The week-long 13th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival [el] presented a line up of approximately 220 films from around the world from 11-30 March, 2011, in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Themes included regional retrospectives (this year focusing on the Middle East and Africa), tributes to Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa and Czech Helena Trestikova and thematic sections such as Human Rights, Views of the World, Portraits – Human Journeys, Recordings of Memory, Stories to Tell, Habitat and Music.
A special section titled How I Am: Challenging Perceptions [el] was introduced to spotlight social issues of disabilities, on the occasion of the Athens Special Olympics next summer.
The biggest challenge for the Festival this year were the austerity measures imposed on all Greek state institutions, which bit deeply into its finances. Awards were symbolic this year, guests few and far between, and events trimmed down to essentials; ticket prices were kept low, question and answer sessions with film directors were plentiful, and many screenings were sold out – especially on weekends – with the programming variety pleasing audiences.
Several cinephiles attending the Festival took to Twitter with gusto, posting capsule reviews, reporting on Festival life and nagging about the event's shortcomings. Tickets were available right from the beginning, with many attendees well prepared in advance. Fani Gouda (@Fanig) boasted back on March 10:
Whilst @efou fretted:
The anticipation was palpable, especially for fans traveling to attend the Festival. Mairoula from Volos (@JaielVL) wrote via Twitter on March 11:
The opening ceremony featured the international premiere of Israeli filmmaker's Roy Sher film ‘My Sweet Canary‘, a biopic-travelogue about the life of famous Jewish Greek singer Roza Eskenazi, who started her career in Thessaloniki, featuring phonetic singers performing songs made famous by her.
As film critic Ioannis Gros (@igkros) noted on Twitter on March 12, ‘My Sweet Canary’ was a real crowd pleaser of an intro film:
Capsule reviews, most often in Greek, were the order of the day. Once again this year, Giannis Sahanidis (@ZlatkoGR) posted one-line reviews of every film seen, complete with ratings, some generous (March 13):
And others stern (March 15):
Not all filmgoers were out for a marathon session. Photojournalist Craig Wherlock (@teacherdude), who has covered the Festival many times in the past, mused:
The Festival itself made use of Twitter (@filmfestivalgr) to post announcements:
Besides the entertainment, documentaries also provide food for thought in what are difficult times. ‘Future of Hope‘ was one of the most discussed films this year, for it's upbeat treatment of the way Iceland is dealing with the financial crisis. Festival newcomer Chris Zlatis (@chriszlatis) tweeted at length, not about the movie itself, but about the practices showcased, in the economy:
And in politics:
Covering the Festival
Reporting on a festival requires time management skills, so most bloggers and film critics prefer to write their reviews afterwards. This year, Ioannis Gros, Giannis Sachanidis and Chris Zlatis posted recap reviews of selected films, as well as their impressions of the Festival. Zlatis also curated a Storify on the Festival, while Gros produced several podcast reports.
Documentary film-maker Phil Grabsky expounded on how film festivals work and lauded the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival's “secret sauce”:
It's funny how random it seems to be which documentary film festivals achieve importance. There are, after all, hundreds of them but I'd say 20 or 30 stand out. I've actually no idea why Thessaloniki in Greece should be one of them but it is. I was really impressed – very friendly, well organised and lots of events to help us directors meet and talk with others
This video, uploaded by YouTube user tbihlaz on March 22, shows some of the Festivals’ highlights: