Jim Jarmusch, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Turkish filmmaker Zeki Demirkubuz and local soccer club PAOK are just some of the stars of this year’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival. The program for its 57th edition (November 3-11) is out and there is a new crew running the show, headed by general director Elise Jalladeau, a French film producer, and artistic director Orestis Andreadakis, a Greek film critic.
The curtain will rise on Thursday, November 3, at the flagship Olympion cinema, with Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson,” which premiered at Cannes and tells the tale of a New Jersey bus driver who seeks solace in writing poetry before every shift. Jarmusch has a double bill this year, as the festival will also be showing his documentary “Gimme Danger” on influential singer-songwriter Iggy Pop, who helped collect the material for the film, and punk pioneers the Stooges. During a press conference at the prestigious French film festival, Jarmusch said this is no ordinary music documentary, but a love letter.
The section Greek Film Panorama, a feature on the roster for decades, has been renamed Greek Film Festival in a bid to put more emphasis on domestic productions. While the films in this section by law cannot compete for a cash prize, there will be audience and critics awards. One of the most highly anticipated entries is a documentary by late filmmaker Nikos Triandafyllidis, “90 Years of PAOK: Nostalgia for the Future.” A fan of the Thessaloniki soccer team since he was a boy, Triandafyllidis managed to wrap up filming before succumbing to cancer at the age of 49 earlier this year.
The Greek program includes almost every 2016 domestic production: 26 feature-length films (15 being shown for the first time and three of which are by overseas Greeks), five shorts and also the award winners from the 39th Drama Short Film Festival.
The International Competition, focusing on films by first-time directors, meanwhile, always includes some interesting surprises, but the true soul of the festival has always dwelt in the parallel programs, in New Horizons and tributes that acquainted the public with new filmmakers or gave us the opportunity to make a comprehensive assessment of an artist’s or a region’s output.
Open Horizons, as New Horizons is now known, offers a plethora of images and scenes. To mention but a few from this year’s screenings, “The Girl Without Hands” is an animated take on the Grimm brothers’ tale by Sebastien Laudenbach about a father who makes a deal with the devil in exchange for his daughter’s hands. Ira Sachs’s “Little Men” looks at teenagers’ violent transition into adulthood, while “La mort de Louis XIV” by Albert Serra finds veteran actor Jean-Pierre Leaud in the role of the French monarch.
Of particular interest is a tribute titled “Two or Three Things I Know About Her,” which explores stereotypes attached to women in different roles but also in different cultures in five films from as many countries. The notion of a dialogue between films lies behind “Mirror/Image,” which comprises six pairs of films. The documentary “Kate Plays Christine” by Robert Greene, for example, is paired with the fictional “Christine” by Antonio Campos, both of which are about American news reporter Christine Chubbuck, who killed herself during a live broadcast in 1974. The romantic comedy-drama “Barakah Meets Barakah” by Mahmoud Sabbagh and Rama Burshtein’s “Through the Wall” look at conflict through sexual desire and religion, while “Un Juif pour l’exemple” by Jacob Berger and “Last Chance” by Leopold Lindtberg comment on Switzerland’s neutral stance during World War II.
The Thessaloniki festival will also host films that have already been screened at other major events and will be shown at mainstream Greek cinemas over the winter season.
Asghar Farhadi’s “The Salesman,” for example, is an Iranian take on Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman,” while in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s drama “The Unknown Girl,” a doctor seeks the identity of a patient who dies, and in the thriller “Personal Shopper” by Olivier Assayas, a young women tries to reach out to her dead brother. The UK’s Terence Davies brings us a biography of American poet Emily Dickinson in “A Quiet Passion,” in which the lead is played by Cynthia Nixon of “Sex and the City” fame; in “The Untamed” by Amat Escalante (Silver Lion in Venice), a husband and wife in a Mexican backwater come face to face with an alien presence; and in “Swiss Army Man,” a comedy drama by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, a shipwrecked man befriends a dead body.
Three more exciting sections in this year’s festival are the retrospective on Turkish filmmaker Zeki Demirkubuz and tributes to two relatively unknown filmmakers, Leonardo Favio from Argentina and France’s Philippe Grandrieux.
Demirkubuz and Nuri Bilge Ceylan are regarded as the fathers of New Turkish Cinema. Demirkubuz was born in 1964 and jailed at the age of 17 for alleged communist activities. He discovered Dostoyevsky in prison and the Russian writer was to have an important influence on his later directorial work. The tribute comprises 11 films by this inspired director, including the Greek-Turkish production “Destiny.”
Favio (1938-2012) was a multifaceted artist – composer, singer, actor and filmmaker – who wrote ballads that were extremely popular in his native Argentina. He was born in a rural part of the country and spent part of his childhood in a reform school. Radio, where he managed to start his career as an actor, gave him his first ray of light. A few years later, he went into film and soon acquired a reputation as an Argentinean James Dean. Eight films by the self-taught director will be screened.
Grandrieux, who will be in Thessaloniki to present his work to the audience, has a background in documentaries and video art. The tribute to his work comprises seven films.
For more about this year’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival, check out the website: www.filmfestival.gr.