Thessaloniki drawing the crowds

If audience participation is the measure of an event’s success, then the 47th Thessaloniki International Festival has kicked off with the best of omens. The movie theaters are jam-packed, tickets are selling out fast and the public appears to be interested in active participation more than any other year. Does this mark the rebirth of a long-lost group spirit? Or is it due to filmmaker Costa-Gavras, who, in his first-ever appearance at the festival, managed to bring together public press and artists, and even Greek President Karolos Papoulias? «I am honored, Mr President,» Costa-Gavras said by way of welcome to Papoulias at the Olympion Theater on Sunday evening for the screening of Laurent Herbiet’s «Mon colonel,» which Costa-Gavras wrote and produced. «The honor is mine,» replied Papoulias, who arrived at the theater accompanied by Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis. The audience’s warm applause meant more than just your usual reception. «Politics is the way in which we live in society,» the acclaimed director said at his master class on Monday. Yesterday, Wim Wenders and Walter Salles were due to follow with their own analyses of their approaches to cinema. And while this informal meeting of great artists in Thessaloniki reveals that their greatest concern is the future of the art of cinema and the challenge of digital technology, Greek cinema (with the exception of a handful of new directors) seems unwilling to put its ear to the ground and take in the message of the times. The John Cassavetes movie theater at the Thessaloniki pier was filled to the brim yesterday for Costa-Gavras’s master class, where the filmmaker answered questions about the future of digital cinema as well as his own take on social and political cinema. In response to Thessaloniki International Film Festival director Despina Mouzakis’s comments on the digital distribution of films, Costa-Gavras said: «The Americans are already using satellite phones for this and some 30-40 percent of their movie theaters are equipped to screen digital films. But this American advancement gives it a hegemony over the industry which is of concern because there is the danger that it will designate what films are shown and for how long. Inevitably, small independent theaters will be at risk because of the financial cost of this changeover,» he said. «Digital film is a real revolution,» Costa-Gavras continued. «And, like every revolution, it has its upside and its downside. Every new technique, every change, alters the aesthetic and the way we produce and watch movies. The colors in digital cinema resemble the old technicolor. A new aesthetic is being created which we may really like in the future. But I am not one of those people who will argue that my times were better. Change is good. When we did ‘Z,’ we had no money. We would put the camera in a box and cover it with a duvet. It doesn’t matter what type of camera you use; it matters what you put in front of it.» Costa-Gavras came down very hard on television, arguing that it was playing a very poor educational role: «What I am afraid of is that the audience is beginning to think that what television shows is good. We live in a society full of images, so it is important for people to able to see what is behind them. Schools must give lessons in cinema, not in order to change the audience, but in order to have a more aware audience.» P. PANAGOPOULOS

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