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Despite budget cuts, Thessaloniki film festival a success, says director


Despite budget cuts, Thessaloniki film festival a success, says director

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Fourteen contenders are vying for the top prize at this year’s Thessaloniki Film Festival, the most important cinema event in Greece.

To mark the 100th anniversary of Greek cinema, the public has been invited to select a number of its own movie favourites that will be screened as part of the 150 films shown this year.

The festival’s director says that despite massive budget cuts, they have reason to celebrate.

“Our goal with this festival is to keep people informed about the latest trends in cinema. We hope that in the future it will inspire a new generation of filmmakers. All the venues are full again this year. I am fascinated, it always surprises me. There is a common ground. We seem to manage to echo the audience’s point of view,” said festival director, Dimitris Eipides.

This year’s event pays tribute to established US indie-film director Ramin Bahrani, whose cinema takes a look at the life of those who live on the fringes of society, especially among the US’s immigrant communities.

Starring Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, his latest film, '99 Homes', is a drama about temptation, shame, humiliation and greed.

Bahran talked to Euronews about what it’s like being an independent thinker: “I think it is difficult to be independent in your life, not just as a filmmaker but anyone. Because the world is constantly telling you how you should behave and what you should think and what you should do and what your goals should be, from early in your life all the way to the end. I think life is constantly saying no and I think that an independent person says yes,” he said.

Homage is also being paid to Serbian filmmaker Želimir Žilnik. The only surviving proponent of the Yugoslav Black Wave movement of the Sixties and early Seventies – known for its non-traditional approach to film making, dark humour and critical examination of Yugoslav society – Žilnik is described as one of the pioneers of the docudrama genre. Discarding cinematic conventions and aesthetics in favour of content and authenticity, he often relies on amateur actors and shoots on location.

“For me, film making is a learning process, you see. The crew and camera is sort of the key to open many doors. So, I would say, I would not know actually the nature of the people and the society as deep as I do know it now if I would not have been a filmmaker,” said the veteran director, who has made more than 50 films since 1967.

‘Norway’ is one of two Greek films in competition.

Set in 1984, this surrealistic vampire film laced with humour and shot in the style of a b-movie, has been described as “a battle between good and bad taste” by its creators.

It is Yiannis Veslemes’ first feature film: “I tried to create, in a way, a vampire that is a little different to other vampires. He has got all the qualities and characteristics of a contemporary Greek guy. He is a Balkan vampire. Beyond his odd and curious appearance and the fact that he is always hyperactive and moving around, he doesn’t bear any resemblance with Gothic vampires,” he said.

“Thessaloniki is living to the rhythm of the festival – 10 days filled with movies and directors from all over the world. Despite budget cuts and the lack of major celebrities, the screenings are all sold out, because people here enjoy good cinema,” said euronews’ correspondent in Thessaloniki, Yorgos Mitropoulos.

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