«Their stories and perspectives bring a different cinematic language and energy»

THESSALONIKI / Agora Director Angeliki Vergou discusses the 2023 film market for Southeastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

The 25th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival has officially kicked off and will go through 12 March 2023, both in physical venues and online. A grand total of 237 short and full-length documentaries will be presented across the Festival’s historic venues, as well as the Port’s theatres. This year’s program features 99 world, international, and European premieres, representing an all-time record number for the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival.

A core aspect of the is its Agora. The Agora a significant Film Market of Southeastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East that brings together filmmakers, producers, distributors, and representatives from various international film festivals and TV broadcasters. This year’s Agora aims to support the production of films from Greece and the wider neighbouring region and to reduce its environmental footprint by using new technologies and making its actions more sustainable. For more on the Agora, we spoke with its director, Angeliki Vergou.

2021 Agora Docs-TDF

The Agora is described as «the birthplace of cinema of the future.» How does it fulfil this claim?

Agora is described as the ideal market to break into the industry for emerging filmmakers who, indeed, are the future of cinema. As we focus on emerging talents from our wider region, their stories and perspectives bring a different cinematic language and energy. At Agora, we aim to nurture these voices, offer them networking opportunities and help them find partners who can support them.

On this year’s lineup, 15 films have gone through past Agora Markets. Is a film’s participation in Agora guaranteed to feature on an eventual TIDF lineup?

We aim for Thessaloniki IDF to be part of the festival strategy and premiere status of the films we have selected and supported. We are also in very close communication and exchange constant info with the program department, which is also part of our selection committee. The ultimate decision is of the Artistic Director. Still, we see the films to be selected not only for Thessaloniki IDF but also for other major festivals such as IDFA, Berlinale, Cannes, CPH:DOX and Visions du Réel, to name a few.

At Agora, we aim to nurture these voices, offer them networking opportunities and help them find partners who can support them.

The Agora Market still takes place in a hybrid format, online and physical. Why did you decide to keep this format after the pandemic-related limitations of past years?

We saw a number of benefits and upgrades of our formats prompted by digitalization.

The training sessions for both the Thessaloniki Pitching Forum and the Docs in Progress happen online much earlier. This way, the project holders have time to digest the tutor’s feedback and reshape their final pitch.

We have the flexibility to include more professionals and especially people who may not be able to travel that easily (Cross-Atlantic professionals, family-related or work-related restrictions, sustainability reasons such as cutting down air travel and more). Still, we want to have access to our content. It makes the Agora more accessible. We all know it is not the same, but still, results show that the professionals engage and book meetings, watch documentaries in our online video library and have access to the Guest List.

We ask for pre-recorded pitch presentations which we put online for them, and we also offer a framework for online meetings.

All our Industry Talks are being recorded and posted online for accredited professionals. The quality of the recordings and setting of the Talks is much higher now, which pushes us to pay closer attention to the topics and professionals speaking, making the Agora Talk a highly anticipated event.

We increasingly use digital tools to promote our filmmakers and activities.

We saw a number of benefits and upgrades of our formats prompted by digitalization.

Boosting the production of Greek films is a primary mission of Agora Market. In your own experiences, what elements make a Greek documentary? Would you consider there to be a certain aesthetic or stylistic approach, conscious or not so, in films from the country?

Greek documentarists have always shed a critical eye on their country. Major themes were always social, ethnographic and historical documentaries, but we have seen a shift of themes to human rights, political documentaries and arts. Besides the dedicated filmmakers to TV documentary programs whose work and contribution we value, there is a new generation of filmmakers who bring a fresh visual language and a unique a-typical voice to the fore.

What are some of your favourite, or most important, Greek documentaries?

I would mention The Mourning Rock by Philippos Koutsaftis (2000), which is this year’s universally accessible screening at the 25th TIDF. Raw Material by Christos Karakepelis (2011), whose new film we are presenting this year at the Agora Docs in Progress, When Tomatoes Met Wagner by Marianna Economou (2019), which we also presented at the Docs in Progress before completion and Angeliki Aristomenopoulou’s A Family Affair (2015) whose new project we are presenting at the Thessaloniki Pitching Forum, just to name a few.

Steve Rickinson
Steve Rickinson
Communications Manager and Industry Editor at Modern Times Review.

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