Film buffs happy as jury keeps mum

THESSALONIKI – In its sixth day yesterday, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival was packed with events and surprises, and, of course, myriad films covering every imaginable topic, style and length. Running until Sunday, for the foreign films, and Monday, for the Greek competition, it still has a lot up its sleeve. The dockside complex that houses the core of the festival’s activities is teeming with visitors from every corner of Greece and the globe, eagerly jostling in line among well-known Greek film and theater personalities, film critics, journalists, socialites and ordinary cinephiles to secure a seat at the next hot screening. Speculations on who will, in the end, receive the much-coveted Golden and Silver Alexanders fly wildly and fluctuate as each new release hits the screens, at times even causing heated debates among friends over coffee in Warehouse G’s pleasantly packed bar. Even the weather seems to have succumbed to the excitement of the times, driving moviegoers indoors with brief showers and then enticing them to lounge around the Port Authority’s facilities with brilliant bursts of sunshine. In the midst of it all, and where it really matters, lies the harried International Jury. Presided over by the eminent British director John Boorman, the six-member panel appeared exhausted, yet managed to stay amusing at yesterday’s press conference. We had a meeting this morning and after the ambulance arrived to take some of the members off to hospital because a fight broke out between us, we are ready, said Boorman, setting the tone at the start of the conference. The International Jury, who will pick two films out of 15 for the two top prizes of the festival, is composed of Eduardo Antin, an Argentinean film critic and theorist who is also president of the Buenos Aires Film Festival; Yiannis Kokkos, the renowned Greek stage director; Pavel Pawlikowski, a Polish director working in England and the winner of last year’s Golden Alexander for Last Resort; Yugoslav actress Ana Sofrenovic; Turkish film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan; and Greek writer Soti Triantafyllou. Unable to reveal any details of what they have discussed about the films they have seen to date, the jury was restricted to generalizations. One trend they have discerned so far is a tendency in new filmmakers to examine topics related to migrants. Most of the films I have seen at the festival, in and out of competition, talk not just about people (the heroes) who have gone to other countries, but also about people who have lost their personal sense of orientation in their own countries. This is a subject which is very current and very important, said Kokkos. What are they looking for? We want to see that someone really wanted to make this film, not just any film, said Antin. The jury argued that they try to see the films as regular viewers first and then as judges. The process behind closed doors, they admitted, can often become rather heated. We have all sorts of alliances; sometimes it’s the women against the men, other times it’s a question of different generations, explained Pawlikowski. It changes, though, with every new film we see, added Sofrenovic. What happens to juries very often when they are sequestered, said Boorman, is that alliances form and power shifts; one group passionate about one film, another passionate about another. Very often what happens is that they all choose a third film no one likes as a compromise. It would be so much easier if we just sent the other six home and I just did it myself.

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