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Independence Days and other sections at Thessalonik


The Independence Days Section, now in its third year as part of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, remains committed to showcasing independent and unique works and to discovering new filmmakers from all over the world. The section’s core program, a selection of films under the title ID-07, identifies this year’s aesthetic, political, geographical, political and thematic landscape of worldwide independent, decidedly non-mainstream film production. ID-07 is comprised of 18 films, presenting a wide variety of themes and aesthetics. Among them are Stellet Licht by Carlos Reygadas, who will also attend the 48th TIFF, La Graine et La Mulet by Abdellatif Kechiche and Brillante Mendoza’s Foster Child, well known in Thessaloniki from the film Masahista. Among the debut features of the program are Magnus by Estonian Kadri Kousaar, Karger by Elke Hauck, bringing in mind the cinema of the brothers Dardennes, and midnight treats from Asia, Dainipponjin by Hitoshi Matsumoyto and The Exodus by Pang Ho-cheung. The Independence Days Section, curated by film critic Lefteris Adamidis, is formed in its entirety by the addition of several parallel tributes and special screenings.


Regarded as a cinematic master in Japan and considered the equal of Ozu and Kurosawa, Mikio Naruse, for years relatively unknown in the western world, produced an oeuvre that ranged from experimental films to realistic dramas, maintaining throughout a constant thematic thread. Only in the last decade his reputation has been restored with various retrospectives in festivals and cinematheques. Within the genre of the Shomingeki, which in a neorealist fashion dealt with the afflictions of the lower middle classes, Naruse told his stories through complex characterization, a diversity of cinematic styles and an unfaltering pessimism towards the human condition; possibly one of the main reasons that kept his work largely obscured from international audiences and contained within Japan by the studios that produced his films. 10 of Mikio Naruse’s films will be showcased, among which the masterpieces Meshi (Repast, 1951), Ukigumo (Floating Clouds, 1955), Onna Ga Kaidan Wo Agaru Toki (Woman Ascends the Stairs, 1960) and his final film, Midaregumo (Scattered Clouds, 1967). The Tribute will focus on the director’s most mature and creative post-war period, with the exception of the silent film Yogoto no Yume (Every Night Dreams, 1933), which will be screened with the accompaniment of live music, composed and performed especially for the event by the innovative experimental pop duo from Thessaloniki, Your Hand in Mine. A comprehensive publication produced by the TIFF will further complement the tribute.


Yasmin Ahmad was born in 1958 in Malaysia. After 25 years in the advertising world, during which she received many awards and distinctions, she shot her debut feature, Rabun, in 2002. She is the director, producer, scriptwriter and actress of her films and belongs to a new generation of Malaysian filmmakers who attempt, through their work, to restore the image of their country, to remove its prevailing image of multi-cultural exoticism and to openly challenge ethnic stereotypes and taboo subjects. For the films Sepet (2004), Gubra (2005) and Mukshin (2006), Ahmad uses the character of young Orked, a girl who goes against her country’s archetypes, as the vehicle for her narratives and social commentary. The character of Orked embodies Ahmad’s worldview, as she is, in the words of the director, “optimistic, emotional…thankful for everyday things, such as breathing, loving, laughing, eating”. All four films will be screened in the 48th TIFF and Ahmad will attend the Festival, not only as a guest of the Independence Days Section, but also as a member of the International Competition Jury.


Lee Chang-dong is a masterful storyteller, both with words and images. Born in Korea in 1954, he became a renowned novelist at a relatively young age. He first got involved with cinema in 1993, as scriptwriter and assistant director in To the Starry Island, directed by Park Kuang-su. The first film Lee directed was Green Fish in 1996, an idiosyncratic film noir that took Korean audiences by surprise with its realistic depiction of the underworld and its people. In his next film, Peppermint Candy, Lee succeeded in creating a portrait of his country and the changes it underwent within a 20-year span, while in 2002, Oasis, a study of true love and friendship, won the FIPRESCI Prize Competition and the Director's Award in the Venice Film Festival. His latest film, Secret Sunshine, a balancing act between the comic and tragic sides of life, will also be screened in this year’s Thessaloniki Festival. Lee Chang-dong, who will attend the 48th TIFF, served as the Korean Minister of Culture from 2002 to 2004 and also owns his own distribution company, Pine House Film.


In the year 2007, an imaginative neologism appeared in the American cinema circles and the press: the term Mumblecore refers to a new wave of the American independent film scene, deemed by many as the most interesting of the past two decades. The films of this DIY (Do-it-yourself) generation do share common elements, such as naturalistic narration, low-budget productions, digital cinematography, amateur actors and improvisational dialogues. They are not, however, a unified aesthetic wave per se, but more of a community of artists that think alike and work together for the production of their films. The work of this year’s guest directors, Joe Swanberg, Craig Zobel, Alex Holdridge and Laura Dunn (with the documentary The Unforeseen), shares similar goals with the dialogue-driven cinema of Andrew Bujalski (whose two films were European Premieres in the 46th TIFF Independence Days Section), chiefly an open discussion between their films and its audiences. The section will also screen Snow Angels, the latest by David Gordon Green, one of the foremost independent auteurs of the past decade.

SOMEONE TO WATCH: New Voices from Argentina

This year’s Someone to Watch spotlight is dedicated to the new voices of Argentinean filmmaking, which seems to have foregone its thematic obsessions with the country’s economic recession to become a fresh cinema that keeps renewing itself. Three films, completely different from one another, make up the section. Estrellas, by Federico Leon and Marcos Martinez, is the hilarious quasi-documentary following Julio Arrieta and the unemployed extras, actors and crews he hires on South American productions. El Asaltante, directed by Pablo Fendrick, is a cinematic exercise in almost real time and an extraordinary one-man-show by the actor Arturo Guetz, as we tag along with his character of an unusual 60-year-old around Buenos Aires. Encarnation, Anahi Berneri’s second film after Un Ano Sin Amor, a detailed portrait of a woman facing the passage of time, completes the spotlight.


In the midst of the 1970s, from the art scene of the East Village, sprung the No Wave movement, parallel and friendly to the punk revolution. Filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch and Abel Ferrara creatively used elements from b-movies, avante garde cinema and the French nouvelle vague to form a fresh body of films, the precursors to the modern American independent scene. In 1975, Amos Poe, an emblematic figure of the No Wave, directed, produced and edited the ultimate punk film, Blank Generation, featuring musicians such as Patti Smith, Blondie, Ramones and Television. Independence Days will also screen Poe’s last work, Empire II, an informal remake of Any Warhol’s homonymous film and Poe himself will attend the 48th TIFF. In the Special Screenings section, music is represented by two more films: In Berlin, Julian Schnabel shoots the live concert of Lou Reed’s notorious album by the same name, performed 33 years after its original conception. Joy Division by Grant Gee –a frequent collaborator of Radiohead- is a documentary that traces, through testimonies of the band’s members and circle (Bernard Summer, Steven Morris and Peter Hook, producer Martin Hanet and Factory Records founder Tony Wilson), the group’s story and a portrait of Manchester, the city that gave it life.


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