What is the focus of this year’s edition? Do you have a theme for the films selected in the festival this year?
This year we celebrate the 20th edition of Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and on this occasion we had a different approach to selecting the ten films in the International Competition section. Our guiding compass has been Georges Perec’s well-known novel Life a User’s Manual, a book with over 2000 characters and hundreds of stories, highlighting life as a puzzle that can never be solved. Perec challenges the reader in a mental game that tackles concepts such as time, memory, happiness, life and death. He was a member of the literary movement OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle) which focused on the concept of the game, so this year we created our own “game” and called it OuFeCiPo (Ouvroir de Festival Cinématographique Potentiel), an alternative way to select, watch, review and reflect on films.
Why this approach?
We thought that selecting the films this way makes the selection a creative process that marks our devotion to the art of documentary making and we created a program that reflects all faces and hues of human life around the globe, and exposes a mosaic of stories, highlighting the world as it was, as it is and as we would like it to be.
If you would have to describe the festival in five keywords that would describe what the festival is and what it means to you, what would those keywords be?
Truth. Inspiration. Vision. Imagination. Interaction. The festival means all these things to me, and of course, many more.
What does the term “movie that matters” mean to you?
A film that matters is a film that can inform, lead to action, entertain, change things, make a difference and also become a part of us after viewing it.
What are for you three documentary films everyone should see and why?
There are more than three films I can think of, but I choose Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, this tremendously epic look on the Holocaust that many consider among the milestones of historical documentaries. I’d also choose Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line, a fine example of how documentary art can indeed change things, in this case, proving a man’s innocence for a crime that he did not commit. Last but not least, Don’t Look Back by D.A. Pennebaker, an iconic film about Bob Dylan, because documentaries can also be entertaining.
What is the standing of documentary films compared to ten years ago, and also regarding your festival?
I think documentary and reality go together and certainly things are not the same as they were ten years ago. Many would agree that we live in more confusing times than a decade ago. In my opinion, these times are also challenging and we have to accept this challenge and move on. Documentaries can show us ways to understand what happens in the world and deal with these challenges. We need documentaries more than before, as they provide a compass into a complicated world. Filmmakers are aware of this new situation and respond to it by making films that deal with these challenges on many levels. And even though reality changes, the need for having documentaries in our lives and the goals of documentary art remain the same. Through our festival we share information, raise awareness, call to action and also urge audiences to look at the world with a critical eye.