CULTURE

Doc fest wraps up with awards, high attendance

Sophia Tzavella’s ?Paradise Hotel? (Hotel Rei), a film about the life of Roma families in a communist-era tower block on the outskirts of a Bulgarian provincial town, swept the top honors at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival that wrapped up its 13 edition on Sunday.

The 58-minute documentary, which depicts the efforts of some 1,500 residents to revive their bygone dream of a socialist heaven, was awarded the first prize by the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) which also gave its top prize for a Greek film to Kalliopi Legaki’s ?Only the Words Continue,? a mosaic of confessions made by patrons of the Dassein bar in Athens’s Exarchia district.

?The festival?s goal is always geared toward the audience,? festival director Dimitri Eipides said during the closing ceremony at a packed Olympion theater late Saturday.

?We want to see our theaters filling up, because today documentaries are more than ever a necessity. We are all shaken by current developments; and this festival aims to address our concerns; it constitutes a hopeful effort to move and motivate people,? Eipides said.

Organizers said some 54,000 people flocked to the festival theaters this year, about 20 percent more than the year before.

The audience award for a foreign film with a length of over 45 minutes went to ?Tears of Gaza,? Norwegian Vikebe Lokkeberg’s controversial film on Israel’s raid on Gaza in 2008-09, while Turkey’s Nefin Dinc collected the audience award for a foreign film under 45 minutes for ?The Other Town? which explores the role of stereotypes in perpetuating widespread mistrust between Greece and Turkey.

The audience award for a Greek film over 45 minutes went to ?Alma Bonita? by Vivi Zografou and Alexis Ponse. Marianna Astraka and Yiorgos Fotiadis grabbed the audience award for a local production under 45 minutes for their ?Satsang, Sitting by the Truth.?

More than 223 productions from over 52 different countries were screened during the annual 10-day event.