Yianna Sarri • Head, Thessaloniki Agora Doc Market
“Our goal is to promote new talents in a friendly environment”
by Vassilis Economou
- We had a chance to chat with Yianna Sarri, head of the Agora Doc Market, who co-organises the most important documentary industry event in the region
The Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (TDF, 2-11 March) turns 20 this year, and this edition is the first to unspool under the new, unified brand incorporating both festivals that take place in the Northern Greek city. We had a chance to chat with Yianna Sarri, head of the Agora Doc Market, who, along with coordinators Angeliki Vergou and Denise Andreola, organises the most important documentary industry event in the region. Here she tells us about the role of the market in promoting emerging filmmakers, the changes this year, and how Thessaloniki has become a friendly and active festival hub.
Cineuropa: What is the Agora Doc Market offering this time in comparison to previous years?
Yianna Sarri: We have now transferred to Warehouse C, where November’s Agora also takes place, but we still need to adapt. This year, more professionals are visiting the Agora Doc Market – close to 140 people – and we offer them different sections according to their needs. The industry events have been expanded during the week, so the first four days are dedicated to the Pitching Forum organised by the European Documentary Network (EDN) for 21 new projects (see the news). Then there is the Docs in Progress screening of ten documentaries that are at an advanced stage of production. During the final few days, we are hosting, for the first time, the Moving Docs conference, which is a specialised event for documentary professionals. So the guests can attend everything and watch the documentaries in the market’s library – the library totals close to 500 titles from the whole region and includes almost the entirety of Greece’s documentary output.
Could you offer us a better overview of the Moving Docs conference?
Moving Docs is aimed at professionals, so that they have a chance to discuss the key elements for their films in terms of distribution and event cinema. By focusing on a cluster of five documentaries, which are used as case studies, they investigate and explore all of the successful aspects of the strategy for each of them. Due to its specialisation, this session is becoming extremely helpful for professionals.
Why should a film be submitted to Docs in Progress?
We have a curated selection of ten documentaries, and apart from the chance to win one of our awards – which is always important – the filmmakers can also show their work to a wider and select audience. One of our main goals is to promote and focus on emerging talents, and it is a great pleasure for us to offer them this chance. Also, this section is already proving quite successful. We have more than 30 completed documentaries that have participated in Docs in Progress sessions since 2012, including, for example, our 2016 winner, Amal [+see also:
film profile] by Mohamed Siam, which opened the 2017 IDFA. This is one of our 12 films selected at the TDF that visited Thessaloniki before as Docs in Progress.
Do you offer any other sessions for professionals?
We also organise some smaller-scale but quite efficient events. During our Happy Hour every day, we introduce the filmmakers whose documentaries premiere that same day, under the Look Who’s Talking banner, in order to offer them a chance to introduce themselves to the industry guests, which then facilitates discussions afterwards. We organise dinners and other events for smaller groups of professionals for networking purposes. The relaxed nature of the TDF allows these less formal meetings to happen, as it is a festival that promotes and focuses on new creators. We really want the Agora Doc Market to become an extremely friendly and professional hub, so everyone can work in a stress-free but effective environment that enables the discovery of brave new voices.
Regarding Greek documentary production, do you have any particular insights?
We had a huge number of submissions from Greek filmmakers, which made the selection process even more difficult. It goes without saying that one of our targets is to promote and present Greek documentaries to the world, and I must admit that we are going through a phase where we are seeing an excellent number of new productions. There is a real buzz around documentaries now, which almost resembles the one that happened a couple years ago for fiction films, and that’s exciting. On our side, we always suggest that local professionals visit the Agora Doc Market, even if their projects have not been selected, as we can help them and introduce them to the professionals attending the industry events. The most important aspect is to build connections and relationships that will last throughout the years to come.
Does the rebranding help you to communicate your role better?
The Agora Doc Market is a continuation of November’s Agora, so bridging the two sessions is important, as it is the same team behind both events. So even if we have two gatherings taking place on different dates, professionals can still visit us twice a year for different reasons and understand that this is still the same festival under the umbrella of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.
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