13th Drama International Short Film Festival

A fire raging across the Peleponnesos in the south of Greece threatened to wipe out both the anniversary 30th Drama National Short Film Festival and its offshoot, the 13th Drama International Short Film Festival (17-23 September 2007), although this picturesque host city is situated to the north in the Macedonian Prefecture. The popular double-pack film event under director Antonis Papadopoulos also suffered a minor setback when national elections were unexpectedly called for the very day (September 16) on which the festival had been scheduled to open. However, by moving the festival start from Sunday to Monday, the delay turned out to be fortuitous for a noticeably relieved festival director, who arrived on the scene with the news that he had just saved his summer home near Athens from burning to the ground! Moreover, as a result of the closely followed Greek elections, the newly elected Minister of Macedonia and Thrace inaugurated on the spot a handful of Special Awards to boost Drama’s reputation on the international film scene. Thus, despite impending setbacks harked in the media, DISFF in the end emerged a winner — a key Greek film event with its future now fully guaranteed. Provided, of course, that the »Perdika Tobacco Warehouse Project,« an all-purpose festival venue currently on the drawing boards, becomes a reality. For the »Warehouse« is badly needed to replace the 700-seat Olympic theater, an old-style arthouse that can barely accommodate overflow crowds at the evening shows.

Drama thrives as a high-powered »shorts festival« because it offers its public three competitions — Greek films, international entries, and digital experiments — each with its own jury. Altogether, Drama 2007 programmed 230 films, including a retrospective of contemporary Spanish shorts and a salute to past festival award winners. The 270-page catalogue in Greek and English spotlighted films and filmmakers with photos and bio/filmographic information. Further, the program of Greek shorts embraced all that’s been produced over the past year that runs under an hour: fiction films, documentaries, student films, digital (digi) productions, and even shorts made by expatriots living and working abroad under a fetching »Greeks of the World« heading. In addition, there was a master class conducted by Russian director Konstantin Lopushansky, the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation sponsored a photo exhibition honoring press photographer Petros Poulidis (1885-1967), and Greek Radio Television (ERT) restored an archival documentary about an arena production of Prometheus Bound staged in 1927 at the Delphic Celebrations.

The Grand Prix in the International Competition went to Michaela Kezele’s Milan (Serbia). Directed by a student at the München Film and Television Academy, whose father is a Croat and mother a Serb, her film is set in a rural Serbian village during the NATO bombing in 1999 of nearby Belgrade. While playing a game in the woods, a fun-loving six-year-old boy saves the life of an American pilot without knowing at the same time that his own older brother is fighting for his life in a Belgrade hospital hit by a bomb. Thus, as seen through the eyes of an innocent, the everyday horror of war is rendered in personal, human, and universal terms. By the same token, Gregorio Graziosi and Theresa Menezes’s minimalist documentary Saba (Brazil), awarded the runner-up Second Prize, came across as another an affecting statement on the human condition. The focus is on elderly centenarians at an urban rest home, whose daily routine is little more than wrestling with their mortal coils with vacant eyes and helpless limbs. While they are washed, shaved, and dressed by a nursing staff, this dawdling impersonal ritual of the day is accented by the drone of highway traffic heard through an open window.

The UIP Prix for Best European Short went to Abdekatuf Hwidar’s Salvador (Spain). Viewed as an open-ended political statement on terrorist attacks that per se contradict life, love, and humanity, the story unfolds gradually from a heart-warming hide and-seek game played by a father with his young son on a commuter passenger train. Only towards the end of the film, when a TV broadcast is aired, does the viewer relate to the recent Spanish tragedy. The Award for Best Balkan Film went to Belma Bas’s Boreas (Turkey). Set in a remote mountain village, the focus is on the experiences of a sensitive young boy who cares for his aging grandmother. This poetic account of life and death as a timeless tradition pegged to the pulse of nature and the course of existence is enhanced by the sheer beauty of the mountainous landscape.

The Award for Best Animation Film went to Alexander Petrov’s Moya lyubov (My Love) (Russia). Based on Ivan Shmelyov’s bucolic »A Love Story« tale, published in 1927, when the popular Russian writer had chosen exile over life under the Bolsheviks, My Love had already received several international festival prizes since its appearance in the spring of 2006. Set in late 19th-century Russia, this exquisitely beautiful and charming film sketches the lofty dreams of a 16-year-old aristocrat in love for the first time. The director’s use of a meticulous painting-on-glass animation technique, a process that required three years to complete the 26-minute film, has earned him unstinting praise from critics and colleagues as an accomplished artist of »romantic realism« in animation. Another audience favorite at Drama was Philippe Pollett-Villard’s fiction short Le Mozart des Pickpockets (France). Awarded Best Comedy for its light narrative style, humorous twists, and deft deadpan acting, The Mozart of Pickpockets chronicles the ups and downs of two hapless pickpocket conmen, who are shown the way from rags to riches by a charming gypsy lad in command of all the tricks of the trade.

Last, but not least, a Greek entry was singled out for high honors in both the national and the international competitions. In Yiannis Katsaboulas’s 22-minute fiction short Perasma (The Passage), set in winter at a border crossing in the mountains, a hunter is fired upon by illegal aliens, returns the fire, and kills a man. When he discovers that the dead man was attempting the passage with two youngsters, remorse and guilt sets in, enough to force him to take action to amend his deed. Gradually, in the course of an evening at an isolated cabin, the roles of victim and perpetrator are reversed with revenge now replacing guilt as a primary concern. Awarded the Prize of the Greek Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace by the International Jury, The Passage also received the First Prize of the Greek Jury in addition to the Greek Critics Award and three other national film citations. Yiannis Katsaboulas, who has yet to make his first feature, is now a name to watch on the Greek film scene.

Ron Holloway

International Competition:

Grand Prix:
Milan (Serbia), dir Michaela Kezele — fiction
Second Prize:
Saba (Brazil), dir Gregorio Graziosi, Theresa Menezes — documentary
UIP Prix Drama, Best European Film:
Salvador (Spain), dir Abdelatif Hwidar — fiction
Best Balkan Film:
Boreas (Turkey ), dir Belma Bas — fiction
Best Animation Film:
Moya lyubov (My Love) (Russia), dir Alexander Petrov
Special Award of Greek Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace:
Perasma (The Passage) (Greece), dir Yiannis Katsaboulas — fiction

Special Mentions:
Actor: Zakariya Gouram, Bonne nuit, Malik (Good Night, Malik) (France), dir Bruno Danan
Actress: Emily Hamilton, Personal Spectator (Belgium), dir Emmanuel Jespers
Comedy Film: Le Mozart des pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets) (France), dir Philippe Pollet-Villard
Artistic Contribution: Achilleas Kyriakidis, Writer-Director, Esoterikos, Nychta (Interior, Night) (Greece)

Greek Competition:

First Prize (Prince Film Award):
Perasma (The Passage), dir Yiannis Katsaboulas — fiction
Second Prize:
Gina Dostoyevsky, dir Vanessa Zouganeli — fiction
Special Award, Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace:
Discussing Space, dir Panagiotis Christopoulos
Special »Ntinos Katsouridis« Award, Best Newcomer Director:
Anthi Daountaki, Sunny Day
Special Award Best Production:
Rose For A Day, dir Vasilis Kazis, Epikouros Triantafillidis

Special Mentions:
Actor: Manolis Mavromatakis, Spinalonga, dir Kostas Athousakis
Cinematography: Alekos Yiannaros, Gina Dostoyevsky, dir Vanessa Zouganeli
Screenplay: Anthi Daountaki, Kyriako Charito, Sunny Day, dir Anthi Daountaki
Editor: Giorgos Triantafullou, Sunny Day, dir Anthi Daountaki, The Highway Killer, dir Tasos Goudelis, Vasilis Goudelis
Set Design: Dimitris Ziakas, Shoulder For Hire, dir Dimitris Emmanouilidis
Musical Score: Vaggeli Faba, Perasma (The Passage), dir Yiannis Katsaboulas
Sound: Spyros Drosos, Ground Floor, dir Charis Stathopoulos
Costumes: Loukia Chatzelou, Transit, dir Yiannis Gaitanidis
Make-Up: Evi Zafeiropoulou, Transit, dir Yiannis Gaitanidis

Greek Critics Awards:

Perasma (The Passage), dir Yiannis Katsaboulas
Crying While Being Killed, dir Maria Maganari

Special Mention: Ground Floor, dir Charis Stathopoulos

Greek Film Center Awards:

Perasma (The Passage), dir Yiannis Katsaboulas
Discussing Space, dir Panagiotis Christopoulos
Rose For A Day, dir Vasilis Kazis, Epikouros Triantafillidis
Happy New Year, Mama, dir Irina Boiko
Can Anybody Hear Me?, dir Tasos Gerakinis

Greek Union of Film & TV Technicians Award:
Perasma (The Passage), dir Yiannis Katsaboulas

»Greeks of the World« Competition:

Special Award: Welcome Home, dir Vasilis Giannakakis

Student Film Awards:

First Prize, Best Student film:
Kimon & Lusy, dir Efi Bountri
Special Mention: Vaggelio Andreadaki, Actress, Kimon & Lusy, dir Efi Bountri
Greek Union of Film & TV Technicians Award:
Kimon & Lusy, dir Efi Bountri

Digi 2007 Awards:

First Prize, Best Digital film:
Small Talk, dir Orfeas Peretzis
Special Award of Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace:
Pyramid, dir Dimitris Papathanasis
Special Mentions:
Road To Nowhere, dir Konstantinos Prepis
You Asked Me to Wait, dir Grigoris Rentis