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Why Cinema Now?

23 November 2009 / 13:11:57  GRReporter
4690 reads

Maria Spassova

Special GRReporter correspondent

Every film festival is a celebration, because it attracts fans of the Seventh Art, offers many and different new films and gathers many talented people with new ideas at the same place. The Thessaloniki Film Festival is no different. The incredible atmosphere of the old Thessaloniki port, the artistic docks and storages, which are turned into movie theatres, conference rooms, museums, coffee shops and restaurants, shelter many cinema professionals and fans from all over the world, who watch films, listen to lectures, view exhibitions and visit book presentations from morning till night. There is liveliness and excitement in the air and the atmosphere is genuinely artistic.

This year there was one more reason for the good mood in Thessaloniki – the festival celebrated its 50 anniversary. “50 years is a good age for a film festival. I believe that during this half century we managed to earn our place in the world film stage as a center, where international cinema meets the Balkan and Mediterranean one, where independent cinema is greatly respected, where young authors get the opportunity to find recognition,” said festival director Despina Mouzaki.

The anniversary edition of the festival is full of interesting people. Here one can talk to president and CEO of Fox Film Entertainment Jim Gianopulos, see exhibition by the famous German director Werner Herzog with Herzog himself, to meet the producer of films like The last emperor and Little Buddha Jeremy Thomas or to attend a lecture by the famous British screenwriter Tony Grisoni. Ideas for the future of the film industry fly by, are commented, change and made clearer.

“There is no recipe for good cinema. Just like there are no recipes for good poetry. You have to learn how the camera works, how stories are told, how the picture is edited. From then on you need to live real life. To work as a janitor of a brothel. As medical personnel in a madhouse. To live on the street because this the place where real heroes live,” says Werner Herzog. “New technologies provide a great advantage for directors today. Now it is possible to create a 3D environment of the film on a computer, to film only the actors and then to edit over the ready computer environment. But this whole great technology makes sense only if you have a story to tell, if you have an interesting dialogue and exciting characters,” continues Jim Gianopulos.

“You need to believe that for you, writing is the most important thing in the world. It is the beginning of a long adventure until it becomes a film,” adds Tony Grisoni. “In order to succeed in anything, you need to have this burning desire inside of you. You need to have all necessary ingredients for an interesting story and to tell it in a beautiful way. Then your film will be sold,” agrees Jeremy Thomas.

The film selection has enough examples, which prove the upper mentioned words. Pictures with great budgets, with great names (in front and behind the camera), are competing equally with low-budget productions, whose art team is competing from beginning till end and the public recognizes both. The jury, lead this year by Theo Angelopoulos, gave the Golden Alexander to Israeli-German picture called Ajami – a dramatic story for the live of two brothers Nasri and Omar in the neighborhood Ajami in Jaffa. Ethnic conflicts between Jews, Muslims and Christians and the fear they create, are told from the point of view of the 13 year old Nasri. Silver Alexander went for the Romanian film Medal of Honor, in order to prove that cinema in Romania is really growing. In the occasion of the 50 year anniversary of the end of WWII, 75 year old Ion unexpectedly received a medal of honor for heroic acts during the war. Along with the medal there is a dinner invitation with the President of Romania. Will this invitation change the world of a man, whose main concern is to save enough money and to pay his heating bill?

Bulgarian cinema was presented by Eastern Plays by director Kamen Kalev, who competed for the Fischer Public Choice award. Even though he did not win, Kamen Kalev should be satisfied with his participation. The picture was screened with full theaters and people were even seating on the stairs and the comments after the screening were encouraging. Itzo, who is fighting his drug dependency in the misery of today’s Bulgaria, is trying to keep the love of the beautiful Turkish girl Izil. This is a drama which can happen to anyone and anywhere around the world. It is skillfully told by the young director and this definitely attracted the public.

The Greek cinema won the applause for the comedy Biloba, which is a nice mixture of contemporary clichés (like the green energy campaign), EU bureaucracy, the worries of a German architect and all this is played on a small Greek island, where the main characters are the spiky local attitudes, superstitions, fears and prejudice. Sofia Papahristou’s film won the Fischer Public Choice award but nothing more. In both films, except for professional actors, present are authentic characters, who make the stories even more exciting. In the first case this is Itzo, presented by actor Hristo Hristov, who died during the filming, which is the reason why the movie has an open ending. In the second case those are the local citizens of Tinos, who bring a lot of color and humor in Biloba.

Of course, in a film festival the most important ones are the films – those in and out of the competition. Though, they are not the only things one can see there. Not in Thessaloniki. Photography exhibition “Werner Herzog – Signs of Life” showed the work of the director in its most natural environment. Hard physical labor, which is the basis of good films. “If you want to make a good film, live in real life. Work as a janitor of a brothel. As medical personnel in a madhouse. Live on the streets…walk. The world open only for those who walk,” advises the German director, who in 2010 will be chairman of the jury on the Berlin Film Festival. The exhibition includes photographs and video documents of some of Herzog’s biggest film and reveals details of his director self.

A nice surprise is the retrospective exhibition of Philip Tziaras in the Photography Museum at the old port, which was formed in 4 parts – faces, movements, family and landscape. The artists, who for many years worked with Lucas Samaras, charmed everybody with how he treated the naked body, which is always present in all four parts of the exhibition. His nudity attracts, charms, shocks, surprises, amuses, outrages, ravishes, disgusts, but in any case does not leave the viewer indifferent. Some of his images, especially in the Family and Landscape parts are so memorable that they attract again and again until they permanently remain in the mind of the viewer.

And so, after 10 festival days what is the answer of “Why Cinema Now?”

Jim Gianopulos: “I do not understand this question. I don’t know why they chose it as a logo of the anniversary festival.”

Werner Herzog: “Because cinema is telling stories and telling stories and a typical human kind trait.”

Depisna Mouzaki, Thessaloniki Film Festival director: “Why Cinema Now? Because Cinema is Forever!”

Tags: TFF Thessaloniki Film Festival Jim Gianopulos Werner Herzog
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