Exciting indies at Thessaloniki

A Japanese filmmaker, a Malaysian advertising executive and director, a Korean filmmaker and politician, an American New Wave artist and yet another new trend to emerge from the United States form the basis of the Independence Day section of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, November 16-25. Japan’s Mikio Naruse (1905-1969) is the star of Independence Day, a filmmaker about whom Akiro Kurosawa once said, «In the films of Naruse, a flow of shots that looks calm and ordinary at first glance reveals itself to be like a deep river with a quiet surface disguising a fast-raging current.» Naruse, sometimes dubbed the «unknown Japanese master,» made a total of 87 films, culminating with his swan song «Scattered Clouds.» Yasmin Ahmad, born in 1958, is one of a generation of Malaysian filmmakers who are trying to show the modern face of the country through their work by turning their lens on the charming contradictions of a multiracial society. Ahmad will be in Thessaloniki as a member of the international competition jury. Ahmad’s films have been screened at the Berlin, San Francisco, Singapore and Paris international film festivals. Her films were featured in a special retrospective at the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival in October 2006. The latest film by Korea’s Lee Chang-dong, «Secret Sunshine,» received the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The 53-year-old filmmaker is also a playwright and novelist, and also served as minister of culture and tourism in 2003-2004. From the American front, New York City filmmaker Amos Poe is one of the most emblematic figures of the American New Wave and is considered one of the first punk filmmakers. Poe, like his contemporaries, Jim Jarmusch, Abel Ferrara and Richard Kern, drew his material from B-movies, the avant-garde and the French nouvelle vague to build the foundations of the American indie scene. In 1975, Poe produced, edited and directed (together with Ivan Kral) «Blank Generation,» a musical documentary hailed as the absolute American punk film and featuring such icons as Patti Smith, Blondie, the Ramones and Talking Heads in live performances at the legendary CBGB’s club, back when the scene was still in its infancy. Last, but not least, Independence Day, which has been curated and organized by Lefteris Adamidis, will also be introducing its audience to mumblecore, a recent phenomenon of the American indie scene, expressed by the do-it-yourself generation of filmmakers on forums such as YouTube, MySpace and blogs, a generation that has embraced the freedom and immediacy of the Internet.