Charging up for Thessaloniki

As November knocks on October’s door, the organizers of Greece’s biggest film festival are greasing their projectors, airing the Olympion and port complex cinemas, polishing the Golden and Silver Alexander and preparing to welcome thousands of guests to the charming city of Thessaloniki. Now in its 42nd year, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival seems to be going from strength to strength, attracting increasing numbers of visitors and gaining a position in the top league of similar festivals around the world. Starting on November 9 and running for 10 days, this year’s festival promises as interesting a lineup as any it has previously offered, with over 160 films being screened in six movie theaters. The festival, as usual, is composed of competitive and non-competitive sections, tributes and retrospectives, all of which aim to throw the spotlight on new talent and trends as well as to introduce the work of top-quality artists to the broader public. The International Competition, the festival’s most important section on an international level, will feature at least 14 films by new and emerging filmmakers who will vie for the Golden Alexander, carrying a cash prize of 36,500 euros, and the Silver Alexander, worth 22,000 euros. The selection of these films has been made by Michel Demopoulos, president of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. In what many consider the most interesting section of the festival, the New Horizons program consists of 35 selections highlighting trends in independent film production worldwide. In this section, which often features low-budget films with glimpses of true cinematic quality, one can see what the proverbial struggling artists are up to around the world. This section’s showcase is filled mainly with American independent film and new German cinema. On a regional level, the festival’s Balkan Survey – which has helped launch many new and aspiring artists from the region in the past – also promises a strong lineup this year, while the Greek Panorama will highlight the best of the country’s films for 2000-2001 while also giving new filmmakers a chance to compete for the State Cinema Award, which, unfortunately, seemed to follow rather commercially oriented criteria last year. Die-hard moviegoers will be happy to note this year’s tributes: New Argentinean Cinema, featuring select films such as Moebius, ‘Pizza, Birra, Fasso and La Cienaga; a retrospective of Greece’s prolific director Stavros Tornes, encompassing his work from the early 1960s both in Greece and Italy up to the late 1980s and his premature death; and a homage to Dinos Dimopoulos, a veteran Greek filmmaker with over 30 years’ experience under his belt. Taking the baton from last year’s Jerzy Skolimowski as honored artist and president of the international jury is the eminent British director John Boorman. Jerzy Skolimowski will be making an appearance in Thessaloniki, though not as a director or jury representative. The Polish artist, who has been living in America and applying his talent to painting, will be holding a solo exhibition at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art. Other events that run parallel with the festival include a special screening of Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 Metropolis, in its full and restored version, on November 16, the music of which will be performed live by the Bulgaria Radio Symphony Orchestra. Topping the events is a two-day symposium (November 15 and 16) on digital film, highlighting its influences on modern-day film production and on the changing aesthetic of film.

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