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‘My Stolen Planet’ Wins Top Prize At Thessaloniki Int’l Documentary Festival; Controversial ‘Stray Bodies’ Earns Festival Recognition

Iranian filmmaker Farahnaz Sharifi’s My Stolen Planet won the Golden Alexander at the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival today, automatically qualifying the film for Oscar consideration.

The film, which held its world premiere at the Berlinale last month, combines the director’s memories with fragments of 8mm film recorded by others to examine the vitality of Iran before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The Golden Alexander win comes with a €12,000 prize.

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Jurors called My Stolen Planet, “A well-crafted and moving first-person essay that brilliantly confirms that every political reality has a subreality and that resistance comes in many forms, not least among them in the private realm.” My Stolen Planet also won the the FIPRESCI Award as the Best Documentary of the International Competition. [Scroll for full list of winners]

The Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival awards ceremony.
The Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival awards ceremony.

Forest, directed by Lidia Duda, claimed the Silver Alexander and a €5,000 prize. Jurors described that film as, “An observational portrait of a family living off the grid but faced with global forces that bring injustice and suffering to their doorstep. Rather than turn away, the film shows the protagonists matter of factly rising to the occasion, thereby affirming the power of simple humanity.”

Stray Bodies, which ignited a protest by the Greek Orthodox Church during the Thessaloniki festival, was awarded a Special Mention by the jury made up of filmmaker-producer Valerie Kontakos, filmmaker and producer Rachel Leah Jones, and Sundance festival programmer Sudeep Sharma. Last week, Deadline premiered the trailer for the film directed by Elina Psykou, described as “a road movie about unvoluntary trips of women crossing EU borders to evade the restrictive laws of their home countries, where religion and politics have more say over their body than themselves.”

'Stray Bodies' poster
‘Stray Bodies’

Church officials called the film blasphemous, and right-wing groups in Greek also took offense at it. The film’s poster, depicting a pregnant woman tacked to a cross, provoked strong responses; ahead of the film’s premiere, Greek police deployed riot control officers to ward off any demonstrations. Stray Bodies also won a Special Mention in the International Amnesty Award competition.

'In the Rearview' director Maciek Hamela with the International Amnesty Award at Thessaloniki.
‘In the Rearview’ director Maciek Hamela with the International Amnesty Award at Thessaloniki.

The top prize in the International Amnesty Award competition went to Maciek Hamela’s Oscar-shortlisted In the Rearview. Hamela shot his film almost entirely within the confines of a van evacuating Ukrainian civilians fleeing the Russian invasion of their country.

The festival described the awards ceremony as unfolding “amidst a warm and moving ambiance.” But between the protests over Stray Bodies and an anti-LGBTQ incident that occurred in a square next to one of the festival’s main screening venues, this year’s TiDF was punctuated by fractious moments. As Deadline reported, the festival reacted with “anger and repugnance” to the incident on March 9, in which a crowd of 150-200 youths hurled abuse at two nonbinary people in Aristotelous Square, then threw bottles at the pair and chased them into a nearby restaurant.

The next night a massive crowd protested the attack, filling Aristotelous Square with supporters of LGBTQ rights and dignity.

Below is the full list of winners from the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival:

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION AWARDS

The International Competition section includes 12 films with a duration of over 70 minutes. The recipient of the Golden Alexander secures its spot in the pre-selection shortlist for the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award.

The International Competition Jury of the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival is composed of:

Valerie Kontakos, filmmaker and producer; Rachel Leah Jones, filmmaker and producer; Sudeep Sharma, festival programmer

The Golden Alexander, accompanied by a 12,000-euro cash prize, is bestowed to the documentary:

My Stolen Planet, by Farahnaz Sharifi

Reasoning: A well-crafted and moving first-person essay that brilliantly confirms that every political reality has a subreality and that resistance comes in many forms, not least among them in the private realm.

The Silver Alexander, accompanied by a 5,000-euro cash prize, is bestowed to the documentary: 

Forest, by Lidia Duda

Reasoning: An observational portrait of a family living off the grid but faced with global forces that bring injustice and suffering to their doorstep. Rather than turn away, the film shows the protagonists matter of factly rising to the occasion, thereby affirming the power of simple humanity.

A Special Mention is bestowed to the documentary: 

Stray Bodies, by Elina Psykou

Reasoning: An unconventional exploration of difficult moral, ethical, philosophical and political questions around the right to control one’s own body – both in life and in death – with levity and purpose.

NEWCOMERS COMPETITION AWARDS

Young and upcoming directors, through their debut or sophomore film, try to depict reality in their own unique way, in the 12 films that have their eyes set on the Newcomers Golden Alexander. The members of this year’s jury are: Maria Drandaki, film producer; Alisa Kovalenko, filmmaker; Gianluca Matarrese, filmmaker

The Golden Alexander “Dimitri Eipides” Award, accompanied by a 10,000-euro cash prize, is bestowed to the documentary:

Glass, My Unfulfilled Life, by Rogier Kappers

Reasoning: A simple story that resonates at a human level, exploring universal topics such as the courage and resilience required to pursue one’s dream and make a film about it with the same relentless commitment. With its blend of humour, self-irony and a little bit of drama it explores the theme of autofiction with honesty and vulnerability. With this award we would like to encourage the director to find another big and crazy dream so he could make another good film, maybe…

The Silver Alexander, accompanied by a 4,000-euro cash prize, is bestowed to the documentary:

Fighting Demons With Dragons, by Camilla Magid

Reasoning: We would like to award a director for taking the hard challenge of telling a multi character story, creating with tenderness a both emotional and complex universe of teenagers in such a fragile turning point of their lives. With the talent and skills of a documentarian she is voicing from a very intimate perspective her protagonists with empathy and respect.

A Special Mention went to Tack, directed by Vania Turner. The jury commented, “We decided to give a special mention to a powerful narrative of female empowerment and solidarity, depicted through the journeys of strong, resilient female characters.”

>>FILM FORWARD COMPETITION AWARDS

>>Film Forward Competition section showcases the world of young and daring directors who challenge the genre conventions, expanding the boundaries of film language, through 11 films that take part in the competition section. The members of this year’s Jury are:

Christoforos Marinos, curator; Sister Sylvester, visual artist; Bo Wang, filmmaker

The Golden Alexander, accompanied by a 6,000-euro cash prize, is bestowed to the documentary: 

Reas by Lola Arias

Reasoning: The film tackles a relevant social issue that is both timely and urgent. Its impact extends far beyond the confines of the screen, inspiring audiences to take action towards positive change.

The Silver Alexander, accompanied by a 3,000-euro cash prize, is bestowed to the documentary:

Desire Lines by Jules Rosskam

Reasoning: For its candid, playful filmmaking that conjures up histories and writes its own counter archive.

A Special Mention is bestowed to the documentary: 

Avant-drag!, by Fil Ieropoulos

Reasoning: For its subversive, iconoclastic approach that invites the audience to reimagine Greek society.

IMMERSIVE: ALL AROUND CINEMA AWARD

The Immersive: All Around Cinema competition section of the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival showcases new films that offer an exciting interactive viewing experience, transcending film genres and immersing the viewer in each artwork’s unique environment. The Immersive Competition’s jury members are:

Sara Ferro, producer and festival organizer

Yannis Kantea-Papadopoulos, film critic

Victoria Leshchenko, festival programmer and organizer

The Immersive Golden Alexander goes to the film:

Emperor, by Marion Burger and Ilan J. Cohen

Reasoning: For its inventive narrative structure that found a way to our hearts in making a touching personal story truly universal, as well as for its imaginative use of 3D animation and VR that effortlessly disarmed us emotionally.

A Special Mention is bestowed to the film:

Fresh Memories: The Look, by Volodomyr Kolbasa and Ondřej Moravec

Reasoning: Unspeakable experiences, like war, are difficult to explain to someone who has never been through them. The challenge is how to bridge this gap. Fresh Memories: The Look tests the reality of connecting different experiences. It faces the Unspeakable by making us interact closely with those who have witnessed and experienced it. At this very moment a special bond of empathy between strangers appears.

PODCAST AWARDS 

Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival was one the first film festivals to host a Podcast Competition section, exploring the affinities of this new genre with cinema.

This year’s jury members are: Marianna Kakaounaki, journalist, documentarian; Dimitris Kanellopoulos, filmmaker; Theodosis Michos, journalist, radio producer, podcaster, writer.

The Best Podcast Award, accompanied by a 2,000-euro cash prize, is bestowed to the podcast:

Faethon Never Existed by Maya Filippopoulou and Effrosyni Kyriazi

Reasoning: Α breathtaking personal story that was attempted to be buried, unveiling the truth of a classified mission, forging it into a priceless historical narrative.

A Special Mention is bestowed to the podcast:

Listen to the River by Natassa Blatsiou

Reasoning: A touching audio documentary that gave voice to the river, the memories and the anxieties of the people who live in the villages around it.

The 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, in collaboration with the Louis Lumière School and the French Institute of Greece, offers the scholarship award ENS Louis Lumière Award – French Institute of Upcoming Audio Documentary Creator.

This year’s jury members are: Yorgos Archimandritis, author and creator-host of radio and TV shows, documentaries and podcasts on art and culture; Frédérique Pressmann, documentary filmmaker and sound artist.

The Scholarship award ENS Louis Lumière Award – French Institute of Upcoming Audio Documentary Creator is bestowed to:  

Konstantina Stavropoulou for the podcast Sounds and Whispers, Human Roots (64th TiFF)

Reasoning: We were left impressed by the high quality of Konstantina’s work at the podcast Sounds and Whispers, Human Roots. She submitted yet another podcast, but that’s the one that triggered our interest, as it bears proof of her masterful skills in field recording and editing. We were also intrigued by her overall profile, her passion, her curiosity and her eagerness to learn with regard to the art of sound. It is our belief that the Summer Program, built around the narrative through sounds, is bound to enrich her arsenal.

A Special Mention is bestowed to:

Charis Pagonidou for the podcast Amorgos: Where I Belong

Reasoning: We also took a great interest in Charis Pagonidou’s podcast Amorgos: Where I Belong, which bears proof of a subtle and meticulous job in the field of interviews. We wish to bestow her with a special mention and encourage her to apply next year as well, as she is our Summer Program.

Podcast in Development Award in collaboration with iMEdD:

The Podcast in Development Award, in collaboration with the non-profit journalistic organization iMEdD, is bestowed on an idea for the completion of an original podcast, with the support of iMEdD. The award was bestowed by Panagiotis Menegos to the project:

The End by Nadia Mehdi

Reasoning: Three were the elements that led us to choose The End. Firstly, the originality of the theme. It is about something that is not particularly widespread and well known and interested us in giving “voice” to such a sensitive subject. We were also impressed by the journalistic approach of the creator, who has envisioned an outcome based on research, documentation and original storytelling and has, also, made her first steps towards organizing its production. Finally, what played a role was Nadia’s own profile, the extremely interesting subjects she has dealt with and the completeness of her application.

MERMAID AWARD

The Mermaid Award is presented by the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival to the best LGBTQI+-themed film from the Festival’s official selection. The prize is awarded by a three-member jury. The members of this year’s jury are: Dimitris Papanikolaou, Professor of Modern Greek and Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Oxford; Simon(e) van Saarloos, author and curator; Shane Smith, documentary consultant and festival strategist

The Mermaid Award is bestowed to the documentary:

Reas by Lola Arias

Reasoning: As the jury of the Mermaid Award we appreciate that the 2024 edition of the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival has a special focus on queer stories. While there is a Citizen Queer program particularly focused on queer film, we are especially touched by the “sprinkling” of queer film and performance throughout the whole festival program. As a jury, we do not just focus on the kinds of films that are shown, we also point to gathering in space. Does a queer film demand something special of the theater space and its audience? Does it provoke new ways of being together? In the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival 2024 we repeatedly saw queer community in practice. For example, the festival invited two witnesses to talk about the assaults on Aristotelous square last Saturday. When they saw what was happening, they immediately responded by opening the restaurant space they were in. As politicized queer people, they were prepared for a moment like this. We also saw community in action in the way filmmakers and guests were welcomed. We saw queers supporting queers, queers feeding queers, queers translating for queers, queers caretaking for queers. What queer life have we encountered at the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival 2024? The kissing figures on the festival’s poster are the most obvious visual marker. Considering the backlash against this gender and sexually ambiguous image, we can perceive how radical it still is to represent queer life. Yet it is not an end goal. We ask whether queer film can do more than simply portray queerness. How it could not simply represent queer stories, but tell stories in queer ways. How it could not only represent, but also reflect on and performatively shape, queer community. Many of the films we watched for the 2024 Mermaid Award show us a way. The Mermaid Award 2024 goes to Reas by Lola Arias. Reas is a musical, set in an old, abandoned prison building in Argentina, where stories from their lives are re-enacted by formerly incarcerated queers. Relationships, dreams, dance and music are playfully, buoyantly, central. The monochrome malaise of the prison film is upended as the characters burst into song and dance, mixing sad longing and exuberant desire. Embracing, while at the same time subverting, the tropes of melodrama and musical, Reas does not attempt to tell a general or meta story of queer life in Argentinian prisons. Instead, Lola Arias’s film explores what storytelling can do, finds truth in artifice, and embraces fluidity in form, content and identity categories.

A Special Mention is bestowed to the film: 

Lesvia by Tzeli Hadjidimitriou

Reasoning: The jury would like to offer a special mention to the film Lesvia by Tzeli Hadjidimitriou. A story of personal identity, community and tourism, Lesvia is also about the tensions between (and within) these categories. It is a film not simply about lesbians from all over the world finding paradise in the Aegean island of Sappho, but also a story of gentrification and a “financial truce” between the locals and the groups of lesbian tourists coming to Eressos every summer. Lesvia is shaped not only by the boldness of autobiography, but also by its aim to present larger structural injustices such as pinkwashing, gentrification, and colonial attitudes to the South. Community and identity are worked through difference and constant negotiation and collective autobiography emerges as an open and important project. Simultaneously, this film is sexy. Lesbian history is not just presented as a struggle, but also as an abundance of pleasure, showcasing a greedy lesbian gaze.

ALPHA BANK ACCESSIBILITY AWARD

For the first time in the history of the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, Alpha Bank bestows an Accessibility Award either to a personality or a film that brings forth accessibility issues in the arts.

The Alpha Bank Accessibility Award, accompanied by a cash-prize of 3,000 euros, is bestowed ex aequo to:

Loxandra, the protagonist of the documentary Loxy, and the two directors of the film, Dimitris Zahos and Thanasis Kafetzis.

The award was bestowed by Rouli Christopoulou, Corporate Responsibility & Culture Manager of Alpha Bank.

Reasoning: We, at Alpha Bank place great emphasis on the right of everyone to participate as equally as possible in the cultural life of our country. It is our commitment to remove, as far as possible, social exclusions, prejudices and barriers that deprive people with disabilities of self-evident rights. The fact that, in our country, approximately one in 11 of our fellow citizens faces some form of disability, makes freedom of access a top social priority. Because without access there is, after all, no freedom. In this context, since 2019, we have been collaborating with the Festival by contributing to organizing universally accessible film screenings. In 2022 we established the Accessibility Award, which is bestowed to films that raise the issue of accessibility in the arts. From this year, this prize is also awarded at the Documentary International Festival. The award-winning documentary promotes the equal rights of people with disabilities and calls for equality in treatment, in life and in art. It films the efforts of an actress with Down syndrome to overcome obstacles and achieve her difficult goal, to appear where the lights shine brightly, on the main stage of the National Theatre.

HELLENIC BROADCASTING CORPORATION AWARDS 

Within the framework of the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation awards the Greek production that won the FIPRESCI award. The award was handed over by the General Director of ERT3, Filios Stagos and member of the Festival’s Board of Directors.

The award is bestowed to the documentary:

Tack, by Vania Turner

The ΕΡΤ – Thessaloniki Pitching Forum, accompanied by a 2,000-euro cash prize, is bestowed to the documentary:

Survivors

Directors: Nina-Maria Paschalidou, Maria Louka, Producers: Mina Dreki, Iro Aidoni – Marni Films, Greece

GREEK FILM CENTRE AWARDS

The Greek Film Centre is bestowing an award to a debut director of the official Greek selection, whose film is celebrating its premiere at the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival. The award is accompanied by a 3,000-euro cash prize.

The GFC Jury members are: Zoe Kandyla, Development & Production Director-Greek Film Centre (GFC); Yanna Sarri, Director, Department of Promotion- Hellas Film; Dimitris Bouras, Head of the Press Office & Communnation- Greek Film Centre (GFC)

The award is bestowed ex aequo to the documentaries:

Panellinion, by Spyros Mantzavinos & Kostas Antarachas

and

Lesvia, byTzeli Hadjidimitriou

Reasoning: The Greek Film Centre bestows ex aequo the award to a first-time director of a Greek documentary that premiered to the official program of the 26th TiDF to Tzeli Hadjidimitriou for the film Lesvia and to Spyros Mantzavinos and Kostas Antarachas for the film Panellinion. In these two films, which differ thematically and aesthetically, images from two aspects of reality are captured through a distinct manner and temperament. In Lesvia, the timeless reference and cinematic depiction of the women’s community that developed on the island of Sapphos since the ’70s, highlights issues of identity, acceptance of diversity, but also its effect on the unspoiled island. In Panellinion, the approach of a male microcosm of chess players in this historical café of Athens, brings to the screen images with humor but existential depth.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AWARD

The Amnesty International Award is given to a film that promotes and supports human rights. This year’s Jury is composed of: Aris Dimokidis, (journalist, writer); Stefania Filipova-Mertzimeki, (member of the Faculty of Bulgarian Language and Literature – Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, University of Macedonia); Mariana Leontaridou (member of Amnesty International, film critic); Vassilis Loules, (director)

The International Amnesty Award is bestowed to the documentary:

In the Rearview, by Maciek Hamela

Reasoning: For an extremely powerful trek that chronicles the uprooting from the war and the journey into the unknown, and for the way it manages to fit entire lives within a van – which thus becomes a small ark…

A Special Mention is bestowed to:

Stray Bodies, by Elina Psykou

Reasoning: For the extremely current issues of its journey, which follows people seeking the right to choose what they want to do with their bodies, and for the in-depth research combined with the bold artistic vision of the director…

FIPRESCI AWARDS

The International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) bestows two awards: one to the Best Documentary of the International Competition and one to a Greek film that participates in the International Program. The members of this year’s Jury are: Richard Lawson (Vanity Fair); Alessandro Amato (Sentieri Selvaggi); Tasos Dertilis (Grand Magazine)

The FIPRESCI Award to the Best Documentary of the International Competition is bestowed to:

My Stolen Planet, by Farahnaz Sharifi

Reasoning: An exemplary piece of guerrilla filmmaking comprising the secret history of a country and its women through a series of home made movies culminating to a bloody revolution in the making

The FIPRESCI Award to a Greek film that participates in the International Program:

Tack, by Vania Turner

Reasoning: It’s a compelling document of a huge shift in Greek society about two brave women who lead us through their personal nightmare to their ultimate triumph.

GREEK ASSOCIATION OF FILM CRITICS AWARD

The Greek Association of Film Critics (PEKK) awards, as every year, the Best Greek Film that is screened in the official selection of the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival. The decision is made by the General Assembly of the members that have attended the Festival.

The PEKK Award is bestowed to the documentary:

Panellinion, by Spyros Mantzavinos & Kostas Antarachas

Reasoning: Never straying its eyes away from the social process, the Greek Association of Film Critics isolates art’s flourishment from the pests that sprout on its turf, praising Elina Psykou’s film Stray Bodies as noteworthy. Nevertheless, we bestow the Best Greek Documentary Award to the film Panellinion by Spyros Mantzavinos and Kostas Antarachas for the way it intertwines the light of life and the darkness of death within the walls of an amateur chess-players coffee house. There, its tortured regulars seek their own redemptive gray, striving to break free from the everyday crucifixion.

WIFT GR AWARD

The WIFT GR Award is presented by the Greek Chapter of WIFT (Women in Film & Television) to a woman filmmaker of a film selected for the official program of the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival. The members of this year’s Jury are: Maria Chatzigianni, film director and radio producer; Liza Themeli, specialist in film education; Katerina P. Trichia, photographer, film curator, and festival coordinator of WIFT GR.

The WIFT GR Award is bestowed to director Tünde Skovrán for the documentary:

Tack, by Vania Turner

Reasoning: This year, as jury of WIFT GR, we found that the participation of women in documentary production, as well as their level, increased significantly, making at the same time our selection difficult. Finally, we decided that the WIFT GR award should be given to the film Tack, by Vania Turner, the production of which reaches the percentage of 50-50 equality in cinema, which as a union we have set as a goal. It is a very powerful documentary, the viewing of which raised the pulse of our hearts, documenting with sensitivity and realism, the courage of the first women who paved the way for the Me Too movement in Greece, demonstrating how important it is for victims of sexual abuse to take their lives back by demanding justice, in a society that has forgotten what justice means. With this choice, we want to send the message that the time has come as a society to make “tack” by changing route so that no one is afraid to speak openly.

WWF HELLAS AWARD

The WWF Hellas Award is bestowed to the best environment-themed movie of the Festival. The members of the Jury are: Andrea Bonetti, biologist, nature photographer; Thodoris Dimitropoulos, film critic; Mariana Plomariti, WWF GR Energy and Climate Policy Head of Communication

The award is bestowed to the documentary:

Nocturnes, by Anirban Dutta and Anupama Srinivasan

Reasoning: The movie is shot with an immersive aesthetic and approach that transforms us in an exciting way into real observers and not mere viewers to the problem of biodiversity preservation and the balance of the natural environment. Filming a rather unknown species of nocturnal butterfly, movement details, textures and sounds are interwoven in an aesthetic grid that renders us eye-witnesses to the repercussions of climate change, which threatens the species with extinction, as it is forced to change altitude (but until when?) to survive. Avoiding the didactic tone, but endowed with patient observation, rich in dark beauty, as well as the depiction of a morbid discovery. In a story that may unfold in the far corners of the planet, but echoes everywhere, also in Greece, where several endemic species οf the same traits are threatened with extinction.

YOUTH JURY AWARDS

The Youth Jury comprises students of the School of Film of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and will present the Best Film Award and the Special Jury Award. Eligible for these awards are Greek films participating in the International Program. Youth Jury supervisor: Apostolos Karakasis, Assistant Professor in Film and Television Theory & History, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. This year’s jury members are Vilelmini Adamidou, Sofia Agalioti, Maria Koukoutini, and Miltiadis Moraitis.

Τhe Best Greek Film Award is bestowed to the documentary:

Tack, by Vania Turner

Reasoning: The inside recording and unraveling of a trial that serves as the triggering point for the MeToo movement in Greece. The movie steers our gaze towards a more detailed image-perspective of a burning issue not only for Greece but for the entire world.

The Special Jury Prize is bestowed to the documentary:

Panellinion, by Spyros Mantzavinos & Kostas Antarachas

Reasoning: The film’s directors, with undeniable devotion, succeeded in transforming a small traditional coffee house/chess club into a unique world and making us feel a part of it.

FISCHER AUDIENCE AWARDS

Five Audience Awards are bestowed to three Greek and two international films.

The Fischer Audience Award “Peter Wintonick” to an international film with a duration of over 50 minutes is bestowed to the documentary:

Soundtrack to a Coup d’État, by Johan Grimonprez

The Fischer Audience Award to an international film with a duration of up to 50 minutes is bestowed to the documentary:

Last Song from Kabul, by Kevin MacDonald and Ruhi Hamid

The Fischer Audience Award to Greek film with a duration of over 50 minutes is bestowed to the documentary:

Unclaimed, by Marianna Economou

The Fischer Audience Award to a Greek film with a duration of up to 50 minutes is bestowed to the documentary:

Farewell: And suddenly memory began to remember, by Ada Pitsou

The Fischer Audience Award to a Greek film screened online at the section Platform+ is bestowed to the documentary:

The missing piece, by Angelos Tsatsis

The 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival is held with the support of the Ministry of Culture, the Partnership Agreement of the Central Macedonia Regional Operational Program, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan “Greece 2.0”, the MEDIA programme, the Ministry of Tourism and ERT. COSMOTE TV is Grand Sponsor of the Festival, for the 7th consecutive year, proving once again its support towards quality cinema. The Festival is happy to welcome PPC Group as its new Strategic Partner, and expresses its gratitude for the trust in its vision and work. Valuable is the support of Alpha Bank, the Festival’s accessibility sponsor, Aegean, the Festival’s official air-carrier, Fischer, the Audience Awards sponsor, and Jameson.

Earlier in the week, the Agora of the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival bestowed its awards at Warehouse C. Making use of all the available tools and new technologies, the Festival’s Agora showcased a new series of actions and backed successful initiatives that took place both in physical spaces and online. This year’s Agora marked a great success, as more than 400 international visitors attended its events.

Onassis Culture, consistently offering its support to Greek independent cinema, within the framework of its collaboration with the Festival, bestows the Onassis Film Award (5,000 euros) to one of the Greek projects taking part in the Thessaloniki Pitching Forum or the Agora Docs in Progress. The Onassis Award is bestowed to the project:

DARK WATERS

Director: Marianna Economou, Producers: Rea Apostolides, Yuri Averof – Anemon Productions, Co-producers: Paul Cadieux, Danae Elon – Filmoption International

Greece, Canada

Reasoning: The Onassis Film Award is awarded to a documentary film, a descent into the depths of modern Greece, the contradictions of the human experience, the environmental crisis and the moral dilemmas of our reality. A profound, comprehensive, multidimensional narrative that surprised us and left us with a lot to think about. The Onassis Film Award goes to Marianna Economou’s Dark Waters along with a prize of 5,000 euros towards the completion of the film.

Thessaloniki Pitching Forum awards

The International Jury of the Thessaloniki Pitching Forum, consisting of Mario Adamson, Producer, Sisyfos Films – Sweden; Sophie Duncan, Marketplace & Talent Programmes Producer, Sheffield DocFest – UK; Suzanne Nodale, Sales Agent, Cinephil – France / Israel handed out the following awards.

The IEFTA Award for Best Documentary in Development, accompanied by a 10,000 euro cash prize, is bestowed for the first time. Gary Springer from IEFTA came on stage to bestow the award to:

IF THESE STONES COULD TALK 

Director: Hana Elias, Producer: Asmahan Bkerat, Palestine

Reasoning: Finding home, discovering where you belong, and what that means to you is a fundamental human need. By tending to your homeland, you in turn nurture family, and the right to your home. With warmth and authenticity, this project portrays a family’s relationship with both each other and their land in an intimate way. A powerful pitch from a strong team, with an urgent story that must be championed, we present the IEFTA Best Doc in Development Award to Hana Elias and Asmahan Bkerat for If These Stones Could Talk.

The ERT – Thessaloniki Pitching Forum Award to a Greek project, accompanied by a cash prize of 2,000 euros, given by Suzanne Nodale, is bestowed to:

SURVIVORS

Directors: Nina-Maria Paschalidou, Maria Louka, Producers: Mina Dreki, Iro Aidoni – Marni Films, Greece

Reasoning: Addressing systemic violence of modern societies that we never fully confront is brave and important. This team cleverly weaves together the stories of four women who are breaking the silence and joining forces to heal and overcome their trauma due to abuse and gender-based violence. The award for the ERT – Thessaloniki Pitching Forum Award goes to Survivors by Nina Maria Paschalidou, Maria Louka, Mina Dreki and Iro Aidoni.

The Eurodoc Award of 1,000 euros along with a VIP membership is bestowed by Mario Adamson to the film:

MOUNTAIN CRIES

Director: Lavinia Xausa, Producer: Sam Godfried – Yalla docs, Τhe Netherlands

Reasoning: It is now more important than ever to find deeper ways to connect and support each other. Allowing us an insight into a very personal journey, this project reflects on the necessity of breaking isolation and sharing grief as a way to heal from the past. The Eurodoc Award goes to one of the best pitched projects, Mountain Cries by director Lavinia Xausa and producer Sam Godfried.

The DAE – Documentary Association of Europe Award amounts to consultation and free membership. Marion Schmidt bestowed the award to:

MOUNTAIN CRIES

Director: Lavinia Xausa, Producer: Sam Godfried – Yalla docs, Τhe Netherlands

Reasoning: This award goes to a project team which we believe would benefit greatly from the wisdom and empathy from an expert to guide the next steps. A brave lament which illustrates the strength that comes from communicating our individual and collective pain, we would like to present the DAE Consultancy Sessions Award to Lavinia Xausa and Sam Godfried for Mountain Cries.

The Aylon Productions Digital Services Award offers an hour of high quality digital transfer of archival material. Nikos Stathoyannopoulos came on stage to bestow the award to the film:

WOMEN WALK HOME

Director: Stephanie Andreou, Producer: Adrián Gutiérrez – Astarte Films, Cyprus

Reasoning: Archives can be a make-or-break tool for many documentary projects and we all love a film which is able to bring to light stories we never knew of. By unearthing the images of a women led movement forgotten by all even in their own country, this team is celebrating the resilience of women and the power of sorority while questioning the country’s own narrative of its modern history and what is left of their resistance. The Aylon Productions Digital Services Award goes to Stephanie Andreou and Adrián Gutiérrez for Women Walk Home.

The Beldocs Networking Award, which generously offers accommodation and accreditation at the upcoming Beldocs International Documentary Film Festival, May 23-26. Mara Prohaska, Director of Beldocs came on stage to bestow the award to the film:

LAKE

Director: Nikos Ziogas, Producers: Konstantina Stavrianou & Rena Vougioukalou – Graal Films, Antigoni Papantoni – rawDOCS

Reasoning: The climate crisis and the effect it is having on the environment is a pressing global issue that cannot be ignored, and different stories must be told. With impressive imagery, this project brings to light the importance of cross border collaboration to save and heal nature for the future. The Beldocs award goes to Nikos Ziogas, Konstantina Stavrianou, Rena Vougioukalou, and Antigoni Papantoni for Lake.

The Mediterranean Film Institute Doc Award, which consists of free participation in the 2024 edition of the MFI Doc Lab, a script development program dedicated to documentaries. It takes place within the MFI Script2Film program, where the scripts for 35 feature length films are developed. The program consists of a two-weeks writing workshop on the island of Nisyros in late June and early July with a follow up session for one week in October in Rhodes.

The award, given by Marco Gastine, is bestowed to:

WHY THE F*** AM I SO SAD?

Director: Nela Märki, Producer: Martin Rattini – Helios Sustainable Films, Italy

Reasoning: The Mediterranean Film Institute, MFI, SCRIPT 2 FILM workshops is an international advanced training program for script and project development. Since 2019, MFI gives an award at the Thessaloniki Doc Pitching Forum which consists of a grant to participate in its DOC LAB.The 2024 Pitching Forum selection was very rich and almost all the projects deserved the Award. Unfortunately, we can choose only one. But all the other projects are strongly encouraged to apply to our program. We chose a very strong project which deals with a moving and universal topic, a loving couple who desperately tries to have a child.

The DOK Leipzig Accelerator Award offers two Observer badges and accommodation. Nadja Tennstedt from Dok Leipzig came on stage to bestow the award to the film:

KAFKA IN BELGRADE 

Director: Maša Nešković, Producers: Maja Medić, Ena Bajraktarević – Marienbad film, Serbia, In collaboration with CIRCLE Doc Women Accelerator

Reasoning: A cinematic portrayal of memories and their role in creating an intergenerational dialogue, becoming the foundation of revealing individual identities. Through a beautiful archive, this team brings to life the past whilst showing the effect it has on the present. The DOK Leipzig Accelerator Award goes to Maša Nešković, Maja Medić and Ena Bajraktarevic for Kafka in Belgrade.

The Sunny Side of Doc Award offering 2 accreditations and 500 euro towards travel expenses, given by Clemence Michalon, is bestowed to:

LAKE

Director: Nikos Ziogas, Producers: Konstantina Stavrianou & Rena Vougioukalou – Graal Films, Antigoni Papantoni – rawDOCS, Greece

Reasoning: We are happy to award the SSD prize to Lake, a project bringing out the similarities of communities from three neighboring countries that have been defining themselves in opposition to each other for generations. Shedding a light on their ambition to cooperate at a local level to preserve an ecosystem bigger than their cultural quarrels, Lake is a compelling story illustrating the necessity of setting aside our differences to ensure mutual existence.

Docs in Progress awards

In the Agora Docs in Progress 11 projects from Southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean region participated in closed sessions exclusively for Thessaloniki’s invited industry professionals, sales agents, distributors, producers and festival programmers.

The international jury of Agora Docs in Progress is composed of: Hanne Biermann, Festivals & Marketing Manager, Film Harbour – Germany / The Netherlands; Pierre-Alexis Chevit, Head of Cannes Docs, Marché du Film – Festival de Cannes – France; Kumjana Novakova, Filmmaker / Film curator, Pravo Ljudski & Medea – North Macedonia / Bosnia & Herzegovina

The 119 Marvila Studios Award for sound mixing services is bestowed to the project:

DON’T WORRY SARI!

Director: Sari Haragonics, Producers: Sára László, Inez Mátis, Marcell Gero – Campfilm, Co-producer: Boris Despodov – Arthouse Blockbusters, Hungary, Bulgaria

Reasoning: For the director’s sensitive vibration in taking on a filmic, therapeutic attempt with her own family members, using heartfelt images from then and now, the 119 Marvila Studios Award goes to Don’t Worry Sari! by Sari Haragonics.

The 2|35 Post-Production Main Award goes to the project:

MAILIN

Director/Producer: María Silvia Esteve – HANA Films, Co-producers: Alejandra López – IKKI Films, Radu Stancu,Cristina Haneș – deFilm, Argentina, France, Romania

Reasoning: For its courage to cinematically engage with and uncover one of the most difficult, as well as historically and socially still absent issue – the sexual abuse of women and girls – the jury gives the Two Thirty-Five (2I35) Award to Mailin by Maria Silvia Esteve.

The Greek Film Center Award accompanied with 3,000 euros goes to the Greek project:

THE SECRETS OF THE OWL

Director: Eirini Vourloumis, Producer: Leonidas Liambeys – Long Run Productions, Co-producer: Eirini Vourloumis – Boulis Films, Greece

Reasoning: For the complexity of the approach in the way the mental landscape of the characters transform into a cartography of a city, the jury gives the Greek Film Centre Award to The Secrets of the Owl by Eirini Vourloumis.

The Neaniko Plano Subtitling Award is bestowed to the project:

HAPPY YOU’RE HERE

Director: Lucas Habte, Producer: Isidore Bethel – Alice Films, Co-producers: Lucas Habte, Juan Carlos Malavé, France, United States, Puerto Rico, Ethiopia

Reasoning: For allowing us to travel with the director on an emotional and intimate journey to his roots, illuminated by love and tenderness, the jury gives the Neaniko Plano Subtitling Award to Happy You’re Here by Lucas Habte.

Agora Lab awards

The Crew United Prize, a five-year premium subscription on Crew United Platform to a participant in the Agora Lab, was bestowed to:

Smaro Papaevangelou

Reasoning:  First, we would like to congratulate all the filmmakers and producers! Each project, even if in quite different development stages, has its own strengths and charm, and it feels hard to pick out just one out of them. The lines that divide generations, people, values, and ideas must fade away. And every story that narrates this procedure is redemptive and encouraging. So, we feel that the two-folded, personal yet universal, storyline of My Daughter is still very relevant and burning for the Greek – and not only – society. Our warmest wishes for all the projects!

The Guidance Award, sponsored by Paradiddle Pictures and given to a project participating in the Agora Lab was bestowed to:

EXILE(S)

Director/Producer: Giorgos Iliopoulos, Co-producer: Sofia Exarchou, Greece

Reasoning: We often say that in 100 years no one will remember. But of course it is not so. The 18 year-old Kurdish boy Vural reminds us about this. During his unconventional journey, taking us around the island and also back in time, we understand much better our current time. Therefore the project Exile(s) has the potential to tell an important story about human relations.

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