Stranger than fiction: Docs in Thessaloniki

A documentary about a wacky Japanese inventor holding more than 3,000 patents will raise the curtain on the annual Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (TDF) which opens on Friday in Greece’s northern port city. Some 190 movies by both foreign and local filmmakers will be screened during the 10-day cinematic extravaganza that offers a mouth-watering selection of hard-hitting films delving into the most important issues of the day, such as the destruction of the environment or the struggle against authoritarianism as well as human interest stories documenting the absurd, the humorous, and the extraordinary. Currently in its 12th year, the event will extend over 10 days and seven theaters including the flagship Olympion and Pavlos Zannas theaters on Aristotelous Square and the industrial port complex with the old red-brick warehouses-turned-cinemas. This year sees the addition of two new thematic sections, the eco-focused »Planet in Peril» and «North Korea from Afar,» an insight into this isolated and extraordinary nation. As usual, visitors can expect to be treated to a rich selection of master classes, discussions and side events. «The Invention of Dr NakaMats» by Danish filmmaker Kaspar Astrup Schroder, the movie which will open the event on Friday, profiles an eccentric 81-year-old inventor who claims to have invented everything from the floppy disk and the compact disc player to springy shoes and magnetic paper train tickets. Dr NakaMats, winner of the Ig Nobel Prize, an American Nobel Prize spoof, hopes to have completed 7,000 inventions by the time he dies at the age of 144. Dr NakaMats is expected to attend the screening in Thessaloniki. Among the most anticipated entries is «When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun» (2010), by American director Dirk Simon. The movie, which took seven years to prepare, explores Tibet’s struggle against Chinese occupation and examines the internal conflicts besetting the movement which the director considers «corrupted by routine and personal career management.» The controversy surrounding the film was recently highlighted by China’s decision to pull the plug on the popular IMDB movie website in reaction to the movie’s content. Late cinematic legend Krzysztof Kieslowski, best known for his metaphysical fiction, and prolific filmmaker Andrzej Fidyk will be honored in a tribute to Polish documentary organized by TDF, which will also pay homage to Dutch pioneer Joris Ivens with some 20 movies of his politically driven oeuvre.    A boycott by Filmmakers of Greece (FoG), a group of local directors, producers and screenwriters campaigning against the country’s existing film law, has kept the number of local entries at a low 50. For more info, visit the TDF website at  Parallel events around the city Panel discussions «Documenting Reality: Ethical Issues in the Digital Age,» March 15, 11 a.m., John Cassavetes Theater «The Earth after Copenhagen,» March 17, 11 a.m., John Cassavetes Theater Master class Stefan Kloos: «Producing and Packaging Short Documentaries,» March 18, 3 p.m., AKMI Theater Exhibitions «Eyes on the World,» photojournalism, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, March 12-21 «Street Sonnets» – Nysos Vassilopoulos, Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, March 13 – April 12 Concert Giannis Aggelakas at Live Residents bar, March 18, 10 p.m.

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