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Docs on the Spot

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International Competition “Touch me not” / “Noli me tangere” guides the selection of this year’s IC films


The International Competition section of the 21st Thessaloniki Documentary Festival discovers the boldest new voices of contemporary documentary filmmaking, presenting the first or second films by the most promising directors from all over the world. It is worth noting that the TDF is included -along with 28 leading film festivals- in the Documentary Feature Qualifying Festival List established by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Thus the documentary that wins TDF’s Golden Alexander Best Documentary–International Competition award automatically becomes eligible for Oscar consideration in the Documentary Feature category.


This year the festival selects the IC films -two of which are Greek- guided by “Touch me not” / “Noli me tangere”, the phrase spoken by Jesus to Mary Magdalene when she recognized him after his resurrection and attempted to get close to him. Jesus was already “in another place” and Mary Magdalene tried to reach it and minimize the distance between them. This biblical scene (John 20:17) has inspired art numerous times from the 12th century to the present day, “but it is also portrayed ‘in motion’ in many documentaries”, as TDF’s artistic director Orestis Andreadakis notes, adding: “Immigrants dream of connecting with their relatives who live miles away; impoverished people clumsily bridge their distance from family memories; refugees traverse barefoot the Promised Land struggling to arrive “in another place”. The whole planet attempts to touch, hold and approach this destination. Hence the phrase “touch me not” takes form as the compass for the selection of the IC documentaries and motivates the need to integrate it into a modern political theology”.


The films


Advocate by Rachel Leah Jones & Philippe Bellaiche, Israel, 2019, 110’ International Premiere: Jewish-Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel has been defending for fifty years the Palestinians; from political prisoners and feminists to fundamentalists and protesters. For the Israelis, she does the unthinkable. For the Palestinians, she is a precious ally.


Animus Animalis by Aiste Zegulyte, Lithuania, 2018, 69’: Snapshots from the life of deer hunters, deer farmers and taxidermists, as well as scenes of a taxidermy competition depict how humans interact with animals –dead or alive- in this bold debut that evokes the films of Roy Andersson.


In Touch by Pawel Ziemilski, Poland-Iceland, 2018, 63’: The population of a small Polish village is decreased after a large immigration stream to Iceland. People who are left behind struggle to stay in touch with their family members via Skype. Technology brings them closer, but human contact is something far more complex.


Isis, Tomorrow. The Lost Souls of Mosul by Francesca Mannocchi & Alessio Romenzi, Italy-Germany, 2018, 80’ International Premiere: Following the defeat of ISIS in Iraq, the seed of hatred still survives through the children of fundamentalists who are trained to become kamikaze. Their testimonies are shocking; many of them have never known the world before ISIS, immersed in a spiral of endless violence.


Lemebel by Joanna Reposi Garibaldi, Chile-Colombia, 2019, 96’: A film about Pedro Lemebel (1952-2015), writer, visual artist and pioneer of the queer movement in Latin America, who shook up Pinochet’s Chile in the 1980s and became an icon activist for his risky performances dealing with homosexuality and human rights.


Midnight Traveller by Hassan Fazili, USA-Qatar-Canada-United Kingdom, 2018, 86’ International Premiere: After the Taliban put a price on his head, Afghan director Hassan Fazili was forced to flee his home with his family. With their mobile phones they recorded their odyssey as refugees in the Balkans and delivered this gripping autobiographical film.


Normal by Adele Tulli, Italy-Sweden, 2018, 70’: A mosaic of everyday snapshots that capture the key moments in the course of our lives highlights the paths through which male and female identities are inscribed into people’s frame of mind, urging us to reflect upon the ways the notion of “normal” is formed within us. 


The full list of the IC films will be announced soon.



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