Virunga wins the top honour at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
by Joseph Proimakis
- The British Oscar contender picked up the Peter Wintonick Audience Award, while Hail Arcadia and Every Face Has a Name won the FIPRESCI Prizes
Celebrating its mightily impressive admissions receipts of over 50,000 tickets and an attendance rate of over 80% during its week of screenings, the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival dropped its curtains with the awards ceremony on Saturday evening.
The British Oscar contender Virunga [+see also:
film profile] picked up the Peter Wintonick Audience Award, the gathering’s top honour for the over-45-minute international selection. Although director Orlando von Einsiedel was not present to receive his accolade, he did send a taped acceptance speech, highlighting his hope that “this award will help the film continue to spread its message about Virunga’s ongoing battle”.
Focusing on the titular UNESCO World Heritage Site, which hosts the last of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, von Einsiedel’s movie revolves around the efforts of a group of park rangers to keep the park intact despite the region’s geopolitical tensions and the economic pressures exerted by a British oil company that wants to take over the land and exploit its lake. The film also won the WWF Jury Prize for the best film in the festival’s Habitat section.
Nikos Aslanidis’ Paradoxical Fatherland – the story of a man who was forced to overcome the memory of his family being slain by the Nazis during the Greek occupation, as he had to seek asylum in Germany during the rule of the Greek junta – received the Audience Award for best local film over 45 minutes. The director dedicated the prize to Greek Holocaust survivors who are still seeking vindication from Germany.
Celebrated filmmaker Filippos Koutsaftis picked up the FIPRESCI Prize for a Greek film with his long-awaited return, Hail Arcadia, and Magnus Gertten’s Every Face Has a Name (Sweden) was tapped as the jury’s international winner, while Flame (USA/Bulgaria) and Olympia (Greece) won the Audience Awards for the under-45-minute international and national selections, respectively.
Maria Economou’s The Longest Run (Greece/Finland) won over the Agora’s Docs in Progress jury, picking up the Best of Show Award along with its €15,000 worth of services offered by local post-production company 2|35, while the 11th EDN Award, presented annually to leading figures within the documentary cultural sphere, was this year presented to IDFA DocLab curator Caspar Sonnen.