The annual Documentary Festival of Thessaloniki, the biggest of its kind in Greece, is back again with documentary films from around the world, tributes, surprises, as well as a selection of parallel events – open discussions, masterclasses, and exhibitions. The 18th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival – Images of the 21st Century kicks off next month (March 11-20), inviting filmmakers and viewers to a unique cinematic celebration.

Special Tribute to Refugees

The festival’s special tribute “Refugees: Escape to Freedom?” aims to contribute to the international debate about refugees and human rights, and bring into focus the individual, social and political responsibilities on this critical issue.

The tribute consists of films that reveal shocking stories of refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Mani Yassir Benchelah’s This Is Exile: Diaries of Child Refugees captures the horror of the Syrian civil war through the eyes of child refugees who fled to Lebanon. Child refugees also take centre stage in Andreas Koefoed’s At Home in the World, in a sensitive observation of five students at a Danish Red Cross asylum school who strive to adapt to their new homeland, in spite of their past traumas. The odyssey of an Afghan teenager who seeks asylum in Denmark unfolds in Michael Graversen’s Dreaming of Denmark, providing a poignant insight into the destinies of hundreds of unaccompanied child migrants who struggle to survive. Ahmed, a young Somali refugee, is the protagonist of I Am Dublin. In Flotel Europa, director Vladimir Tomic delivers a compelling story with social and political messages by delving into his memories, feelings and experiences as a child refugee who fled from Sarajevo to Denmark in 1992. Two other doc films take place on the Italian island of Lampedusa, a gateway to Europe for most African immigrants: Tim De Keersmaecker’s No Man Is an Island and Jakob Brossmann’s Lampedusa in Winter.

As panel discussion entitled “Documenting the ‘Refugee Crisis’: Methods, Objectives, Challenges and Ethics” will complement the tribute during the festival.

The Greek Programme

72 Greek – feature and short – films will be screened during the 18th TDF: and 22 of these are included in the various International Programme sections and 50 in the Greek Panorama section. Society and politics, human rights and immigration, history and memory, as well as intriguing human stories, arts and ecology, are among the topics that inspire the Greek filmmakers into capturing the contemporary multi-layered reality, in this year’s rich documentary production.

Snapshots of the Greek reality are presented through some of the programme’s documentaries, such as Apostolos Karabasis’ Next Stop: Utopia, In Solitude or In Solidarity? by Akis Kersanidis and Chryssa Tzelepi, and Golden Dawn: A Personal Affair by Angélique Kourounis. The urgent refugee issue becomes the focus of attention in Morteza Jafari’s Dreaming of Life, while human rights are the subject of A Second Chance by Menelaos Karamaghiolis. Ecologically conscious documentaries are also included in the Greek programme: Nassim Alatras’ Windbag of Aeolus; Guardians of the Aegean by Omiros Evangelinos; and Daphne Toli’s Feathering Heights. Art, always a driving force for Greek documentary filmmakers, is prominent in a number of films this year: Tériade by Simos Korexenidis; 33,333 The Odyssey of Nikos Kazantzakis by Menios Carayannis; Working Dancers by Constandina Bousboura and Julia M. Heimann. Captivating human stories take centre stage in many, including: Eliana Abravanel’s Finish Line; Nostos by Sandrine Dumas; Irina Boiko’s Long Dive; Haris Raftogiannis’ True Blue; Maro Anastopoulou’s Whispers of the Sky; and Morning Neighbor! by Tania Chatzigeorgiou.

Highlights and tributes

The latest works of prominent documentary filmmakers, Oscar nominated films, as well as intimate portraits of renowned artists are some of the highlights from this year’s edition.  Two Oscar nominated films (Best Documentary – Short) will also be screened at the 18th TDF: Adam Benzine’s Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, a short documentary film that recounts the making of the landmark Holocaust documentary “Shoah”; and Courtney Marsh’s Chau, Beyond the Lines, which introduces brave teenager Chau living in a Vietnamese care centre for children born with defects due to Agent Orange, who is determined to be a professional artist.

Furthermore, this year’s edition honours the work of Danish filmmaker Jon Bang Carlsen and that of Irish director, writer and curator Mark Cousins, who document reality in their own innovative way. The filmmakers will attend the festival to present and discuss their work with audiences and guests.