By his own description, George Corraface’s first experience as prexy of the Thessaloniki fest was “quite crazy,” as the thesp was thrown into the job last year without much preparation.
Still, he enjoyed the experience and now, in his second year, he is optimistic that under his leadership the fest will trigger a new wave of energy and passion in Greek cinema.
“Film festivals are a wonderful tool for adding a new dynamism to a local film industry, because they can create an atmosphere of openness and enthusiasm,” he says.
Corraface is one of Greek cinema’s few international faces, having starred in pics including “Christopher Columbus” and “Not Without My Daughter.” Born and still a resident in Paris, he’s of Greek origin and has been a local box office draw for the last 15 years.
“Currently, making a film in Greece is a wild adventure, especially as far as the way money goes around is concerned,” he says. “The rules are written, but the way you interpret them is quite supple. Sometimes this elasticity has good results, sometimes bad.”
With one workshop, Corraface aims to showcase alternatives to state filmmaking subsidies.
He’s also excited by the fest’s new focus on scriptwriting and development through master classes. “That’s what our region needs. Eventually, if the budget allows it, I’d like to have a Sundance-style scriptwriters’ lab, maybe even a filmmakers lab.”
Having added buzz and glamour in her first round as Thessaloniki’s director last year, Despina Mouzaki has upped the stakes by adding five preems to the fest’s international competition this year.
“This is very challenging for us, as the festivals worldwide are increasing and the competition to acquire premieres is quite aggressive,” Mouzaki says.
Mouzaki, who’s keen to raise the fest’s profile, brings plenty of international experience. Having studied communications and filmmaking at Boston U. and the MIT Media Lab, she ran her own production outfit in Greece and produced such European co-productions as Pantelis Voulgaris’ “Brides” and Tassos Boulmetis’ “Touch of Spice.”
She also has her eye on finance and production. Having been VP of the Greek Film Center for four years before taking the Thessaloniki post, she intends to expand the Crossroads co-production forum, which she launched last year.
Greek producers value this aspect of the fest highly, and in her own country, Mouzaki will be judged accordingly.
“We’re yet to see a real connection between the festival and the Greek film industry,” says Greek producer Thakis Veremis. “I hope there will be the possibility of informal creative exchange between the Greek film community and the foreign visitors.”
Adds Veremis: “This is the first year that (her) new vision of the festival will really become visible.”