Mexican filmmaker Jose Alvarez's “Canicula,” a study of the Totonac settlement in Veracruz's Zapotal Santa Cruz community, swept the top honors at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, which wraps up its 14th edition on Sunday.
The 72-minute feature was awarded the first prize by the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI), who praised its “lyrical and cinematographic depiction” of this American Indian population in east-central Mexico.
“Worming its way into the everyday life of the Totonac people in close-ups and sounds, and with admirable narrative restraint, the film places the quotidian and extraordinary facets of this ancient culture side by side,” the jury said in a statement on Saturday.
The same jury gave its top prize for a Greek documentary to Nikos Dayandas's “Sayome,” a portrait of a Japanese-born woman who visits her homeland for the first time after 35 years on the Greek island of Crete. Grappling with issues of migration, difference and identity, Dayandas's documentary was described by the jury as “sensitive and intelligent.”
Meanwhile, the audience award for a foreign documentary with a length of over 45 minutes went to “Italy, Love It Or Leave It,” a film by Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi that documents the two friends' sentimental journey in an old Fiat 500 through the Mediterranean country while exposing the duality of contemporary Italy. Canadian documentarist and experimental filmmaker Philippe Baylaucq collected the audience award for best foreign film of under 45 minutes for his dance piece “Ora.”
The first prize for a Greek film over 45 minutes went to Angelos Kovotsos's “Encardia, the Dancing Stone,” which follows a Greek band inspired by the rich musical tradition of southern Italy. Stratis Vogiatzis and Thekla Malamou grabbed the audience award for a local production under 45 minutes with their well-crafted “The Blind Fisherman.”
Despite economic difficulties, organizers of the 10-day festival this year managed to bring together some 185 films -- including 75 local productions -- from more than 40 countries.