Topper sees creative answers in global crises

At a time when the world is going through a historic fiscal crisis, cinema has a key role to play, Thessaloniki fest director Despina Mouzaki says.

The festival’s 50th edition takes as its theme “Why cinema now?” — a motto inspired by Jean Renoir’s words that “everyone (involved in cinema) would have to reinvent everything from the beginning in order to keep cinema alive.”

“It is a common ground that the most essential requirement for creation and creativity is reinvention,” Mouzaki says. “In an era of a global crisis, during which even human dignity is being called into question, this becomes an urgent question. Today more than ever we need to rethink everything, starting from the beginning.”

A glance at the festival competition lineup —

devoted to first and second features — reflects some of those urgent questions.

Programmed by Mouzaki, the lineup includes the world premiere of Romanian director Calin Netzer’s “Medal of Honor,” a tale of an elderly couple’s cheerless marriage that changes when the husband receives a government award, and the international premiere of “Father’s Acre” by Hungarian director Viktor Oszkar Nagy, about the damage a man’s prison sentence does to his relationship with his son.

European premieres include Korea’s “Missing Person” from Lee Seo; “The Day Will Come” by German director Susanne Schneider; and “The Unloved,” the directorial debut by British actress Samantha Morton.

The approaches of these filmmakers are not the only ways Mouzaki is seeking to address Renoir’s challenge.

New initiatives this year include a series of cinematic events that will literally take place in the city’s streets — such as daily screenings of films with railroad themes at the city’s main rail terminus — and panel discussions on the role of cinema and film festivals in modern society.

For industry visitors, a new digital film library will help producers, distributors, agents and buyers see films on demand at the fest’s market, the Agora, and trace interest to provide swift feedback to filmmakers.

“The professional buzz resulting from the top 20 most-viewed films and online surveys will help matchmaking on the spot, with constant feeds to attending sellers,” Mouzaki says. “After the festival ends, rights holders of participating films will receive a full list of those people — with their contacts — who have screened their films.”

TIP SHEET

What: Thessaloniki Intl. Film Festival

When: Nov. 13-22

Where: Thessaloniki, Greece

Spotlight: Werner Herzog’s oeuvre screens, and helmer will be on hand to give a master class and receive the Golden Alexander award.

Web: filmfestival.gr

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