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Thessaloniki: Documentary Film Festival 2014 – Tracing lines to the city

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All roads lead to…

Filmmakers following trumpet sounds from New York to Guca (Serbia); Soap-Opera-Images of strong women travelling from Istanbul to Kairo and to Sofia; Voices from Gezi Park traced back to Milano and jewish stories from Tel Aviv are revealed in Kalush (Ukraine),…… meanwhile „last signals of democracy“ keep on broadcasting, despite the fact they have been cut off by their government. In turn, others start to brige lifes between Berlin and Athens… vlcsnap-2014-03-26-12h18m29s195 (2) (1280x720)

During the Festival all these film stories seems to meet and connect with the city of Thessaloniki in wondrous manner. While lounging in the armchairs of the cinemas, longing looks trace the waves of the seaside and back to the screen. Seems as if the city becomes a hosting and warm welcoming breakingpoint for the travels that all these stories, faces and images are undergoing. Borders „evaporate“ and communalities appear. The reality of the movies, directors, audience and protagnist slip in surprisingly to the micro cosmos between the patient statue of Aristoteles and the charming cups filled with Frappe at the sidewalk of the water.

How? Let s draw some lines…

From New York to Guca to Thessaloniki: 

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Coming for the first time to Saloniki, the directors of the Meerkat Collective from New York were deeply surprised, while screening their film Brassland (USA, 2013). Having accompanied an amercian trumpet band to the famous festival in Guca, the young directors have been Balkan Music lovers such as them, but no clue about of the roots and traditions. This is not the case in Saloniki: During the screening of the film the audience – natural born experts in balkan sounds – applaude or even start to dance – a great difference to US, as the collective stated in an interview. Balkan Beats compete with the screen, „Brassland becomes“ real through the street musicians of the city.

From Tel Aviv to Kalush to Thessaloniki:

vlcsnap-2014-03-21-11h03m10s217 (2) (1280x720)Bernard Dichek from Tel Aviv not only share the view on the Meditteranean. In his film The Kalush I thought I knew (Israel -Ukraine 2013) he was searching for the reality of the stories of his jewish father, who once had to flee, but also was rescued in the small town in Ukraine. During a very intensive QA-session the director is been told about the jewish history of Thessaloniki. Like in his film also here jewish history is still visible, but silent in the layers of contradictional memories and official istories of the After II War period. „We fought wars, but we have lived here also peacefully in a multicultural and multi-ethnical society, in friendship with each other, that we want to recover and remember!“, point out a guest from the audience.

And from Istanbul to Kairo to Sofia to Thessaloniki:

Kismet 05

This intention is also expressed in Kismet (Cyprus-Greece 2013; Videostill left). In her movie the journalist Nina Maria Paschalidou traces the images of turkish soap opera and shows how the stories of strong women protagonist influence women in Middle East such as Balkan countries. They break tabus and enocurage self-confidence, making women from Kairo to Athens and Sofia fighting for the rights. The film shows both sides of the sea, which have different cultures and religions, such as sotries of emancipation. But instead of showing us only the difference, the film speaks about the common. Thereby it touches the relationship between Turkey and Greece. As here such in the Balkans the „independece of Turkey“ is celebrated as a national anniversary – here on the 25th of March -. the film tells about people that stay deeply conntected, because of the family history they share, because of love, culture and friendships that continue beyond the borders of history. ONEIRAPolitical similarities of today are made clear in the awarded film  Capulcu:Voices from Gezi (Italy-Trkey 2013) by  B. Argentieri, C. Casazza, C. Prevosti, D. Servi and S. Zoja.
They solidarise with the protests of Taksim Sqaure and bring their voices to Italy and Greece.

Dreaming of Democracy by Morzeta Jafari (Greece 2013; Videostill left) speaks about beeing aground in Thessaloniki and giving us an insight into a group of six men from Iran. The directors comments on how they trie to escape, but also to find a way to stay in the city. It speaks about the necessity to hide identity with bleech creme or fake passports, and about the desire to practise your beliefs and regligion. For one of them impossible, for the other only possible in Thessaloniki.

From Iran to Thessaloniki to Cyprus and back to Thessaloniki:

BORDERSA few days later, on Saturday, we meet the director holding his camera at the Anti-Facist demontration. It is not the sea, but people constructing borders. On that they everyone protests against them, rightly. The film Evaropating Borders  (USA-Cyprus, 2014; Videostill left) by Iva Radiovoejics, who originaly comes from Yugoslawia, but grown up in Cyprus and New York, speaks excactly of these borders. Why is it so important to us to keep up with our national identitiy? – She asks, when multi-culturalism and difference, like in Cyprus, turns into racism and hatress. In the cinema such as in the streets a clear stand is taken against that during this week. vlcsnap-2014-03-26-12h31m33s110 (2) (1280x720)

Least, but not last, protests and claims for solidarity and tolerance connect with the ones by the former stuff of ERT. Lost Signals of Democracy (Griechenland 2013) by Yorgos Avgeropoulos reports of the cut-off of Greek national broadcast system – a unique example of national media history. vlcsnap-2014-03-26-12h19m45s198 (2) (1280x720)

Banner in Greek,Urdo and Arabic such as claims for the right to say what we want and to live where we want are joined for an open air concert. vlcsnap-2014-03-26-12h31m59s113 (2) (1280x720)

This is also the last day of the Festival. Films and makers are coming back:

From the screen to reality, from the elegant armchairs to the magic boulevard:

And fuse with the streets of Saloniki. In her final speech Maya Tsokli emphazies that the festival „allowed us, the audience, to partake in events and conditions from the real world that we would have never experienced, but which are now part of the “drawer” of our personal experiences and memories.“ In that sense, also the film have become part of the reality of the city. Their creativity and need for a multicultural, kind and free society sloped over from the sea to the cinema and back.

The documentary of the theatre-play Should I stay or Should (Germany-Greece, 2013) I go by the directors Anestis Azas and Prodromos Tsinikoris, filmed by Menelaos Karamagjiolos, shows how it could be possible to live and workt between reality and theatre, play in the film and in real life, and most of all, between the presents of different places.  vlcsnap-2014-03-26-12h21m33s3 (2) (1280x720)

Maybe one does nt have to decide necessarily whether to stay or leave, to protest or just to do what ones loves, between Berlin and Thessaloniki, Athens and Tel Aviv or Istanbul and Sofia, New York and Cyprus, and so on and so forth…



Author: Elena Friedrich

This article has been produced in the context of the author’s research and film project “Mapping the Now Here”.

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