Zooming in on global issues

Thessaloniki – Globalization, the numerous unresolved problems plaguing the African continent and the politics of violence may be issues that are addressed in the media, but at the Eighth Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival – Images of the 21st Century, run by director Dimitris Eipides, the films that are to be screened look at the human factors underlying these issues. For 10 days (March 10-19) and in 185 films, documentary makers from around the globe will shed light on the personal stories and issues that the media normally put on the back burner: AIDS, illiteracy, exploitation, poverty, suicide bombings and terrorism, with the focus on individuals, events and stories from everyday life. The contemporary reality of our global society will be put on view at the Olympion Cinema in Aristotelous Square and the movie theaters of the port complex. The screenings program will also be complemented by round-table discussions and seminars addressing «the essence of living in the modern world,» according to Despina Mouzaki, director of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, of which the documentary festival is an independent part. The festival will open with «Smiling in a War Zone – And the Art of Flying in Kabul» by Denmark’s Simone Aaberg Kaern and Magnus Bejmar, and there are many events and tributes of note. Among them are a two-film focus on Denmark’s Jon Bang Carlsen (who will attend the festival); seven films by British filmmaker Kim Longinoto, who will also be in town to deliver a master class; a tribute to the Greek investigative journalism television show «Exantas,» showing 10 episodes from the work done by Costas Avgeropoulos; and, last, but not least, a three-day workshop on digital technology given by Canadian director, documentary producer and political activist Peter Wintonick. Among the many guests who will be present at the festival, one name of note is Vandana Shiva from India, an environmental activist, nuclear physicist and writer dubbed «the queen of anti-globalization.» She will be on the panel of a one-day discussion on March 13 on «Globalization: An Alternative Proposition.» Her actions against globalization and multinational corporations are the subject of the Swedish documentary «Bullshit» by Pea Holmquist and Suzanne Khardalian. «Commune of Bliss» is the title of Klaus Stanjeck’s German/Canadian production which turns the camera lens on a community of people of German origin living in Canada. The members of this community preserve their language and traditions, and reject the use of modern technologies in a stand against globalization. Another unit in the festival is «Africa: Unresolved Issues,» which includes the film «War Hospital» by Canada’s David Christensen and Damien Lewis, in which they show the inner workings of the biggest war hospital to operate in the world in the past 18 years, focusing on the Red Cross doctors and the work they are doing with victims of the civil war in Sudan. The «Politics of Violence» section analyzes the war in Chechnya and the Palestinian issue with films such as Eric Bergkraut’s «Coca, the Dove from Chechnya,» and Steven Silver and Andrew Quigley’s «Diameter of the Bomb,» in which they single out one of the 70-odd suicide bombers of the past five years. Greek documentaries seem to be doing particularly well this year, with 78 entries as opposed to last year’s 64. The festival’s «Open Screen» section is dedicated to Greek documentaries.