Thessaloniki Opens International Fest with Zatoichi; To Close With "In America"
by Brian Brooks
Greece's premiere film event, the Thessaloniki Film Festival, which takes place in the Mediterranean country's northern area of Macedonia beginning November 21st, will open with Japanese director Takeshi Kitano's "Zatoichi." The film, which will also open next year in Rotterdam, and won the Silver Lion for best director and the audience prize in Venice in September, stars Takeshi as a blind swordsman who liberates a village under the control of a samurai and gangsters.
Thessaloniki's official program consists of an international competition section, reserved for first and second films by directors from around the world. All the films participating in the international competition section are eligible to compete for the festival's main awards. The prizes, awarded by a seven-member international jury, include the Golden Alexander for best film, including a 36,700 euro cash prize, the Special Jury Award-Silver Alexander (22,000 euro cash prize), in addition to awards for best direction, best screenplay, best actor and actress and artistic achievement.
Films in competition this year include New York Film Festival screener "Free Radicals" by Barbara Albert (Austria, Germany, Switzerland) and Toronto International Film Festival film "A Nation Without Women" by first time director Manish Jha (India); and controversial Cannes 2003 film "Brown Bunny" by Vincent Gallo (USA). Other films competing for the prize are: "Ana and the Others" by Celina Murga (Argentina); "The Gift" by Michelangelo Frammartino (Italy); "The Last Train" by Aleksej German, Jr. (Russia); "Little Men" by Nariman Turebayev (France, Kazakhstan); "For She is a Jolly Good Fello" by Siegrid Alnoy (France); "Girlie" by Benjamin Tucek (Czech Republic); "Before Things Change" by Luis Fonseca (Portugal); "Eager Bodies" by Xavier Giannoli (France); "Tiny Snowflakes" by Alireza Amini (Iran); and two Greek offerings, "A Song is not Enough" by Elissavet Chronopoulou and "Totally Married" by Dimitris Indares.
Additionally, films will screen films out of competition including Denmark's official entry for the foreign language Oscar competition "Reconstruction" by Christoffer Boe and a series of 'special screenings' including Palme d'Or winning film "Elephant" by Gus Van Sant. This year, the festival will also hold a special retrospective of the work of director Wong Kar Wai. Included in the retrospective will be an exhibition of DP Christopher Doyle's photo collages from Wong's films. The installations under the title of "Why I Am not a Painter" will present photos illustrating the director's creative process and will include material from his upcoming new film, "2046." Also set is a special presentation of material from director Theo Angelopoulos' new film, "Trilogy No 1, The Weeping Meadow."
The festival's New Horizons section will offer 45 titles with highlights of work from Canadian avant-garde filmmaker Michael Snow ("The Living Room") and Japanese filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto ("Tokyo Fist"). Greek film will also feature prominently in the festival as one might expect. Compulsory screenings of local films is required by the government and will be featured in the Panorama of Greek Cinema section, which will screen 23 features and five full-length docs. Closing the festival November 29th is Jim Sheridan's "In America." The semi-autobiographical film centers on an Irish family that emigrates to New York.
In addition to the festival that begins this week, the city of Thessaloniki is also the host of the annual Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, which will be held in 2004 from March 1st through 7th with the annual theme, "Images of the 21st century."
[indieWIRE Associate Editor Brian Brooks will be in Greece to cover the festival.]