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Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Dailies from the Thessaloniki international Film Festival

The 61st Thessaloniki International Film Festival was concluded with great success, receiving the audience’s love in every possible way. More than 80,000 viewers and movie industry professionals watched the films and attended the Festival’s online events, whereas a large number films of were sold out. Agora, the Festival’s development branch, also achieved a great attendance, offering support to Greek cinema through a series of new initiatives, actions, and awards.

The 61st Festival hosted a series of exhibitions and visual art events, within the framework of TIFF’s main concept, “Intimacy: a modern tyranny”. Works of art, video mapping, as well as The Glasshouse Project installation adorned the city streets and squares, as well as the Port of Thessaloniki, offering glimpses of joy and hope to the city’s residents, who had the chance to enjoy a touch of art during their scarce walks for exercise, groceries and the covering of basic needs, amidst these hard days we’re experiencing. The goal is for these exhibitions to remain in the city’s public space even after the Festival. 



Jim Jarmusch Press conference in Thessaloniki


Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch gave a press conference on Saturday November 2 2013, in the framework of the 54th Thessaloniki International Film Festival. The filmmaker, who is visiting Greece for the first time, attended the screening of his latest film, Only Lovers Left Alive, which opened this year’s edition of the Festival.
Welcoming the American filmmaker TIFF director Dimitri Eipides said: “I feel very honored and happy that such a distinguished filmmaker is our guest. He has been a personal friend of mine for many years. He said yesterday, before the screening of his film, that we have known each other for thirty years, but I think it is more… I am excited to welcome Jim Jarmusch and his latest film, which, like his entire filmography, manages to surprise; it is a fascinating, attractive film that will appeal especially to the younger audience, which has always been dedicated to his work.”
Taking the floor, Jim Jarmusch first thanked the Festival for the invitation. Then, addressing a question on his choice of the vampire genre for his latest film, he said: “The long tradition of the genre did not frighten me. There are hundreds of vampire films, but mine is not a horror film; it is rather a different take on the vampire genre. One of the oldest and most beautiful films in the genre is Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr; more recently, Let Me In was a movie I really enjoyed, as were Τrouble Every Day by Claire Denis, and Addiction by Abel Ferrara.  There are many vampire films that are not horror movies.”
Commenting on the issue of the mainstream, the American director said: “I have always found the most interesting things outside the mainstream, often in the margins. Throughout art history, there is always a cultural status quo and a cultural fringe. Not always, but often, the most innovative and progressive developments emerge from the margins. I would definitely place myself somewhere in the margin — I certainly do not consider myself part of the mainstream. But it is also certain that there are other people I greatly appreciate, who are more courageous, who are breaking more cinematic rules than I am, and who therefore belong to the fringe more genuinely than me.”
Discussing the role music plays in his movies and the revival of the psychedelic genre, Jarmusch explained: “I enjoy many different genres of music. Music is our most powerful means of expression as humans. I cannot describe exactly the new psychedelic musical movement, but I like many bands that are part of it. I also enjoy trance music, certain metal sub-genres like stoner and doom metal, underground hip hop, hard rock and many others. But I am very excited to see this revival of psychedelia, a music genre that allows your mind to wander.” Jarmusch also talked about the experience of being part of a music band: “Making a movie usually takes me around two years, whereas my music emerges from inside me more directly, filling me with happiness. The composer of the music in Only Lovers Left Alive, Jozef van Wissem, is a lute player. We recorded a couple of records last year with my band SQÜRL that included arrangements of his compositions. Also, all guitar parts in the film are mine, and are therefore not really virtuoso.”
Jarmusch was asked about a comment he had made in the past, that “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.” As he explained: “I guess I ‘stole’ ideas from everywhere, but this was never conscious. Still, I don’t think that the word ‘stealing’ is the appropriate one. What I meant with that statement was that despite there being no original ideas, their beauty lies in that they resemble the waves of the ocean: each is connected to both the previous and the next one. It is very important to accept the things we like and influence us, and then be able to incorporate them in whatever we are doing. This is something all artists do. Those who fail to acknowledge it are either lying or are afraid they will not be considered innovative.”
Jim Jarmusch then commented on American independent cinema and the trend of low-budget productions in Greece. “It depends on how you define independent American cinema. It is usually a term used - especially in the US - for marketing reasons. The situation has changed, so has distribution. There have been radical changes in funding and I honestly don’t know what the future may bring. Perhaps this new cinema trend in Greece, with filmmakers making low-budget movies, is the best way forward. The history of every art form — rock n’ roll for example — follows a cyclical path. When I was younger, we were fed up with studio produced, commercial rock n’ roll. When the Stooges, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones appeared, it no longer mattered being a professional. I believe that, in a way, this is also the future for the cinema. I prefer watching an independent Greek production with a $200,000 budget over watching Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, but I guess this is a matter of taste.” Jarmusch also added: “The most important thing is to bring out cinema’s essential poetry. Already in countries like Greece, Romania and Iran, there are wonderful cinema gardens blossoming, making you wonder how on earth those people can make movies in the midst of such a deep crisis. And yet they do. I can see that people always find a way to express themselves. I believe in that. To create something beautiful you do not always need loads of money.”
Commenting on why he chose Detroit and Tangier to shoot his new film, Jarmusch said: “I don’t like analyzing and explaining the symbolism of my locations — answers can be found in the films themselves. I simply thought these were the best locations to define my characters. I love Detroit and Tangier for a number of reasons I could spend hours explaining, and perhaps a part of me wanted to return to those cities.” Asked if Thessaloniki could be the location of a future film he makes, Jarmusch said: “I have only been here for a couple of days, but I already like the city very much. Before coming I read about its history, which is unbelievable. I don’t have a script available, but you never know. I have my own way of absorbing impressions.”
Commenting on the recent death of Lou Reed, Jim Jarmusch said: “I have spent many years in New York, where Lou Reed is considered the godfather of rock n’ roll. He and his band, the Velvet Underground, had always been in music’s avant-garde. When they first appeared everybody hated them, they said this was not music, but now you can see how deeply they have influenced art. He is a major source of inspiration and his death is deeply felt. But Lou Reed is not lost to us -he has given us so much. I don’t enjoy all his music - nobody likes everything any single artist does - but I love a large part of it. We were not close friends, but we had spent some time together. May his memory live forever.”
On whether sound or image is the first thing that comes to his mind when working on a film, Jarmusch said: “Neither. The first thing is the characters, and some parts of the film universe. Image and sound are almost identical in my mind - they are the elements that determine the atmosphere of the film. Besides, cinema is the art that is most intimately connected to music, because it entails movement in time and has an internal rhythm. I think that I try to learn about filmmaking from music, while at times I also think of music in cinematic terms. I feel happy about this ‘mix-up’.”
Commenting on his films being considered a “time capsule,” the director said: “It would be presumptuous of me to think of my films on those terms. My last film contains a number of references to scientists and artists. I consider it a success if a film reference to someone important, say William Blake, makes a viewer in Kansas or Lithuania take an interest in him. Inspiring even a single person is hopeful and important.”
Addressing a question from the audience, Jarmusch said he would be open to working on a TV project. “It is possible. I do have some ideas. The only reservation I have is that I am very independent. I always choose my crew and I have absolute control over the creative aspects of my work. So I worry that television may not allow me that kind of freedom and independence. If the opportunity presents itself and I have a good idea, I will seriously think about it. Television has become an interesting medium. It often provides the opportunity to make projects that cannot find their way to the big screen due to budget constraints. Five years ago, Todd Haynes directed a high-quality, cinema-like TV adaptation of Mildred Pierce.” About existing TV productions, he said: “The truth is I do not watch much TV, because I want to avoid becoming addicted to a series. But I do get a taste. I watched one episode of Breaking Bad and one of Mad Men; I had started watching The Wire and could see that it would become compulsive viewing, so I dropped it. But since I am a fanatic cinema lover, I naturally prefer watching movies.”
Commenting on his collaboration with Greek film producer Christos Konstantakopoulos, Jarmusch said: “He was an angel for our film. We had secured part of our funding from France, Germany and England, but money was a little short to start filming. Then Christos came and made it happen. When we first met, we spent the entire evening talking about music, about our common love for New Orleans, Mark Twain and our belief in the Shakespeare conspiracy. He is an amazing person. His knowledge and interests are a wonderful gift. I should also mention Dimitri Eipides at this point, who is a navigator, a godfather, a guide of interesting cinema. I know that many other directors share my view, I am not just making a compliment.”
Jarmusch was also asked, in relation to his films Dead Man and Only Lovers Left Alive, about the matter of life and death and how he deals with it as a filmmaker. “In Dead Man, life and death are cyclical. I hope that my last film is seen as a celebration of the gift of consciousness. Despite the immenseness of the universe and the fact that life on this planet is a tiny piece of that universe, we have the consciousness of being alive. I believe this idea — the consciousness of existence — is evident in my film. And Eve is the main character expressing it.”
Asked about the immortality of art, Jarmusch said: “When my friend, Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki, was asked at the Cannes Film Festival about how he sees his place in the history of cinema, he replied: ‘don’t worry, history will cover everything with a veil.’ This is how I also see it.”
Asked about the things that stimulate his mind, Jarmusch said: “It is this consciousness of being. Imagination is one of our most beautiful traits as humans; the natural presence of the earth, the sky, the universe.  No drug does the trick for me, I have tasted them all in the past.”
The participation of the opening film, which is part of the 54th Festival’s “Open Horizons” section, is one of the actions of this year’s Festival financed by the European Union - European Regional Development Fund, in the framework of the Regional Programme for Central Macedonia - 2007-2013.



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About Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Industry: CROSSROADS Co-Production Forum,AGORA, script-development BALKAN FUND. Competition for directors with 1st or 2nd films. Golden Alexander Prize 37.000 €

Coverage by Vanessa McMahon, Laurie Gordon



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