The time die-hard cine-philes have been waiting for has finally arrived. Following 10 days of frantic screenings and deliberations, the International Jury of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival has reached its verdict. In a statement to the press, the jury said: In watching these films by new directors, we were struck by certain themes – exile, dislocation and political divisions, reflecting a world in turmoil, which were well expressed in the Turkish film ‘The Photograph,’ the Italian film ‘Sailing Home’ and the French, ‘As A Man.’ In all the films, we were impressed by many marvelous performances and the passionate engagement of directors with their subject matter. We also appreciated the wit and humor that threaded through many of the selections. On the whole, content was stronger than form and there was an absence of poetic cinema. Lastly, we noted that while many of the male characters were weak, feckless or alcoholic, the women were full of fire, intelligence and love, thus accurately reflecting society today. The jury, which had a choice of 16 films, bestowed the top award, the Golden Alexander, accompanied by a cash prize of 12.5 million drachmas, upon Tirana Year Zero, an Albanian, French and Belgian coproduction directed by Fatmir Koci. Relating the tragic events of 1997 in Albania, Tirana Year Zero expresses the inner conflict of a young man caught between following his dreams and his beloved to a better life and remaining in his homeland to work for and build a future. The second prize, the Silver Alexander, carrying a cash prize of 7.5 million drachmas, was awarded to Late Marriage, an Israeli/French production directed by Dover Kosashvili which looks at the norms governing marriage in traditional Georgian society. Late Marriage also reaped the Best Screenplay Award and one of two Best Actress awards for Ronit Elkabetz’s interpretation of her role. The second Best Actress award surprisingly went to Mayu Ozawa for her lead role in the Japanese film by Eiji Okuda, An Adolescent. The Best Director and Artistic Achievement awards were bestowed upon Taiwan’s Hsiao Ya-Chuan for Mirror Image – a film where fate, personal choice and random circumstances are examined as the driving forces in a young man’s life – while the Best Actor Award was shared between Alexandru Papadopol for Stuff and Dough by Romania’s Cristi Puiu, and Vik Kostic for Absolute Hundred by Yugoslav Srdan Golubovic. In a second leg of award-giving that took place yesterday morning, the International Association of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) – chaired by Britain’s David Robinson, France’s Claude Baigneres, Irina Coroiu from Romania, Eva Novrup-Redvall from Denmark and Greece’s Costas Terzis – awarded the prize for a film in the competition to Stuff and Dough for, according to the association, its imaginative use of minimal resources to make a film that is intelligent, entertaining and socially perceptive. Its prize for a film in the parallel section went to Iranian Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Kandahar, The Sun Behind the Moon, a film in the New Horizons section that relates the journey of a young woman through modern-day Afghanistan, for a visionary, poetic, yet unsparing revelation of human suffering in conflict-torn Afghanistan. FIPRESCI also gave a special mention to Andreas Pantzis’s Word of Honor, a Greek, Cypriot and French production competing in the Greek film section for the range and depth of its thought, the humor of its symbolism and the handling of its epic structure. The FIPRESCI jury also stated that they were impressed by the variety and high level of the best films in this year’s Greek selection. Another round of awards was given by the audience itself, who have the opportunity to express their preferences as they exit movie theaters in a poll conducted by Dewar’s, who also accompany each award with a million-drachma prize. The most popular film in the International Competition among the festival’s visitors this year was Srdan Golubovic’s Absolute Hundred, in the Greek Competition it was The Only Journey of His Life by Lakis Papastathis, while their favorite documentary was Athanassios Christopoulos, A Forgotten Poet by Stamatis Tsarouchas. Other Greek films to receive awards in these parallel award ceremonies that culminate tonight for Greek films, were One Day in August by Constantine Giannaris and Still Looking for Morphine by Yiannis Fagras, who received high praise from the Greek Film Critics Association, and Ghost of a Chance by Vangelis Seitanidis, which was voted as having the best original screenplay by the Hellenic Association of Playwrights. All that is left now, as the 42nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival draws to a close, is to see which of the 30 Greek entries this year will receive the State Awards tonight. Food for the mind and soul As the Thessaloniki International Film Festival wrapped up 10 days of frantic film-showing, parallel events and social functions, local and foreign film buffs were left with the pleasant sense that such events were food for the mind and soul. It seemed that half of Athens had flocked to the charming northern city over the weekend, inundating the port’s art complex with the latest winter chic. Last year’s International Jury president and director guest of honor, Jerzy Skolimowsky, darted into Warehouse B for a quick tour of the stunning photography exhibition of film director Jerry Schatzberg, famous for his portraits of such stars as Catherine Deneuve, Claudia Cardinale, Roman Polanski and Bob Dylan, among others, while British director John Boorman, director and president of this year’s International Jury, conducted a fascinating master class in film direction in Warehouse C. Instructing blossoming filmmakers to apply method to their work, and making suggestions on how to make films efficiently, Boorman also related several anecdotes about other great directors such as Kurosawa and Kubrick in order to highlight the vast differences in methodology among filmmakers. The festival also organized a two-day conference on digital cinema, screening films that have been produced and processed electronically and providing specialist insight into the analysis of the new possibilities digital technology offers. Like those before it, this year’s festival was also about creating a forum in which Greece’s art world can come together and meet its foreign counterparts, as much as it was about highlighting some of Greece’s important cultural features. As such, it featured several important tributes to Greek artists such as the late film director Stavros Tornes. Thirteen years after his death, the festival succeeded, for the first time ever, to present a full portrait of the artist with a retrospective of his oeuvre, including classics such as Theraic Dawn (1967), Farewell Anatolia (1976), Coatti (1977), Karkalou (1984) and A Heron for Germany (1987). Another Greek filmmaker featured this year was Dinos Demopoulos. Dubbed the gentleman of popular cinema, Demopoulos worked in the heyday of Greek film, the 1950s and ’60s, with local industry giant Finos Films, making a stunning 498 films that launched stars such as Jenny Karezi, Sophia Vembo, Mimis Fotopoulos and Alekos Alexandrakis, and experimenting in all film genres from comedies to melodramas – creating, in a sense, a Greek cinematic language that is still evident in local production. In cooperation with the film festival, Kastaniotis Press has published two monographs on the works of Tornes and Demopoulos, as well as a book on Greek director Theo Angelopoulos. Actress Despo Diamandidou, one of the leading personalities of the Greek National Theater who made her big debut in Jules Dassin’s Ilia Darling alongside Melina Mercouri at the Mark Helinger Theater in Broadway, was also honored last Thursday, appearing on stage to receive an award.