235 films to be screened at Thessaloniki Documentary Festival amid precautionary measures against COVID-19

Mona Sheded, Thursday 17 Mar 2022

Some 235 films from all over the world are being screened during the 24th edition of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (TDF) in Greece, which kicked off on 10 March with measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

film fest

The TDF returned this year in a hybrid format following a two-year hiatus as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 10-day festival kicked off in the Olympion Theater in Thessaloniki, Greece, and will announce its awards on 20 March during its official closing ceremony.

More than 235 films from all over the world are participating in this hybrid edition making use of both physical and online screenings, with rigorous precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

The exact details of the precautionary measures are unknown.

American filmmaker and former Oscar nominee David France opened the festival with his new film How to Survive a Pandemic, reminding us of all we had to go through in the past two years.

The film documents the scientists’ hard work to win the pandemic fight and create and develop vaccines, working behind the scenes in their labs while the world is waiting to be saved.

The TDF has three main competitions: International Competition, Newcomers Competition, and Film Forward Competition. Each competition offers two awards, the Golden Alexander and a Special Jury Award, accompanied by cash prizes.

12 films over 70 minutes in length are competing in the International Competition. Members of its jury include Russian film director Dimitris Koutsiabasakos, Swiss film director Alexandre O. Philippe and Latvian film director Laila Pakalniņa.

The 12 films tell very interesting stories. Femicidio by Nina Maria Paschalidou and Spanton vs The French Police by Ovidie are dealing with women’s problems and how the #metoo movements helped. Ovidie’s film tells the story of Émily Spanton, who was raped by two French police officers in 2014 who almost got away with it before #metoo.

Paschalidou is trying, in her film, to understand the growing phenomenon of femicide in Italy, tracking cases of violence and murder against women.

Off the Rails by BBC filmmaker Peter Day gives us a glimpse into the risks some youths take to build a career as YouTubers, by following the precarious lives of Rikke Brewer and Aiden Knox as they struggle to get over the death of their best friend Nye Newman.

Turn Your Body to the Sun by Aliona van der Horst tells a story of a Soviet prisoner of war in World War II, through the lens of his daughter who decided to track his path through his diaries, various personal and public archives and registries.

The Other Half by Giorgos Moutafis is about refugee stories, and A House Made of Splinters by Simon Lereng Wilmont is about war victims. Young Plato by Neasa Ní Chianáin and Declan McGrath is about a teacher trying to save the children from a dark future in a dangerous neighborhood by teaching them philosophy.

The remaining films are ANIMA – My Father’s Dresses by Uli Decker, A Marble Travelogue by Sean Wang, Tilos Weddings by Panayotis Evangelidis, and Second Chance by Ramin Bahrani.

The Newcomers Competition features debut and sophomore films by young directors. Its 12 films will be judged by three filmmakers including Angeliki Aristomenopoulou from Greece, Michael Graversen from Denmark and Laurien ten Houten from Netherlands.

Two Arab filmmakers are competing for the awards in this competition. Mohammed Abugeth co-directed The Devil’s Drivers with Daniel Carsenty, where they followed a story in south of Hebron about two Bedouin drivers smuggling construction workers across the border to find work. The film had its world premiere in Toronto international film festival.

Lebanese filmmaker Rita Baghdadi is competing with her film Sirens, about an all female thrash metal band in Lebanon. It premiered at Sundance International Film Festival.

Film Forward Competition is hosting 12 films that question film conventions and brings forth radical films. The jury members are Toby Lee, professor of cinema studies at NYU, Babis Makridis from Greece, and Marta Popivoda from Germany.

Five Arab filmmakers are participating in noncompeting sections. In the Post-Reality section, this includes Lauren Alexander and Ghalia Elsrakbi’s film Baby Come Home.

Ghalia Elsrakbi is a Syrian artist based between Amsterdam and Cairo. Her film is one of Foundland Collective projects, an Art and design group she formed in 2009 with South African Lauren Alexander.

Suzannah Mirghani from Sudan is participating in the same section with a seven minute film called Virtual Voice about the fake life some girls live on social media.

The Top Docs section has one film made by Syrian filmmaker Diana El Jeiroudi called Republic of Silence.

The Open Horizons section has two Arab films, Homemade Stories by Nidal Al Dibs who is a Syrian filmmaker based in Egypt, and Batata by Lebanese director Noura Kevorkian.

The TDF was founded in 1999. It is an international documentary festival held every March in Thessaloniki, Greece. It is organised by the Thessaloniki Film Festival cultural institution, which also organises the annual Thessaloniki International Film Festival, held in November

The TDF ranks among the world's leading documentary festivals, and since 2018, TDF is one of the 28 festivals included in the American Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences Documentary Feature Qualifying Festival List.

French producer Elise Jalladeu is TDF's general director and film critic Orestes Andreadakis is the director.

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