Thessaloniki Film Festival Head Discusses 2023 Edition – Deadline

Greece’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival returns this evening for its 64th edition with a screening of The Pot-au-Feu (The Taste of Things), the latest film by French-Vietnamese director Trần Anh Hùng

The pic, which took the best director gong at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, will screen for audiences at Thessaloniki’s Olympia Theatre following an opening ceremony. 

Running November 2-12, Thessaloniki screens 11 debut and sophomore features, including three Greek films, in its main international feature competition. Selected titles include Animal by Sophia Exarchou, Christos Nikou’s Fingernails, and In Camera by Naqqash Khalid. A total of 270 feature and short films will be screened at Thessaloniki. The international competition sits alongside two sidebar strands, Meet the Neighbors and Fiction Forward, for regional and experimental works, with both also carrying 11 competition titles. The festival will close with Fallen Leaves by Aki Kaurismäki.

In the way of talent, Monica Bellucci is set to attend to receive the festival’s honorary Golden Alexander for lifetime achievement while Canadian filmmaker Jeremy Podeswa, best known for his work on TV shows such as Station Eleven, Game of Thrones, and The Handmaid’s Tale, will lead a masterclass in the AGORA industry section.

Below, Orestis Andreadakis, Thessaloniki International Film Festival artistic director, breaks down this year’s edition, the festival’s rising profile, and what’s behind the contemporary resurgence in Greek filmmaking.

DEADLINE: Orestis, it feels like Thessaloniki is really growing in prominence. How do you feel about this and what is your end goal?

ORESTIS ANDREADAKIS: Yes, it’s growing. Our secret is we try to create an atmosphere for all the professionals, filmmakers, directors, producers, and sales agents to do their work easily while having fun and seeing good movies. When you go to the bigger festivals, it is extremely difficult to fix an appointment. It’s a full-time job. When people come here, things are much easier. Also, Thessaloniki is a beautiful city and the capital of good food. 

DEADLINE: How long is your tenure?

ANDREADAKIS: I have another year and a half. Until the end of 2025.

DEADLINE: There is huge strength in the competition strands this year, particularly from the local region. Can you tell me a little about putting together the competitions?

ANDREADAKIS: We have three main competitions. The international competition, Meet the Neighbours, and Film Forward, which comprises all the films that live between fiction and documentary. This year, we expanded Meet The Neighbors. Thessaloniki is in the middle of a huge neighborhood from the Danube to Egypt and Italy to the Black Sea, which is the cradle of all humanity’s big civilizations. All the good and, as we know, the evil comes from here. We want to underline this history while also making sure people know this neighborhood can also be a meeting point for cinema, art, peace, and understanding.

DEADLINE: How would you describe this year’s international competition?

ANDREADAKIS: This year, the festival is under the theme of The Ghost. Dennis Lim [director of programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center] has curated a retrospective. But, strangely enough, you will see films with ghosts in all sections of the festival. There are real ghosts, allegorical ghosts, and ghosts of love and politics. This is a very nice game to discover the ghosts of the Thessaloniki Film Festival.

DEADLINE: How did Dennis become involved with the festival?

ANDREADAKIS: We love Dennis. He’s a very good friend. And he loves Greece. He comes every summer. He has a house here. We started talking about putting this together at the beginning of the year. We had meetings in Cannes and other festivals to present this very beautiful retrospective, which is combined with an art exhibition featuring four legendary Greek visual artists.  

DEADLINE: Once again, Greek films have performed very well on the festival circuit this year. What have you thought about this year’s crop of films?

ANDREADAKIS: Fifteen years ago, very few Greek films were screened at major festivals. It was only Thodōros Angelopoulos and one or two others. However, over the last few years, in every major festival, there is at least one Greek film, and very often, they win a prize. The last example was at Locarno, where the Greek film Animal won the best actress prize. Very few countries that are the size and population of Greece achieve this. It gives us hope that the new generation of Greek filmmakers are doing well.

DEADLINE: But why has fueled this turn over the last few years?

ANDREADAKIS: That’s the million-dollar question. This new generation studied abroad. And they go around all the festivals to find co-productions. Because of the very difficult decade of financial crisis, they had to open their eyes and ears and see what had been going on. When you live in a very difficult situation, you’re obliged to take a position. To speak about all those things and to find a new way to express your anger and hope to produce something that matters. Also, they’re very talented people. They help each other, and I hope the Thessaloniki Film Festival has helped them too. 

DEADLINE: Who is visiting Thessaloniki this year?

ANDREADAKIS: Monica Bellucci will receive the honorary Golden Alexander for lifetime achievement. She’s the lead actress in a hybrid fiction documentary about Maria Callas screening at the festival. The director, Jeremy Podeswa, will also be here to participate in the Agora series section. 

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