Fest features new sections

The Thessaloniki Film Festival kicks off today as Greece wrestles with its decision to accept an $18 billion bailout from the EU rather than go broke and face expulsion from the eurozone.

Despite the economic turmoil, the fest is that rare local phenom — a cultural event with a future secured for the next two years by EU funding.

After a year under the leadership of prexy Dimitri Eipides, Thessaloniki has been thoroughly streamlined but not in a way that visitors will perceive, he says. It still offers prizes ranging from €10,000 ($13,800) to $41,200.

Fest opens with Alexander Payne’s family drama, George Clooney starrer “The Descendants,” and events will unspool in Thessaloniki’s harbor arts space, an area now being reclaimed from years of disuse.

It features a new Open Horizons section celebrating indie pics. It includes Iranian exile Amir Naderi’s “Cut,” about a Japanese filmmaker trying to make his next movie; fellow Iranian Mohammad Rasoulof’s “Goodbye”; and helmer Dorota Kedzierzawska’s Polish/Japanese “Tomorrow Will Be Better,” about three Russian immigrant children.

Pics by Gaul’s Bruno Dumont, Mathieu Kassovitz and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne plus offerings from Russia’s Alexander Sokurov and Andrey Zvyagintsev and Spain’s Montxo Armendáriz round out the section.

Guests expected to draw crowds include directors Payne, Ole Christian Madsen and Ulrich Seidl plus roundtables on comparative production in Israel, Romania and Greece.

Agora market and Crossroads co-production forum will present rising Greek talent.

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