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John Berger Tribute @ 19th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

19th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

3-12 March, 2017




“We only see what we look at. To look is an act of choice”

John Berger


The 19th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival hosts a special tribute that honors the iconic late British art critic, author and painter John Berger (1926-2017), a highly influential, multifaceted intellectual whose legacy will be cherished.


The tribute presents two documentary films: The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger by Tilda Swinton, Colin MacCabe, Christopher Roth and Bartek Dziadosz and John Berger: the Art of Looking by Cordelia Dvorák. In addition, an exhibition titled “John Berger - A Radical Humanist” with original artwork by John Berger that will be presented for the first time since his passing, will take place at the Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki (Warehouse B1, Thessaloniki Port). The exhibition is organized by the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and the Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki – State Museum of Contemporary Art.


 A few words about John Berger:

“A radical humanist”, according to his close friend actress Tilda Swinton, Berger shared his progressive ideas with the public through books, art, television and film. His best-known work was Ways of Seeing, a book and a BBC television series that redefined the way we perceive and interpret art. In his groundbreaking oeuvre he also spoke about the ideology of visual aesthetics, as well as the political background that stands behind every human action. This particular philosophy that characterized Berger throughout his life, justifies acts such as donating half of his Booker Prize money to the Black Panthers, the revolutionary African-American movement, in 1972. His rich body of work, restless spirit and unique personality will always remain an inspiration.


The films:

Set in the village of Quincy at the French Alps, where Berger spent more than 40 years of his life, The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger is a captivating portrait of his, compiled by four essay films directed by Tilda Swinton, Colin MacCabe, Christopher Roth and Bartek Dziadosz. The documentary looks at different aspects of Berger’s life and work; in the segment “Ways of Listening” Berger is highlighted as a mentor and a father figure for Tilda Swinton, with whom he shares a truly affectionate friendship, while “Spring” captures his love for nature and animals. In “A Song for Politics” Berger talks about modern politics and capitalism. The documentary’s epilogue “Harvest” centres on the young generation, who embodies hope for the future.


Another intimate approach to Berger’s biography, Cordelia Dvorák’s John Berger: The Art of Looking focuses on his personality and work on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Art, politics and motorcycles set the tone in this engaging documentary where John Berger leads us in his favourite role as the storyteller through his ways of seeing of today. His art of looking is highlighted through the testimonies of various artists, as well as two of his children; film critic Katya Berger and painter Yves Berger.


The exhibition:

Thirty drawings and paintings by John Berger complement the tribute on his work held by the 19th TDF. Most of them were lent to the festival exclusively for this exhibition by Berger’s son, Yves, while others are part of private collections. The exhibition also includes screenings of films, video extracts and TV shows about Berger, as well as copies of his books. The exhibition is curated by TIFF’s Director Orestis Andreadakis and Syrago Tsiara, director of the Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki.


Info: March 4 – April 13, 2017, Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki (Warehouse B1, Port) // Opening Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10:00-18:00 // Entrance: 3 euro, 1,50 euro reduced, 1,00 euro group ticket, free access to certain individuals and groups with valid ID


Official Opening: 8 March, 19:30 – A round-table discussion about Berger’s work will take place at the opening with the participation of Tom Overton (writer, curator and researcher, British Library) and Antonis Kotidis (Professor Emeritus, Department of the History of Art, School of History and Archaeology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki).


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About Thessaloniki

Mcmahon Vanessa

Vanessa McMahon Covered the 13th and 14th, and 16th edition.
Catherine Esway has covered the 12th edition of Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
Cécile Rittweger covered the  11th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

Christine Marik's reported from 49th Thessaloniki International Film Festival
Past coverage from the 10th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival by Bruno Chatelin.

Through its tributes, it focuses both on discovering filmmakers with a unique cinematic point of view, and on the internationally recognized for their contribution to documentary.

Contributions from Buno Chatelin



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