The Thessaloniki Film Festival presents Rise or Greek Cinema

When the public returns for the 63rd edition of Thessaloniki Intl. At the film festival, which runs from November 3-13, many are hoping to find out what new wave of up-and-coming local talent might be on the hunt for the next “Magnetic Fields”, the debut feature from graphic designer-turned-director Yorgos Goussis. After riding the success of its 2021 Thessaloniki premiere to sweep the country’s local Oscars, the film represents Greece in the international race for the feature film Oscars.

From its humble origins as a week of Greek cinema among film lovers in this beautiful seaside city, the Thessaloniki event has provided a launching pad for emerging Greek talent ranging from Goussis to Theo Angelopoulos, the dominant figure in 20th-century Greek cinema. century, which premiered its first feature film, “Reconstruction”, at the festival in 1970.

Half a century later, Greece is enjoying its brightest moment on the big screen since Oscar-nominated Yorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth,” “The Lobster”) ushered in the weird Greek wave in the late 2000s. Hardened by years of economic crisis, a diverse generation of young filmmakers is on the rise, pushing Greek cinema in new directions and reaching surprising heights.

This year’s Thessaloniki Film Festival will feature 26 feature films and 19 short films from the host country, with 14 of these feature films celebrating their world premieres. This strong Greek contingent will look to build on the success of recent years, which has seen the emergence of directors such as Christos Nikou, who hit the Telluride-Venice-Toronto trifecta with his Cate-produced feature “Apples.” Blanchett; Araceli Lemos, whose debut album “Holy Emy” in 2021 won an award at Locarno; Evi Kalogiropoulou, whose short film “On the throne of Xerxes” won a prize at the Semaine de la Critique in Cannes; and Vasilis Kekatos, whose short film “The distance between us and the sky” won the Palme d’Or.

Their international visibility, perhaps above all, is what distinguishes this generation of Greek filmmakers from their predecessors, according to Orestis Andreadakis, director of the Thessaloniki festival. “Twenty years ago it was completely different,” he says. “Now, this young generation is everywhere: festivals, markets, [winning] prices.

“They’re much more international to begin with,” adds Amanda Livanou of Neda Film, who produced Christos Massalas’ feature debut “Broadway,” which premiered in Rotterdam, and is developing Kalogiropoulou’s anticipated feature debut, “Cora”. “They grew up with it.”

If the landscape of Greek filmmakers today is radically different from that of the previous generation, it is no coincidence. Since the financial crisis of the mid-2010s, when lenders imposed tough austerity measures on the country as part of an EU bailout, the Greek economy has proved surprisingly resilient. In 2018, the government introduced a 25% cash rebate, which has since increased to 40%, to attract foreign productions and revive the local film industry.

Almost overnight, Greece has become one of Europe’s hottest filming destinations, attracting high profile international productions such as Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness”, and Rian Johnson’s Netflix blockbuster “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” The discount has also given a much-needed boost to domestic production, while easing the way for international co-productions that are the cornerstone of Greek industry.

From the start of their careers, today’s Greek filmmakers learn to navigate the choppy waters of international film funding. They also benefit from an integrated European network of markets, laboratories and support programmes. By the time they pitch their first feature films, many have worked on their screenplays at the Cannes Cinéfondation Residence in Paris, presented their projects in Karlovy Vary and pitched shorts in Locarno and Berlin.

For Greek filmmakers like Palme d’Or winner Kekatos, old borders are a thing of the past. “I make films because I want to tell stories. Stories about people. And I make them in Greece because I’m here right now,” he says. “I could make them in any part of the world.”

The director is developing his feature debut, “Our Wildest Days,” which follows a young woman who leaves her dysfunctional family to follow a group of romantic strangers through a broken Greece. It’s a story in some ways emblematic of his generation of filmmakers, who weathered economic downturns and austerity measures in pursuit of their chimerical cinematic dreams.

“What motivates me are people who are somewhere and want to go somewhere else. People who want to escape. Runaways of all ages, leaving without knowing where to go,” says Kekatos. “And even if they don’t get anywhere, they see glimpses of unknown beauty along the way.”

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