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Slimmed-down Thessaloniki film fest preps for opening

Greek financial crisis forces cutbacks on new topper

PRAGUE — Under new leadership, a trimmer, more focused Thessaloniki Film Festival will open with Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours” on Dec. 3.

Pic’s tale of survival against all odds may be fitting. The worsening financial crisis in Greece meant that the 51st edition of the fest didn’t get the support it was hoping for from public funds. This meant its roster of films was cut 40% to 165 pics this year.

“We have to face new reality — in times of crisis culture suffers most,” said topper Dimitris Eipides, who also heads the Thessaloniki documentary fest in spring.

Yet, even with fewer films and a start date moved from November to December, this year sees a torrent of local productions thanks to the country’s new film law, which restructures government support. Local films receive a return on the tax moviegoers pay to buy tickets while TV stations must plow a minimum of 1.5% of their revenues into movie production.

Filmmakers who boycotted both Thessaloniki fests for the past three years, protesting delays in reform, are back, said Eipides, citing 21 pics in the Greek film section plus a special screening of “Love at First Shot” by helmer Yannis Dalianidis, who died last month, age 87.

Festgoers will also discover a revived Open Horizons section unspooling 22 indie pics from Europe, the Americas and Asia, including Kyrgyzstan’s “The Light Thief” by Aktan Arym Kubat, and U.S. post-9/11 think piece “The Imperialists Are Still Alive!” by Zeina Durra.

Main line-up features 16 pics from Europe, North America, the Middle East and Australia, including two Greek debuts — “Apnea,” Ari Bafalouka’s tale of a competitive swimmer searching for his missing girlfriend, and cult sexual development take “Attenberg” by Athina Rachel Tsangari — plus oddball U.S. road movie “Littlerock” by Michael Ott and Kurdish journey movie “Exhausted” by Ebrahim Saeedi.

Iraqi helmer Mohamed Al-Daradji is also honored with a focus section, as are Denmark’s Susanne Bier, Poland’s Dorota Kedzierzawska and Germany’s Werner Schroter.

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