Planning ahead for jam-packed festival

Wim Wenders is headlining the 47th Thessaloniki International Film Festival (TIFF), which is opening on November 17 with a screening of Stephen Frears’s award-winning «The Queen,» starring Helen Mirren, and closing on November 26 with the awards ceremony and a gala screening of Alain Resnais’s «Private Fears in Public Places.» Wenders will be present for a complete retrospective of his work, appearing after screenings for Q&A sessions with the audience, and for the inauguration of an exhibition of stills from his films by his wife Donata. The acclaimed German filmmaker will also be conducting a master class with Brazil’s Walter Salles, where the two directors will be discussing road movies. But there is a lot more in store for festival-goers this year that does not include the screening of over 300 films that make up the bill of this year’s enlarged event. Costa-Gavras will be there presenting his latest film, «Mon Colonel,» which he wrote and produced and which will be screened out of competition; Chinese master filmmaker Chen Kaige will give a master class and present his «The Emperor and the Assassin;» Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the subject of another tribute, will hold a press conference on his photography exhibition «Turkey Cinemascope: The World of Nuri Bilge Ceylan;» Lili Taylor of «Casa de los Babys,» «I Shot Andy Warhol» and «Pret-a-Porter,» among others, will deliver a master class on acting; screen beauties Emmanuelle Beart and Valeria Golino will present their latest films, «A Crime» and «Respiro,» respectively, while Sandrine Bonnaire attends a master class on «Adapting Literature for Cinema» conducted by her husband, scriptwriter Guillaume Laurent; and Juliette Lewis, the versatile actress of modern cult films such as «Cape Fear,» «Kalifornia» and «Natural Born Killers,» puts in an alternative pop appearance with her band Juliette and the Licks in a concert at the Milos nightclub on November 25. All this aside, there will be a lot of parallel events to look out for and some complicated movie watching schedules to be drawn up as the festival embraces four theaters at the Thessaloniki Pier complex (where the headquarters of the festival are located), the two Olympion cinemas on Aristotelous Square and three additional screens at various points in the city. The official program of the festival, drawn up by director Despina Mouzaki, comprises 14 first or second feature films by emerging directors. «This year, the International Competition section, perhaps more than ever, leans toward the adventure of narrative,» said Mouzaki at a recent press conference. «It creates a world of visual stories, which filmmakers from four continents believe they must tell at any cost.» A new addition to the festival lineup is a section titled Focus, which this year is on «Teenage Lust/Teenage Angst» and features 12 films centered on the subject of adolescence. Following this contemporary note, there is also a tribute on «New Cinema from China: Another View,» comprising 22 films highlighting the lesser-known aspects of mainland Chinese cinema production. Another country that will be put in the spotlight is Brazil, with a homage composed of 18 titles including classics and more recent productions. Film critic Lefteris Adamidis is again this year heading the Independence Days section of the festival, viewed by many as the most interesting in terms of giving guests at the festival a taste of what is happening on the ever-involving indie scene of world cinema. Featuring over 40 titles, ID 06, as the section has been dubbed, will be giving a 15,000-euro Human Values Award, sponsored by Vouli, the Greek Parliament’s television station. Last year’s recipient of the award was Gavin Hood for «Tsotsi,» a film from South Africa that went on to win an Oscar for best foreign-language film. As part of ID 06, there is also a tribute to the Czech «Alchemist of the Surreal,» Jan Svankmajer, with screenings of his five features and all his short films, as well as an exhibition of his art work titled «Imaginative Eye, Imaginative Hand,» which also includes several pieces created by his late wife Eva Svankmajerova. On November 20, Svankmajer and his producer, Jaromir Kallista, will hold an open discussion with the public at the Olympion’s Pavlos Zannas theater, after which he will be presented with a Golden Alexander for his contribution to cinema. Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako is another of the section guests and the award-winning director will be available for questions after the screening of his latest drama «Bamako» on November 18. His 2002 film «Waiting for Happiness» was awarded the Certain Regard prize from the FIPRESCI international film critics’ union jury in Cannes. On the Greek front, the festival annually showcases the local productions of the year. For 2006, the program brings together 18 full-length fiction films and four documentaries, as well as the short films that were awarded at the Drama Short Film Festival. Another new feature this year – this one confined to Greek cinema – is DigitalWave. Organized by director Thanos Anastasopoulos, this competitive program is reserved for films shot with a whole gamut of modern technology ranging from mobile telephones to high-definition digital video. The Greek program will also feature a series of films on «Immigration in Greek Cinema (1956-2006),» which includes Alexis Damianos’s «To The Ship,» Lefteris Xanthopoulos’s documentary «The Greek Community on Heidelberg,» Alexis Grivas’s «750,000,» Constantine Yiannaris’s «From the Edge of the City» and more. Finally, there will be tributes to Greek filmmakers Stavros Tsiolis and Demos Theos.

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