Tatoulis vague on cinema’s future

Lackluster applause, a half-empty Thessaloniki Concert Hall and tedious, prattling speeches marked the State Quality Awards ceremony that ended the Greek leg of the Thessaloniki Film Festival on Monday night, as if underlining one of the worst, most uninspired years in the recent history of Greek cinema. With the exception of Pantelis Voulgaris’s «Brides» – which received 10 awards, including the top prize – this year’s fictional films made it abundantly clear that Greek cinema needs not only new ideas, subjects and screenplays, but also systematic support at an institutional level. On the one hand, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis, in his rather vague presence at the festival, made it clear that his ministry would push forward with drastic changes in the field but failed to explain just how broad and deep these changes would be. [Recent press reports have made allegations that festival director Michel Demopoulos’s seat is under threat, while there have also been rumors to the effect that the festival’s international character is also at risk as pressure from domestic cinema circles to make the Thessaloniki event all-Greek once again are mounting.] The deputy culture minister stated that he was «awed and honored to stand before the most bright and visionary professionals in the country» (that was during the opening ceremony on November 21) and later he spoke of a journey and likened Greek cinema to «a hearty boat» (at the state awards ceremony). Between flattery and poetic flair, Tatoulis failed to make his position clear. And when some members of the audience interceded to point out the course he ought to take (chanting out «money, money»), he smiled cryptically and went on undaunted. The only member of the official Greek delegation to the festival to state his position clearly and to commit to «promoting and supporting Greek cinema and its artists» was the president of ERT Greek state broadcasting, Christos Panagopoulos. As for the president of the Greek Film Center, Diagoras Chronopoulos opted for the diplomatic route by referring to «the presence of Greek cinema abroad.» The final word belonged to the evening’s award-winner, Pantelis Voulgaris: «The new generation of filmmakers must be supported… What would be cool would be if we were also making films without money,» an insinuation that first-time directors can find ways to do something qualitative and meaningful if they really want to.