CULTURE

Short films focus on immigrants

Seen as the heroes of the 21st century’s new social reality, immigrants were at the center of Greek and foreign filmmakers’s creative attention during the Fifth Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. Ukrainian-born Irina Boiko shared the 12,000-euro first prize in the competition with Greece’s Katerina Patroni, for «Yparhoun Liodaria stin Ellada?» (Are There Lions in Greece?) and «Me ta Matia Strammena sti Steria» (Looking at the Mainland), respectively. Giorgos Zervas won second prize (6,000 euros) for his short «Mou Lene na mi se Agapo» (They Tell Me Not to Love You), while Thodoros Kalesis was awarded third prize (3,000 euros) for «Freddy,» a documentary on a 15-year-old Albanian immigrant who earns a living dressed as Santa Claus or a clown. «Are There Lions in Greece?» asks a character in Anton Chekhov’s «Wedding Proposal,» and receives the following reply: «In Greece, there is everything!» Both question and answer inspired 30-year-old Ukrainian Boiko to make a film about the thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet bloc who come to Greece looking for their own lions. Do they find them in the end? «That is a question they usually ask themselves, setting their own targets. Some do, while others keep on looking. Personally, I found my own lions and I’m already looking for new ones,» said the director. Boiko first came to Greece eight years ago and, while taking seasonal jobs, completed directorial and theater studies at the University of Kiev, as well as a private school for direction and cinema in Athens. With a little bit of money, a friend’s camera and video tapes offered by friends, Boiko shot her first documentary, «The Crabs.» Her second short was shot in the same way, based on the idea of the immigrant. «I didn’t want to make yet another film about immigrants, but instead to put across their stance on life in a society they found themselves living in overnight,» said the director. «I was interested in showing their efforts to adjust and to prove that back in their homeland they had a social position. They were – and still are – people. And that takes a lot of strength.» Other awards included that for new director, awarded to Vassilis Vassiliadis for «The Dance of the Sponge-Divers,» while the 3,000-euro Dewars Prize went to Alex Halpern’s «Nine Good Teeth.» The Fipresci Awards went to Hady Abu Assad for «Ford Transit» and Kyriakos Katzourakis for «The Road to the West.»