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Orestis Andreadakis • Artistic director, Thessaloniki IFF

“Thessaloniki’s strongest suit is getting films made”

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- A seasoned festival veteran, the new Thessaloniki IFF artistic director Orestis Andreadakis discusses the challenges of leading the Balkans' go-to film gathering

Orestis Andreadakis  • Artistic director, Thessaloniki IFF

A seasoned film-festival veteran, well-read and well-travelled film critic Orestis Andreadakis is no stranger to setting up successful film gatherings. After taking charge of the Athens International Film Festival (AIFF) almost a decade ago, Andreadakis not only bolstered its prestige in the face of stiff competition from smaller local events, but also ushered it into a new era by turning it into the Thessaloniki IFF’s most serious contender for the title of the country’s strongest festival. This year, however, Thessaloniki turned the tables by signing him up as its new artistic director: Andreadakis talks to Cineuropa about the challenges of leading the Balkan’s go-to film gathering. 

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Cineuropa: Previous TIFF director Despina Mouzaki had expressed her wish to turn Thessaloniki into the Cannes of the Balkans. Do you feel like the Greek Thierry Frémaux?
Orestis Andreadakis: No, no, not at all! No way, nor is it something I’m interested in. I admire him, as he’s an exceptional programmer and an exceptional director, but the TIFF can’t become Cannes, just like Greek industry can’t start producing Citroëns and Peugeots all of a sudden.

Between programming achievements, industry influence and audience loyalty, which do you think is the TIFF’s strongest suit?
If you take out the top-tier festivals (ie, Cannes, Berlin, Venice, San Sebastián, Karlovy Vary and Locarno), the TIFF can stand up as a direct competitor to pretty much any other European festival, and can even score some goals in many cases, in terms of both the film selection and the programmes that spotlight trends that will be talked about the day after tomorrow. The most dynamic section of the festival, though, is clearly the market, originally set up by Despina Mouzaki: the Agora, with the Crossroads Co-production Forum and the Works in Progress section, has proven time and time again to be extremely helpful in fostering new talent and getting films made. That alone has secured a very important spot on the map for the TIFF, and helped the event to be regarded as not only a very enjoyable stop on the festival circuit, but a very useful one as well.

If there was one single, overarching goal that you’d like to achieve on your first run as TIFF’s artistic director, what would that be?
I would like to revitalise the relationship between the festival and the city of Thessaloniki, which is what intrigues me the most. Having been born and raised in the Greek suburbs, and having subsequently lived in a number of cities around Europe, I feel there’s a major cultural resurgence taking place in Thessaloniki right now, with views on its historical past, its social present and its post-crisis future in constant shift. And what I’d very much like to do is to help the people of Thessaloniki feel that they belong here, that they have a place in the festival and they’re a part of it as well, because I have the sense that they had been feeling a bit displaced and left out in the recent past. So I want to make room for the locals. 

Room has certainly been made this year for local films, which seemed like anathema to previous managements. The TIFF’s Greek Film Festival side programme will present the majority of this year’s local productions, but are you not worried what the foreign press might think once they’re faced with festival-featured films that are certainly not festival-orientated?
I find that argument quite silly – it’s as if someone throwing a party should try to hide the aunt who dresses flamboyantly so that the other guests won’t see her. No, everyone has a place at the table, and the foreign press corps are no fools: they can open up the TIFF guide, scour the list of films and make up their own minds about which part of Greek film production they care to explore. Besides, just like there’s an audience for everything, there are industry professionals interested in very different walks of cinema. We have a very wide array of film productions.

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