Globalization, Africa and politics of violence

A former Serb paramilitary’s delight in murder, the surreal encounters of an Indonesian sulfur miner and exhausted Chinese workers who use clothespins to keep their drooping eyelids open. These are fragments of some of the films from the 8th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, which commenced on Friday. In its 10-day run, the festival will feature 185 movies – 97 foreign and 88 Greek productions – from over 30 countries. Organizers are generally upbeat about visitors this year. More than 20,000 people are expected to crowd the screenings and the various sideshows. A record 400 films are included in this year’s documentary market that has drawn some 45 prospective buyers from big international networks. In a vintage year for political cinema from the Berlinale to Hollywood, the annual Thessaloniki festival is living up to its reputation for hard-hitting images with poverty, injustice, exploitation and conflict brought to the big screen. It’s a disquieting if anticipated mix as the special themes for this year are globalization, Africa and the politics of violence. «A Decent Factory,» by Thomas Balmes, explores corporate dilemmas in the age of outsourcing. The French documentarian follows Nokia, the Finnish cellphone giant, as it decides to audit one of its Asian suppliers using a newly hired ethics and environmental specialist. The aim is to examine whether corporations can fulfill their mission, i.e. to make money, without losing their heart. A similar take on the downside of business-led globalization is Micha Peled’s «China Blue,» a clandestine look at China’s sweatshops, which documents a 16-year-old’s journey away from home to work for a denim factory that overworks and underpays. Who makes our daily bread? Austrian director Nikolaus Geyrhalter («Our Daily Bread») takes a close look at the food on our kitchen table: how and where it’s grown and processed before reaching the consumer. «Bullshit» profiles environmental activist Vandana Shiva, in town for the festival, and her worldwide struggle against corporate-led globalization. Violence at its purest is examined by Danish director Ove Nyholm. His film essay «The Anatomy of Evil» features interviews with executioners from Germany’s WWII army and the Balkan wars of the 1990s in an effort to decipher the forces that push ordinary people to commit mass murder and genocide. On top of the screenings there are a number of special events and courses by masters of the craft. After hosting a lecture yesterday by renowned British filmmaker Kim Longinotto, who is paid tribute here with seven movies, the festival is holding a master class tomorrow by Jon Bang Carlsen, one of the pioneers of Danish documentary filmmaking, as well as a three-day workshop on digital production by Canadian producer, director and social activist Peter Wintonick, creator of «Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media.»