film in the International Competition section to Advocate by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche, explaining the jury’s thinking: “This fascinating documentary shows us that in adverse political times we need tough and uncompromising fighters. Fighters like Jewish-Israeli Lea Tsemel, who we get to know through the quixotic struggles for the rights of Palestinians in Israeli courts, which function more as law enforcement instruments for the occupying forces than as temples of justice. The film is not just a political and activist act; it adopts a personal and human perspective, showing us what it means to handle each case with the same optimism and decisiveness even after fifty long years of battles lost. Just like Lea, this film gives us hope, a rare and absolutely necessary feeling”. The co-director of the film Rachel Leah Jones received the award and thanked the jury saying: “A week ago this film premiered here and Lea was warmly applauded in this room. Our only definitive judge is the audience. But it is definitively encouraging to take credits from critics too”.
Subsequently, the Greek Film Centre award, accompanied by a 3,000 euro prize, was bestowed to a debut documentary film over 50’ that premieres in the Greek Program section. The award was presented by GFC president Dimitris Papaioannou, who congratulated filmmakers for their work, thanked the TDF for the excellent collaboration and added that “we are all going to be here in autumn to celebrate the festival’s 60th anniversary”. The award went to the film Fossils by Panos Arvanitakis. Upon receiving the award, the director thanked the GFC, the TDF and the audience: “As an old member of TDF audience and now a participant, through my film, in this celebration, I have to say what I have lived so far is wonderful”.
The next in row was the Mermaid Award for the best LGBTQI+ documentary, a relatively new but important award, bestowed for the first time last November, during the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. The Mermaid Award jury of the 21st TDF was comprised of Eliana Abravanel (director, Greece), Miguel Ribeiro (programmer, Doc Lisboa, Portugal) and Vladan Petkovic (journalist/critic, Croatia). Besides the main award, the jury decided to give special mention to the film My Father Is My Mother’s Brother by Vadym Ilkov, Ukraine. The jury described it as a “very well-crafted documentary, an honest portrait of a special character, who manages to transform a tough family situation into a tender and very deep human relationship”. The Mermaid Award went to Irving Park by Panayotis Evangelidis, “a daring film both in its form and its content, a film with a special cinematic language which builds intimacy between the audience members and the protagonists, and highlights the disruptive role of queer cinema”. Panayotis Evangelidis received the award saying that “I didn’t know that such thing existed. It was last night that someone mentioned it to me and I thought it’s probably a mistake; Thessaloniki does not give awards like that. I was wrong, so I took it. Thank you. I dedicate it to my five protagonists: Jack, Lynn, Guy, Patrick and Greg”.
The ceremony went on with the award of the VR / Virtual Reality Films Competition section. The jury comprised of Areti Leopoulou (Curator, art historian, Greece), Olivier Semonnay (Sales agent, Java, France) and Syllas Tzoumerkas (Film director, Greece). The award, accompanied by a 3,000 euro prize, sponsored by the Greek Film Centre, was bestowed to Songbird by Lucy Greenwell (Denmark, UK). Areti Leopoulou, who presented the award on behalf of the jury, said that “we realized that one of the seven documentaries was a solid interactive VR experience. It is a film that, with use of simple, yet impressive graphics, makes us participate in the mourning for something that was lost forever. Its emotionally strong narration, script and pace make us really feel the fact that a live creature was the last of its kind before vanishing”.
Consequently, the International Jury Awards were bestowed for films in the International Competition section of the 21st TDF. The International Jury comprised of Ally Derks, (Founder and former Director IDFA, The Netherlands), Elizabeth Klinck (Visual Researcher, Canada), Sergi Doladé (Director MEDIMED, Spain), Panayotis Evangelidis (Film director, Scriptwriter, Translator, Greece) and Simon Lereng Wilmont (Film director, winner of Golden Alexander in last year’s TDF). Elizabeth Klink presented the Special Jury Award, accompanied by a 2,000 euro cash prize, for a film over 50’ in the International Competition Section, to the film Midnight Traveler by Hasan Fazili (USA, Qatar, Canada, United Kingdom). The jury thinking was that it is “an unconventional road movie that offers an insider view of the biggest crisis the world is facing today. The original use of three mobile phones for a number of years and under harsh conditions is a remarkable achievement”. The director had trouble with his passport, and due to the refugee status he is granted by the German government could not travel outside Germany to receive his award.
The Best Documentary - “Golden Alexander” Award, accompanied by an 8,000 euro cash prize, went to Advocate (Israel, Canada and Switzerland) by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche. The award was presented by Ally Derks and Panayotis Evangelidis who said that it is bestowed “to an integral film which draws strength from its characters. The film introduces to us an angry, yet optimistic Israeli lawyer who has dedicated her act in defending human rights, defying any obstacle and hardship, just like Don Quixote. A real phenomenon, she fights all her life for human rights”.
Advocate co-director, Rachel Leah Jones, received the award feeling very moved and said: “Orestis, Dimitris, Angeliki, Thanos and all members of the festival crew, thank you very much. Making this film put me out of my comfort zone. Not so much politically, since my work always questioned the mainstream narration, whether in society or in my family. Mainly regarding the content. I usually swim in the cool and calm waters of ‘cultural criticism’ and having to deal with laws, ethics, morality and resistance -not to mention violent resistance- made me at times feel like I was plunging into a whirlpool. Lea, our protagonist, is swimming against this tide for 50 years now. A documentary does not start or end with the start and end titles. In reality, a film which is not fiction is no less than a postcard, a crossroad meant to represent everything that happened before, and everything that might happen after. I’m a romantic and an idealist, that’s why I prefer black and white. However, reality has forced me to have critical thinking, so I actually know that we are talking about shades of gray. In Palestine there are victims who are also victimizers, in Israel victimizers who are also victims. Lea has made it a life mission not to close her eyes before this complex, unpleasant and painful reality. In that context, Martin Luther King’s famous saying that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ epitomizes perfectly her personal, political and professional reason of being. Anything she does is with a sense of responsibility towards the people that her own people have occupied, but also because she wants to. She wants to live, together with her children and grandchildren, in peace and quiet (whoever watched the film might be laughing now, since it is exactly what does not happen in Lea’s life). She wants the basics: a life without injustice, racism, oppression, repression, and the circle of violence these things initiate. Lea said the truth about power long before it became trendy, and she will continue to do so before fear manages to make it un-trendy. Therefore, she is a role model that we need to safeguard as best as we can in Israel, Palestine and elsewhere. I dedicate this award to her and all the 800,000 Palestinians who have been arrested, jailed and put to prison -with or without trial- since occupation began. Also, to about 800 underage Palestinians who were jailed last year only. And to my co-director Philippe Bellaiche, who everytime I get out of my comfort zone, seems ready to get into his. Philippe is currently at the Human Rights Festival of Geneva, that’s why he couldn’t be with us tonight”.
At the event’s closure, presenter Kostis Zafirakis made a special mention to the closing film of the 21st TDF and renewed the audience's rendezvous with the Festival for the 60th anniversary TIFF edition that will take place in November: “For the end we saved for you one of the year’s most exciting films; the documentary Maiden by Alex Holmes. Chronicle of a huge achievement and a hymn to woman’s will, Maiden reminds us why we love documentary: because it inspires us and gives us hope. Enjoy the film and see you again in the 60th Thessaloniki International Film Festival in November! The countdown has just begun!”.