Saturday, November 14, 2009

Greece's film festival opens with glamour, politics and protests

50th Thessaloniki Film Festival - opening night

Amidst boycotts, rows over funding and worries over the future of cinema as a whole the 50th Thessaloniki film festival opened last night bringing a touch of silver screen glamour to the northern port city of Thessaloniki.

However, ongoing disputes of how the Greek government's funds the country's movie maκing industry have meant that most local films have nor been entered for competition this year. The protest by a group calling itself Film Makers in the Mist made up many of the country's leading directors was organised in order to demand more transparency over how money raised through taxation on cinema tickets is spent by the government.

Recently elected Pavlos Geroulanos, minister for culture and tourism however, used his speech in the opening ceremony to launch a thinly veiled attack on the previous government's funding policies which he said discouraged pluralism and had helped create a culture of silence and complicity.

In addition to local concerns this year's festival slogan, "Why Cinema?" reflects deeper worries within the European film industry over what the future holds for movies in an era in which new technologies are sweeping away older certainties.

Despite these concerns Greece's largest movie event started off confidently with Soul Kitchen, the work of leading Turkish director Fatih Akin who was later to be seen manning the decks as he DJed the first night party which only finished towards dawn.

The festival which lasts till 22nd November will feature hundreds of full length features, shorts and documentaries as well as a number of concerts, street performances and master classes by film makers such as the veteran German director, Werner Herzog.

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