Fact-finding films in Thessaloniki

The Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (TDF) kicks off today with an opening-night screening of Lydia Carras’s «My Life and Times: Michael Cacoyannis,» a profile of the Oscar-nominated director based on rare footage from rehearsals and interviews, at the Olympion theater. The 10-day cinematic extravaganza will showcase a rich variety of movies made by Greek and foreign filmmakers that address burning global issues, such as migration, poverty and human rights. The 158 movies included are competing for two public choice and two FIPRESCI awards, with prizes ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 euros. A record 35,600 people last year flocked to the festival theaters, which include the central Olympion and Pavlos Zannas cinemas and the red-brick seaside complex. The festival ends next Sunday. The 10th TDF events have been partly marred by a rift between the festival organizers and the dozens of local filmmakers who have been left out of this year’s selections. Greek directors have attacked the criteria used to judge and pick the documentaries as well as the TDF’s 30 percent quota for local productions. A parallel festival screening a number of the films that did not qualify for the official event is running at the Phillip cinema in Athens until March 12. TDF artistic director Dimitris Eipides has rebuffed criticism that he has snubbed homemade productions, claiming there should be no favorable treatment of Greek movies to the expense of international submissions. Special guests The TDF will host a tribute to the award-winning filmmaking team of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, creators of the heartrending documentary «Brother’s Keeper,» which was first released in 1992, drawing warm reviews. Critical acclaim continued with their 1996 «Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills» and «Metallica: Some Kind of Monster» (2004), a behind-the-scenes music documentary about the inner workings of the famous heavy-metal band that follows the group all the way to the psychiatrist’s couch. Berlinger and Sinofsky are scheduled to hold a master class in Thessaloniki. As is another special guest, Arto Halonen, the Finnish director who is also the founder and first festival director of DocPoint – the Helsinki Documentary Film Festival. A special feature on fascism and the modern-day manifestations of fascism, prompted by the 70th anniversary of the events of Kristallnacht – when the Nazis unleashed a wave of pogroms against Germany’s Jews – features 15 movies, including «Children in Exile» by Chicago filmmaker Chris Swider, «Finding Tiger Kim,» by Korean director Ku Bon-Hwan, and «Under the Hood: A Voyage into the World of Torture» by Montreal-based Patricio Henriquez.

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