Film on rebetiko diva Roza Eskenazi raises TDF curtain

Roy Sher’s ?My Sweet Canary,? a film about legendary Jewish rebetiko singer Roza Eskenazi, will open the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival on Friday.

Famous for her poignant, slightly coquettish voice, Eskenazi emerged in the 1920s to make a name in the male-dominated world of rebetiko, an urban-folk style of music (sometimes described as Greece’s answer to the blues), whose lyrics echoed the zeitgeist of the time: pain, sorrow and drug addiction.

Born in Turkey in the late 19th century, Eskenazi moved between Istanbul, Thessaloniki, Athens and Piraeus, before dying in 1980. Sher, an Israeli filmmaker in his early 30s, follows the journey of three musicians in search of the enigmatic diva’s life and legacy.

Now in its 13th year, the festival will extend over 10 days and seven theaters, including the main Olympion and Pavlos Zannas theaters on Aristotelous Square and the industrial port complex with its old red-brick warehouses-turned-cinemas.

Organizers have this year booked about 220 productions originating from over 50 different countries. Topping the familiar fare of hard-hitting pictures delving into topics such as the environment, conflict and human rights, this year will see the introduction of two interesting segments: a timely ?Middle East? section, featuring eight recent productions, and a 30-strong package of documentaries dealing with the subject of mental and developmental retardation dubbed ?How I Am: Challenging Perceptions.?

Film buffs can also look forward to tributes to Belarus-born director Sergei Loznitsa, known for his historical documentaries that draw on rare footage from the archives of the Soviet Union, and leading Czech filmmaker Helena Trestikova, known for her marathon observational documentaries.

Some 50 Greek productions are showing this year, including a tribute to homegrown humanitarian director Kyriaki Malama.

As usual, visitors can expect to be treated to a rich selection of master classes, discussions and parallel events, while filmmakers will be given an opportunity to pitch their projects to a panel of local and overseas commissioning editors, buyers and other funders.

The festival wraps up on Sunday, March 20.

For a full list of dates and venues, log on to

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