Thessaloniki. Summer; It is a time for vacation and relaxation. Most of us prefer rooftops as places to spend time with friends, for a coffee or a beer. Terraces are also very often chosen as spaces for culture. The 3rd edition of Taratsa International Film Festival is an example of this. Created as a platform for the promotion of independent short movies, the festival brought the audience closer together during the days between the 24th and 28th of August, 2016.
“The idea for Taratsa International Film Festival came from Athanasios Alexopoulos, a Greek artist from Thessaloniki, living and working in Milan, Italy”, explained George Manos, Press Officer of Taratsa IFF. It began in August 2014, and was integrated into the framework of “Thessaloniki European Youth Capital”.
Answering my questions on how they choose the location of the Festival, Mr. Manos replied by saying that the “rooftops have some special characteristics which we mostly ignore in our everyday lives. One of these is the view living and working inside a building or in the complex cities we are living in, we are rarely provided with the opportunity to enjoy a 360º view of our surroundings.”
This year the film-viewings were divided amongst seven venues around the city, including the terraces of fancy bars, public buildings and expo center. Four of the locations were provided for the movies, participating in the competition program. Every short movie was screened twice at two different terraces giving the chance for the audience not to miss anything. Parallel projections of classical movies, considered as benchmarks in the history of cinema, took place at the rest of the terraces.
Interest in the festival continues to rise with every subsequent year according to the organizers. “We received 3700 submissions for the International Competition Sector of the Festival and screened 70 of them coming from 37 different countries.” They all took part in the race for six awards in the categories: Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Movie, and Audience Award.
Professionals within the sphere of Cinema and Journalism were among this year's jury at the competition. “What really makes us happy is the support of certain people who have been there supporting us since day 1. People like Panagiotis Iossifelis, Professor in Screenwriting at the “School of Film Studies of Aristotle University” for his unsolicited support and knowledge sharing as a member of the Jury through 3 consecutive years”, added George Manos. “We are proud to have the support of major social and economic actors both in Thessaloníki, but also abroad. Among them are ‘Thessaloniki International Film Festival’ and the ‘School of Film Studies of the Aristotle University’, the ‘U.S. Consulate’ in the city, the ‘Turkish Consulate General’ and the ‘National Audiovisual Institute’ in Poland. We also had the continued support of the Chamber of Commerce here, TiF– Helexpo and the Municipality”.
An irreplaceable role is played by the volunteers at the venues of the viewing. Full with energy and with a love of cinema, they were one of the reasons that this festival can be considered different. But what other things make it unique? “It’s for free and it’s open air”, shared Nina (22), student in Greek philology and a volunteer. It was “a unique experience that everybody should taste!” Iliana (22); describing her work at the festival. “It was a new and interesting experience for me, showing to me how a festival works, and helping me to know some very interesting people as well.“, added Vicky (23), also a volunteer and a student of English Literature.
I was curious in understanding why these very intelligent youngsters decide to be part of the festival: “I love volunteering and I also love festivals, so when I have the chance to combine both of them, I just do it”, was Elisavet’s (25), teacher at Elementary School, simple answer to me. She continued enthusiastically: “I met new people, made friends and learned how to be part of a team in a very short term. It is amazing how easily can people cooperate for a common goal, who don’t even know each other ...”
Being a volunteer at an event of such a scale is definitely a challenge, and so I was quick to ask what the nicest and the hardest moments were during the festival. “The best moment was when I had to communicate with people in order to inform and help them.” “The most complicated (moment) was when it (the festival) was over!” explained Dora (22), a student in Political Sciences, nostalgically. “I would definitely recommend it (to be a volunteer on the festival). TIFF makes you feel more than a volunteer!” said Agapi (25), a student of History of Art and over-viewer of the volunteers’ team. These answers provoked me into asking the organizers about the importance of the volunteers for the full picture of Taratsa. “Volunteers are half of the festival, in any festival. Such is the case for Taratsa IFF as well. We tried to choose among 200 applications and that was really hard. What we were looking for cannot be specified in a list of criteria. This is why we saw each one of them in a private interview as well, in order to spot those who share our vision and resolve”, George Manos disclosed to us. A 2-day training course was provided for the future volunteers before the event, to which George added: “We thought that if they got to know each other beforehand they would be much more happy to participate and happier to attend the audience’s needs.”
Maybe due to the free entrance (in a time of crisis), the nice open-air locations (appropriate for the summer), or the pure love of cinema, made the audience wait (sometimes up to 1 hour) for some of the viewings. Sometimes the audience had mixed opinions however. “I just have been two days. It was nice to see independent movies in Thessaloníki but in my opinion it was not well organized. First day people from the staff counted chairs at least 20 times in front of us. In the second day, on the another place, chairs were not well organized for the screen”, said Ebru (24) from Turkey. Bojan from Croatia thinks differently: “The organization was good. I would come again. I liked this adventure because it helped me to see different ideas through the short movies under the stars.”
“Organizing this year's edition was a challenge in every level”, explained the team of the festival. “We had to cultivate our artistic approach, establish new partnerships ... and physically expand the Festival in order to facilitate a growing audience.”
As it looks, Taratsa Festival is a story with an open end and every one of us gets to write it year after year. So, let's stay tuned as we expect Taratsa International Film Festival 2017 at the amazing terraces under the sky of Thessaloniki.
Written by Iva Veneva
Photo: archive TIFF (http://www.taratsaiff.com)