Let the Right One In
It’s always difficult to sum up a program of almost 50 titles in a single page,much less under one thematic aspect, as the “experts” would like. I will, therefore, opt to talk about some of my more special moments as they come to mind. Not that there aren’t thematic strands, but I’ll leave the associations to the well-intentioned among our viewers; as there are also certain recurring obsessions which our ‘regulars’ will easily recognize. For example, the presence of Brillante Mendoza, for the third time, with Service (Serbis), the most controversial film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Or the return of Kim Jee-woon with his orgiastic Asian spaghetti-Western The Good, the Bad, the Weird. Or that of American filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, with her third and probably best work so far, Wendy and Lucy. And here I would like to note, by the way, that this year might be the best Young Americans selection ever, with five films that are totally different and representative of the various trends jostling each other under the umbrella of American independent cinema. Add to these Azazel Jacobs from New York, who won much acclaim with his Momma’s Man and is certainly “Someone to Watch,”as a representative of a cinema that is typically New Yorkan and bohemian, but also deeply human.
But at the core of this year’s program – and what we see as our big challenge – is the tribute to Ousmane Sembene. The greatest – regrettably no longer living – African filmmaker from Senegal and at the same time an exponent of the once regional – and deeply political – cinema of the Third World is being honored by a retrospective of his complete oeuvre, at a timewhen the Dark Continent is not, unfortunately, cinematically fashionable. Even though, this year, that is where two of the most important films come from. The renowned Ethiopian director Haile Gerima, who never tried to hide the influence Sembene had on his work, makes a triumphant comeback after a long absence with the epic Teza, a political saga that spans two decades of his homeland’s – and, to a large extent, Africa’s – troubled history during the post-colonial period. Using a totally different écriture, the much younger Tariq Teguia from Algeria, in his impressive film Inland (Gabbla), places the very soil of Algeria – a land of revolution and exile – in the role of protagonist. Similar sensibilities and approaches are shared by two of Latin America’s participations: Lisandro Alonso’s Liverpool and The Sky, the Earth and the Rain (El cielo, la tierra y la lluvia) by José Luís Torres Leiva from Chile, two difficult choices which we are proud to be screening.
Undoubtedly this year’s highlight is Terence Davies’ presence in Thessaloniki for a unique masterclass given on the occasion of the retrospective of his oeuvre. We’d been waiting for quite some years for Terence Davies – in many people’s view the greatest living British auteur – to finally make his sixth film (in a career spanning almost thirty years). The long wait engendered a poetical, and often aphoristically virulent, essay on Liverpool, Davies’ hometown. Its title says it all: Of Time and the City. Somewhere nearby is also the home of the Desperate Optimists, “Someone to Watch,” a couple (in art and in life) that lives and works in the UK, having started out in the theater and experimental performance before moving on to film. They will be presenting a short film project entitled Civic Life (a total of nine films of which seven consist on one long take), filmed in collaboration with community groups in the UK and Ireland, and their impressive feature debut Helen.
I am also happy because this year we will continue to bring together music and cinema through the presentation of young musicians from Thessaloniki. "Good Luck Mister Gorsky" and "Eventless Plot" were asked to compose music which they will perform live as an accompaniment to the screening of the silent cult movie The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen) by Victor Sjöström. So let’s call it the unofficial launching of yet another “Independence Days” staple: the ID Soundtracks...We will also be continuing our DIY quests and assignments with a very special project. The very young Michael Albright is coming to Thessaloniki not only to present a documentary on Sonic Youth (shot by students), but also to coordinate a similar experiment with students from the Film Department of Thessaloniki’s Arstotle University who will cover two separate concerts of the Festival and share the outcome with us. Finally, I’m happy because we’ll be welcoming in Thessaloniki a cult figure of Brazilian cinema, the formidable Coffin Joe (the alias of José Mojica Marins), whose extremely blasphemous Embodiment of Evil (Encarnação do Demônio) will be screened after midnight. I will stop here and simply point you to the title ofmy introduction, which refers to much more than just the title of a (favorite) film in this year’s selection...
Artistic Director, “Independence Days”