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Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Dailies from the Thessaloniki international Film Festival

The 61st Thessaloniki International Film Festival was concluded with great success, receiving the audience’s love in every possible way. More than 80,000 viewers and movie industry professionals watched the films and attended the Festival’s online events, whereas a large number films of were sold out. Agora, the Festival’s development branch, also achieved a great attendance, offering support to Greek cinema through a series of new initiatives, actions, and awards.

The 61st Festival hosted a series of exhibitions and visual art events, within the framework of TIFF’s main concept, “Intimacy: a modern tyranny”. Works of art, video mapping, as well as The Glasshouse Project installation adorned the city streets and squares, as well as the Port of Thessaloniki, offering glimpses of joy and hope to the city’s residents, who had the chance to enjoy a touch of art during their scarce walks for exercise, groceries and the covering of basic needs, amidst these hard days we’re experiencing. The goal is for these exhibitions to remain in the city’s public space even after the Festival. 



53rd TIFF: Aki Kaurismaki Press Conference


53rd TIFF: Aki Kaurismaki Press Conference (11/7/2012)


Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki gave a press conference on Wednesday, November 7, 2012, in the context of the 53rd Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Festival director Dimitri Eipides attended. The 53rd edition of the Festival is hosting a tribute to the work of the filmmaker, screening 11 representative films from his career.

With his unconventional style and black humour, Aki Kaurismaki introduced himself as Dr. Kaurismaki, saying he is capable of curing those who still have feelings left.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Eipides welcomed the filmmaker, saying: “It is a pleasure and an honour to welcome one of Europe’ s top directors. He has made more than 30 films, most of which have been widely acclaimed by audiences and critics alike. Kaurismaki’s movies are a wonderful contribution to European cinema”. In a reference to current developments, Mr. Eipides added: “We can celebrate two joyous events today: Mr. Kaurismaki’s presence at our festival and the re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States”.

Asked about the point in his life when he decided to become a filmmaker, Mr. Kaurismaki said: “I can easily answer this question. It was while I was watching a double feature at a cinema club. Before then, I was not even aware of the existence of art-house cinema. In fact, this was the time I decided to become a moviegoer not a director. These films revolutionized my mind. As an average 15 year-old, I had only watched Hollywood movies before. I had no idea cinema could be a form of Art. The films I saw were Robert Flaherty’s documentary Nanook of the North and Luis Bunuel’s The Golden Age -they made my mind explode. This is when I picked up smoking”, said the director. Asked about his antipathy for Hollywood movies, he said: “Do I look stupid to you? These movies are totally worthless”.

Talking about the differences between his first film, Crime and Punishment, and his latest, Le Havre, he said: “Perhaps I should have stuck with my first job, washing dishes. If I reflected on all of my mistakes, I would still be making my second film. Now my problem is that I cannot concentrate as much as I used to when I was younger”. He was also asked to comment on his oft-made statement that he plans to stop making movies. “This is all your fault”, he replied humorously, “I envy young people who have only one film they need to answer for, whereas I have to defend twenty films. I am running out of lies”. He declined to comment on whether he has plans for shooting a next film.

Commenting on journalists and the press, Mr. Kaurismaki said: “After my dish-washing stint, I entered the world of journalism. I admired journalists, because I thought that as a reporter one could change the world by telling the truth. Unfortunately, I then started working for the worst magazine ever, and I was disillusioned. Only later did I find out there are different kinds of journalists, who are not to be confused with each other. But it was too late; I had already made an even worse career choice, that of becoming a filmmaker”.

Mr. Kaurismaki then talked about the financial crisis that Finland suffered in the mid-1990s. “It was a crisis even deeper than the Greek one; I do not know how Finland got over it. The finish currency was no longer accepted abroad and inflation was rampant. Finland sunk, it reached bottom. It took years. Bars became full of unemployed people who could not stand sitting at home. Owners were initially thrilled, but they soon realized that patrons had no money to spend. Ups and downs are a characteristic of capitalism. When the people lose their purchasing power, businesses suffer. They cannot take all your income away, they must leave something for you to spend”.

Asked about whether he watches contemporary films, he replied that he had seen the most recent films by Jim Jarmusch. Commenting on the future of the cinema and the world in general, the director said he was seeing things realistically: “I am pessimistic about the economic situation in Europe, and about the bleak future of mankind. It is urgent that we react. If there are no fish left in the seas, we will not survive either”.

Commenting on Barack Obama’s re-election, he said, with a hint of sarcasm: “I think this is good news for Europe. Things could be worse. No US president has angel wings or clean hands, but between the two, Obama was the better choice. We now get to have four more years to repeat the same mistakes”.

Asked about digital cinema, Mr. Kaurismaki said: “I wish all the best to those involved in it, but for me, it is like taking a dive with your boots on. Cinema’ s pillars are light and electricity. For me, cinema means light. I am too old to dive with my boots on. Young people have the energy to attempt it”.

The director was also asked about his characters’ gender choices and the appearance of strong-willed women in his films. He said that “perhaps this is because I was personally saved by a strong woman. Women are usually stronger; they are rational and live in the moment. I should stress, however, that I am not concerned with the gender of my characters from a storytelling point of view. It is the characters per se that concern me script-wise”.




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About Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Industry: CROSSROADS Co-Production Forum,AGORA, script-development BALKAN FUND. Competition for directors with 1st or 2nd films. Golden Alexander Prize 37.000 €

Coverage by Vanessa McMahon, Laurie Gordon



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