Country Focus: Greece
Yiannis Smaragdis tapped as new Thessaloniki fest president
by Joseph Proimakis
- With just a few hours to go before the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival’s curtain call, the Thessaloniki Film Festival has found its new head in former GC vice president Yiannis Smaragdis. The president’s seat at the organization overviewing both the Documentary and the International Film Festival was vacated last December when Thessaloniki mayor Yiannis Boutaris stepped down to focus on his re-election campaign.
Although the president’s seat has been considered nothing more than an ornamental office for the past decade, local press has been set afire by the Culture Ministry’s decision to appoint local box-office enchanter Smaragdis as the festival president. Renowned for his efficiency in public relations, Smaragdis was irrevocably branded an office-hunter, when he composed and later recited a short poem complimenting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras while receiving an honorary award handed to him by the PM himself.
Former Greek Film Center president Yorgos Papalios had revealed (read the news) being urged to kindly look into Smaragdis’ funding request for God Loves Caviar a few days after the director’s expression of gratitude toward the PM, while the director responded to vitriolic comments regarding his poem by noting that “Antonis Samaras is the right person in the right place at the right time”.
Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos, obviously felt the same for Smaragdis, thus raising him to the top chair of the country’s prime cinematic organization, after the director failed to secure the presidential seat of both the GFC and the National Theatre foundation.
However, it will hardly be an easy ride for the director dubbed by press as “Greece’s national biographer”, as the Thessaloniki Film Festival is set to face dire financial issues, with its EU funding program ending after this year’s doc fest and the Ministry seeming unable to withstand the bulk of the fest’s monetary demands.