Thessaloniki Animation Festival 2023: interview with Stavros Savvaidis; one of the organisers

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Stavros Savvaidis, Thessaloniki Animation Festival
Stavros Savvaidis, Thessaloniki Animation Festival, 5th TAF, 2019.

© https://tafestival.gr/, Addart

We took an interview with Stavros Savvaidis in the office of his NGO organisation Addart. There, He and his employees focus on promoting art and organising TAF, a Thessaloniki Animation Festival. It is a Greek Festival in Thessaloniki dedicated to animation and to those who create it and enjoy art. Stavros is a fan of comics, art and animation. He would like to share it with the rest of the World in his Festival.

What is the main goal of the festival?

The most important goal of the festival is to connect people, animators and the audience with the art of animation. We wish to make the festival popular and mainstream so that more and more people will attend it and watch new animated movies. One of the things we established since the beginning of TAF was that there will be free entrance for all. Our main ambition is for the artists and the audience to come closer, that’s why we don’t ask them for a fee. There are so many short animation films that people don’t know about and likely will never see. We consider this a pity and we want to change it and have the artists instead feeling happy about other people seeing their animated projects and get closer to the audience.

What inspired you to create this festival?

My brother has been a great comics’ fan for many years and together we decided to open a comic-book café shop where visitors could borrow their favourite comic and read it while enjoying their coffee. We had over 5000 copies of comics in our café shop! We really were into comics and my brother had already published several of his creations in some magazines. He was also working as a designer for comic companies, and we were trying to figure out how we could put this a step forward. That was one of the main reasons why we founded AddArt.

In 2015, the first Thessaloniki Animation Festival took place. Until then, there wasn’t any festival dedicated to animation in Thessaloniki, even though the city is well-known for its film festival – The Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Considering that the film industry is growing expansively, we decided to promote animation because it is a domain of film industry quite neglected, and it is something that we love and enjoy.

During the first year, there were few people working for the Festival, the event was hosted in a small cinema and we had only one guest from animation industry, a good friend of ours, Rony Oren. He gave a lecture on claymation and stop-motion animation. We were very pleased that he supported us on our first year of the Festival. Since this one was a success, we decided that we will organise the Festival every year in October.

What is the scheduled program for TAF?

We will be screening movies of more than 11 hours on our competitive programme. While the Festival lasts four days, the competitive programme will be on for three days and after that, we will be having special screenings. Every year, we have a section dedicated to human rights. We select movies which communicate messages related to that subject and in the end, we award the best one with the “Human Rights award” in collaboration with the Select Respect network organisations in which we participate.

The other thing that visitors can do is to attend our master classes. Like every year, we will be hosting a big number of professionals from the animation industry who will deliver lectures on various subjects. One of them is Tim Allen, who worked with Guillermo del Toro during the production of stop-motion Pinocchio movie. Another guest is Ana Grgic, a researcher who specializes in VFX effects and film industry. Dr. Grgic will present a master class on the history of women in the Balkans and their presence and experience in filming industry.

We will also have a Greek master class by the President of ASIFA, the Hellenic Animation Association, Mr. Konstantinos P. Kakarountas. He will give a lecture about his work in VFX effects. In his last work, the Bracelet of Fire (Production: ΕΡΤ- The Greek National Broadcast Channel), Mr. Kakarountas recreated the Great Fire of Thessaloniki (1917) with VFX effects hence this will be one of the topics during his lecture. We will have also a presentation of the West Attica University masters programme in animation, by Dr. Eleni Mouri, Professor in Animation.

The digital part of our Festival will start after the end of the physical festival. The digital festival was created during the COVID lockdowns as a temporary measure, but it was so successful that we decided to integrate it into our festival permanently. Therefore, the first four days the in-person festival will take place. Then, the next six days will be focused on the digital festival, where people from all over the world can participate and watch movies through our website. Last year, we had 14.000 views, from Japan, Peru, everywhere! We have a full program in our Festival and master classes and screenings. And, I would like to point again that all is free for the audience.

What are some of the notable animated projects or animators from the Festival you would like to highlight?

I think Tim Allen’s on Del Toro’s Pinocchio. In addition, we have two special screenings on Tuesday. The first one is dedicated to Kosovo Anibar Festival. The second one is dedicated the American Documentary and Animation Festival (AmDocs) from Palm Springs, California. The directors of these festivals will also be present and talk about the festivals and movies.

Is there an animation scene in Thessaloniki?

Yes, and we are trying to promote the local animation scene during our Festival. Every other year, we have the Greek Panorama block, where we’re screening a lot of Greek movies. This way it’s better for the Greek artists to know that local productions are of great importance for the Festival and that they individually are part of the Festival. We have a 2-hour session only with Greek artists to promote their own movies.

Do you have any Japanese animated movies as well?

Yes, we get them from all over the World, from all countries, almost 3000 movies and we end up choosing a 100. We have great animated movies from France and USA as well, from two different schools of animation. I expect all the guests to pick the winners of the festival.

Is there something you would like to add?

I would like to add that we will also have a comic exhibition in the warehouse during those 4 days. We created that comics for our European project “Journey”. We went to the Greek island, Sikamia, close to Mytilini and interviewed a fisherman, Kostas Pinteris. He was volunteering for two years and saving refugees full-time. The comic presents the story from his perspective, during the time when he was rescuing refugees from drowning. We will have giant banner showing the comic. There’ll be other comics as well, all free. The audience will only have to fill out a list with a name and email address to receive them.

The Festival lasts from 21.09.2023 till 30.09.2023 in both live and digital versions. Viewers can visit the Festival in the port of Thessaloniki in the warehouse D (21.09.2023-24.09.2023). Then they can attend the digital part (25.09.2023-30.09.2023). You can click here to visit TAF website.

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