Every November the city of Thessaloniki celebrates the art of cinema!
The second biggest city in Greece hosts every year since 1960 one of the oldest international film festivals in the world and the oldest in Southeastern Europe; the Thessaloniki International Film Festival (TIFF).
During festival, Thessaloniki is transformed into a hub for artists, film makers, cinephiles and journalists from all over the world as more than 7.000 people visit the TIFF every year.
For ten days, screenings of more than 200 movies, events, exhibitions, masterclasses by famous directors, roundtable discussions about cinema as well as big parties take place.
The story of TIFF
The TIFF is a Greek success story which was born during the 60s, a period, before junta, that many characterise as the modern cultural spring of Greece.
The festival started as a modest "Week of Greek Cinema” in 1960 by a team of ambitious young people. Locals welcomed and quickly embraced the new film event which then attracted all the national showbiz of that period.
The Film Festival survived the military junta and in 1992 made a step forward becoming international by adding a section of world cinema in its programme.
Since then, TIFF has gradually grown big and it is now considered as a premier cinema event in Europe.
Especially in the last ten years, the festival tries to bring the best films of Greek, Balkan and international independent film industry and to attract both old and new talented directors.
It has paid tribute to numerous film makers and actors and hosted many famous artists such as Francis Ford Coppola, Aki Kaurismaki, Wim Wenders, Oliver Stone, John Malkovich, Emir Kusturica, Jean – Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Willem Dafoe, Theo Angelopoulos, Yasmin Ahmad, Costas Gavras, Vittorio Storaro, Gustavo Santaolalla, Jane Birkin, and Guillermo Navarro.
There is also a competitive section, featuring the Golden, Silver and Bronze Alxander award as well as the prestigious FIPRESCI (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique) award.
Greek and Balkan cinema: An interesting story
The TIFF has also been acknowledged for its contribution to the emerging Greek and Balkan cinema.
In the last two decades, Southeastern Europe, including Greece, has gone through despicable moments and historical changes such as the fall of communism, violent wars, and severe financial and social crisis. All these have inspired and deeply influenced a new generation of talented artists from the area, who have began to produce great, insightful movies marked with a unique style.
This interesting trend has been early noticed by the TIFF, which have been trying to promote the Balkan cinema and support its protagonists by including in its programme sections such as the Balkan Survey, the Agora and the Crossroads.
The sections above offer the opportunity to Balkan filmmakers not only to reach a wider audience but also to network, and receive mentorship. The Agora, which was launched in 2005, establishes a productive form of helping and introducing professionals visiting Thessaloniki from Central and Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean region to the industry professionals, consultants, tutors and potential collaborators invited to the Festival.
What’s more? This year, it has been introduced the “South by Southeast” section, which is actually a platform where a discussion about coproduction and distribution will be held between representatives from the South and Southeast Europe Film Centers.
The Venues and the Parties
What’s best in the Thessaloniki International Film festival, apart from the movies and the people? The venues!
The heart of TIFF beats in the port of Thessaloniki. The old warehouses have been renovated and transformed into modern spaces with industrial style and a breath-taking view of the sea and of the whole city.
The premises are used to host the cinema halls, the photography, cinema and contemporary art museum, cafes and of course the unforgettable parties organized during TIFF.
On the warehouses’ walls, the visitor can see photos of Emir Kusturica “rocking” the place, Jane Birkin performing, and Fatih Akin taking over the decks while loads of people dancing like crazy.
It’s also worth mentioning Olympion theatre, the venue which, apart from movies, hosts the open and close ceremonies of the festival.
Olympion, located in the main square of the city, Aristotelous square, is an iconic building of Thessaloniki. It has been built in 1938 and it is know for its exquisite architecture and view.
The 57th Thessaloniki International Film Festival is taking place between November 3 - 13, 2016.
Article by: Alexia Kalaitzi