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49th Thessaloniki Film Festival (14-23 Nov. 2008)
Going On 50
by Mohammad Mohammadian

Going to the hotel from Thessaloniki airport, the ambience of the festival falls upon you with the posters you see here and there in the city. It is a beautiful poster with the figure 49 in it and a blue eye within the hollow space of the figure 9 as if it were the viewer’s eye. Everything is present in this very simple poster including cinema and the sea, which are the city’s two main symbols. Thessaloniki Film Festival is an extensive event with many sections and a cultural outlook although, unlike other film festivals, there is no extravaganza and red carpet. There are 14 films in the international competition section of the first and second films by directors. Other sections include Independent Days, Greek Films, Special Screening, Out of Competition, Balkan Survey, Digital Wave, Generation Next, Middle East Cinema and Award-winning Short Films. Films by Jean & Luc Dardenne and Greek filmmaker Maros Zakharias were the highlights of retrospective and tribute sections. The latter has made all his films, except the first one, at Mosfilm studios in the former Soviet Union. However, this is not all that there is! Agora, Master classes, Crossroads Co-production Forum and Balkan Fund for screenplay writers from the Balkans and Mediterranean regions are other programs of the festival. Yet, this is also not all that there is!
The opening ceremony had an interesting start: A train on the screen comes out of darkness and into the light created by a number of films that highlight the history of cinema. There were two other screens on both sides of the main screen which showed the scene that had already left the main screen, so that, the viewer would think that a shot was going out of the theater. At the same time, this lent dimension to pictures. 
Lorna’s Silence, the latest film by Dardenne brothers, a Belgium, France and Italy co-production, starts the program. Before the screening starts, Despina Mouzaki, the festival’s director, gave the Golden Alexander Award to Luc Dardenne. He said about the brothers: “We are thanking the individuals who have held cinema in front of us like a mirror, so that we would be able to see ourselves. They show to us our society and history.”

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