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“Thessaloniki is aiming to be a hub”

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Élise Jalladeau • General director, Thessaloniki International Film Festival

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- We spoke to the Thessaloniki IFF’s general director, Élise Jalladeau, about her tenure so far and the gathering’s ambitions for the future

Élise Jalladeau • General director, Thessaloniki International Film Festival

With the 58th Thessaloniki International Film Festival being the second edition of the gathering since her appointment as general director, Élise Jalladeau speaks to Cineuropa about the importance of the industry for the festival, the future expansion of the organisation and the role that it can play in helping Greek cinema to circulate beyond its borders.

Cineuropa: What is your role as general director?
Élise Jalladeau:
 I have been working on a yearly basis on the activities and the management of a cinematic institution. Apart from organising the two major Greek festivals, the International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Documentary Film Festival (TDF), we also manage the cinema complex and the film museum, which has one of the richest libraries in the Balkans, and we are an active player in children’s educational programmes. I should underline that the same team is behind all of these events, and we target the same audience all year round. My job is to integrate all of the activities within one organisation and to communicate that we are one organisation.

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Is it easy to attract and maintain the same audience outside of the festivals?
We are currently aiming to expand by building a dedicated audience, but not for the festivals, as our screenings are almost all sold out. My dream would be to have the same size of audience during the whole year. We have four cinemas under the Europa Cinemas network that are doing well, and we are trying to follow the films after the festival when they are released via theatrical distribution, but we still haven’t attained our goals.

What about your industry section, Agora? Is it also enjoying this kind of expansion?
Since its launch 20 years ago, Agora has always been supportive of the Greek and Balkan industry. Thanks to the strong Creative Europe/MEDIA support for both festivals, we have managed to expand our professionals’ Training Days, we are hosting the Locarno Academy for young professionals involved in the festival and distribution circuit for the second year, and this year we are collaborating with ACE on a think tank for producers. We will also soon have a new building, where we will organise more workshops for the audience, too.

Why is it important for a professional to attend Agora?
I think that our Agora meetings in November and March have the perfect number of guests, which is great for networking with professionals from different backgrounds and the media. If someone from the region is looking to finalise a project, he or she should come to Thessaloniki, not only for the prizes, like the Eurimages Lab Project Award or those of our Greek co-production partners, but also for the key players from the Balkans and the Mediterranean who are present. It sounds trendy, but we aim to be a hub, and Thessaloniki is a physical hub, a traditional meeting point for the whole region – so if not here, where else?

Are you also thinking of expanding beyond film exhibition?
This is an important point, and along with Orestis Andreadakis, the artistic director of the festival, we are developing new initiatives linking cinema with other arts, such as modern art, theatre, music and new technologies. In this respect, we have already established a lot of partnerships with the main cultural organisations in the city.

How do you think you can communicate the coherence between all of these different sections?
By the end of January, we will have launched the new visual identity of the festival, and the TDF in March will be the first edition linked to this. It is important to modernise and organise all of the activities under the same, unified umbrella, as it’s not obvious – even for people who are financing us – to see that we are the same organisation.

How will your expansion affect Greek cinema?
Since our collaboration with Festival Scope last year for the TDF’s Virtual Theatre, we have received some extremely positive and unexpected results in terms of worldwide interest in Greek cinema, which is not just limited to the Greek diaspora. To continue in this direction, the Agora team suggested something more systematic by initiating an online streaming platform to support Greek cinema. It is the festival’s mission to help with the circulation of lots of films, as we already have the demand for this content. It will not be easy, but we are hoping to start with documentaries and later include fiction films, too.

Despite the fact that you have spent years living in Greece, is there anything that still impresses you?
Greece is part of everything: there is still cinema, the market is active, and many films, including independent and arthouse titles, are being released. Greece has a knack for resilience. Also, the festival has been through difficult times; it has survived and is vivacious, and there is a lot of enthusiasm from both the industry and the team. When I come to Thessaloniki, as a foreigner, I’m still impressed by this energy being invested in making things happen and moving things forward.

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