×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Thessaloniki Festival’s Industry Arm Agora Sees Global Growth

The arrival this month of hundreds of foreign industry guests for the Thessaloniki Intl. Film Festival in some ways echoes the history of this ancient, seaside city, long a melting pot of civilizations and cultures.

“Historically speaking, Thessaloniki was the center of the Mediterranean and Balkan region,” says Yianna Sarri, head of the festival’s industry arm, Agora. “So keeping that in mind, we tried to build the Agora around that idea.”

As TIFF celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, Agora can point to its own growth as it kicks off its 15th edition. Sarri notes that in the market’s early days, many of the projects pitched at the Crossroads Co-Production Forum never made it out of development.

But she’s witnessed a dramatic shift in the past five years, with an increasing number of films not only seeing completion, but also landing premieres at top-tier festivals.

Recent projects to emerge from Agora include Turkish director Tarik Aktaş’ Locarno prize winner “Dead Horse Nebula”; Portuguese filmmaker Filipa César’s experimental documentary “Spell Reel,” which bowed at the Berlinale; and director Mounia Meddour’s Algerian civil-war drama “Papicha,” which premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section this year and is Algeria’s Oscar submission for international film.

What sets apart many of these projects, says Sarri, is the boldness of their cinematic language, a spirit of risk-taking that Agora encourages.

“We don’t usually choose films that are mainstream. We go more for arthouse, experimental,” she says. “So it’s very nice to then see these films having their premieres at big festivals.”

Thessaloniki’s industry program has long attracted European players from the likes of Germany and France. But in recent years, Agora has boosted efforts to lure more industryites from the Balkans, the Middle East and other neighboring territories, underscoring its position as a linchpin for filmmakers from the wider Mediterranean region. Strategic partnerships are central to its mission.

“We try to expand our network, because we truly believe that collaboration between festivals is the key to the whole industry,”
says Sarri.

This year marks the fourth edition of the Thessaloniki-Locarno Industry Academy, which gathers young sales agents, distributors and new media professionals and partners them with mentors during the fest. The festival is also partnering for the first time with the European Women’s Assn., a collaboration that will bring eight young female producers to Thessaloniki for three days of mentoring.

A new initiative this year will be Meet the Future, a program that will spotlight emerging industry professionals from different countries or regions. For the first edition, 15 young Greek filmmakers who are preparing their first features will have a chance to pitch their projects to a room full of industry attendees. Future editions might focus on up-and-coming sales agents from Germany, perhaps, or festival programmers from the Nordics.

It’s a sign that Agora will continue to push forward as it embarks on its next chapter. “The need to introduce new voices to the industry is more than ever obvious,” Sarri says.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Sterling K. BrownVariety and Women in

    Sterling K. Brown to Narrate Disney Plus Documentary 'One Day At Disney' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sterling K. Brown is set to lend his voice to the upcoming Disney Plus feature documentary “One Day at Disney,” Variety has learned exclusively. “One Day at Disney” will highlight the people who work on some of Disney’s most beloved stories. The film will highlight 10 specific people and their role at Disney through the lens [...]

  • Mehrdad Oskouei on IDFA Opener ‘Sunless

    Mehrdad Oskouei on IDFA Opener ‘Sunless Shadows’: 'Giving a Voice to Voiceless People'

    Documentary film festival IDFA opened Wednesday with Iranian director Mehrdad Oskouei’s “Sunless Shadows,” the latest in a series of films about incarcerated teens in his homeland. Developed with help from the IDFA Bertha Fund, the film takes viewers inside an Iranian juvenile detention center, where a group of underage girls are serving time for very [...]

  • Stephen Curry John Legend

    Stephen Curry, John Legend Team on Sports Drama 'Signing Day' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Stephen Curry’s Unanimous Media production banner, John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co. and Sony Pictures are teaming up for the sports drama “Signing Day.” The project, which has tapped screenwriter Adam Hoff, marks one of the first films to be put into development under the NBA superstar’s first-look deal with the studio, which he signed [...]

  • The Banker

    Apple Pulls 'The Banker' as AFI Fest Closing Night Film

    In a last-minute decision, Apple has canceled a planned gala screening of “The Banker,” one of the tech company’s flagship original films that was meant to close AFI Fest on Thursday in Hollywood. Netflix has stepped in and will screen Noah Baumbach’s acclaimed “Marriage Story” in its place. “We purchased ‘The Banker’ earlier this year [...]

  • 'Cats' Will Be Done in Time

    'Cats' Will Compete for Golden Globes After All (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Cats,” one of the most puzzling offerings of this holiday movie season, will likely be competing for the Golden Globes after all. Earlier reports had suggested that the film based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1981 musical about Jellicle cats would not be vying for end-of-year awards because it isn’t done yet. But sources tell Variety [...]

  • Nederland, Amsterdam, 20-11-2019-Opening Night in CarrÈ

    Gender Parity, Inclusion and Young Talent Take Center Stage at IDFA Opening

    The 32nd International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) opened Wednesday with gender parity, inclusion, and young talent front and center. Twenty-one year-old Canadian-Vietnamese director Carol Nguyen — whose short “No Crying at the Dinner Table” screens at the festival — kicked off the evening, reflecting IDFA’s commitment to young talent and women filmmakers. Nguyen said [...]

  • David Goyer

    J.T. Petty to Direct Thriller Produced by 'Dark Knight' Writer David S. Goyer

    J.T. Petty is set to write and direct “Appetite,” a thriller produced by “Dark Knight” writer David S. Goyer and Keith Levine. “Appetite” follows a mother who investigates her daughter’s disappearance leading to inexplicable and terrible consequences. Casting is currently underway, and the movie is expected to start filming in early 2020. “J.T. has crafted [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content