9 Things You Need To Know About Thessaloniki International Film Festival

9 Things You Need To Know About Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Published On: November 25, 2019Last Updated: November 5, 20236 min readBy

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The biggest festival of the city every year!

November has become synonymous to only one thing for the city: Thessaloniki International Film Festival (or TIFF). Greece has a strong connection with the arts, Ancient Greece was the place where they were born after all.

The 7th art, as cinema is named, is the evolution of the ancient theater and Greeks pay equal attention to it. Thessaloniki Film Festival is proof of that.

But what exactly does this festival do? How does it work? And why is it so important?

All these questions and many more will be answered below, where we will let you know all the interesting things you have to know about TIFF plus an overview bonus of this year’s organization.


The first time that the festival took place was in 1960. It remains one of the most talked about events of the year, and had its 60th anniversay in 2019. 

Between the period 1960-1965, the name of the event was ‘Greek Cinema Week’. In 1966, it got the characteristics of a festival and it was named ‘Greek Film Festival’. Until 1991, it operated only as a national Greek festival which became International later in 1992. Every year more and more producers and filmmakers join together.


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TIFF is the oldest film festival in southeastern Europe. Only Venice Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival are equally old and have an equally important impact on the filmmaking industry in Europe.[

TIFF is considered an event on the cultural crossroads between East and West as well as the Mediterranean and the Balkans. It is the meeting point of artists coming from different places of the globe where they are called to exchange their artistic point of view.

The festival is divided into 5 sectors: 

  • The International Competition section is where young creators present their first or second film.  This is the most important section and the one from which the creators receive the awards of TIFF. The non-competitive Panorama of Greek Films section is where the creators present their recent Greek film productions. 
  • The ‘Open Horizons Independence Days’ section is also non-competitive. In this section, independent and innovative creations are presented from the international cinema stage. It is a great honor for every director to be featured in this section of the festival. 
  • The ‘Balkan Survey’ section has been established since 1994. This section consists of the presentation of creations from the Balkans. Thessaloniki is closely related and influenced by the Balkan countries and people. Due to this, the special reference to this geographical spot was necessary. The productions from these countries are masterpieces and express the particularity of these nations and their history. 
  • The ‘Youth Screen’ section consists of films appropriate for young audiences. This is also a non-competitive part of the TIFF. 
  • The last but not least important section of TIFF is the section of exhibitions and tributes to special artists that pays tribute to their lifes work. 


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In the competitive sections, the artists compete to win one of the awards of the festival. There is an international panel of judges with exceptional directors from the international cinema stage, and their role is to award the three best creations with the following awards: Golden Alexander, Silver Alexander, and Bronze Alexander.

Besides these, the jury also decides on the best actress/actor award, best director award and best original screenplay. There are also special jury committees that decide on “Human Values Award”, “Greek Debut Film Award”, “Best Location Award”, the “Best LGBTQI-themed Film” and the “Youth Jury Award”, which are given by students of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. There are also audience awards and the International Federation Of Film Critics ( FIPRESCI) independent award.

These awards are given to one movie of each section mentioned above, even in the non-competitive ones.

The heart of TIFF beats in the city centre of Thessaloniki. The main locations for the screenings and the other events organized by the TIFF are Olympion theater and the port of Thessaloniki. 

The Olympion is one of the most beautiful buildings in Thessaloniki. It has been standing tall in the centre of Aristotelous square since 1950. It was designed and constructed by French architect Jacques Mosset and is a listed monument, making all of us citizens proud to have it in our city. In 1998, the Olympion became the home and base of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Besides the movie theatre, here you can find two of the best cafes in the city: “Olympion” and ‘Domatio Me Thea’. The latter means a room with a view and it is exactly what the definition says: a room with a view of Thessaloniki’s port and the Thermaic Gulf.


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The port of Thessaloniki is the place where all the other features of the TIFF take place. This festival is not only about film screenings. In the port’s warehouses, visitors can attend artistic exhibitions, tributes to honorary artists, masterclasses and seminars. Thessaloniki Cinema Museum is also located in the port and showcases the evolution of Greek cinematography.

The festival is mainly run by volunteers. Young and old people with a passion for cinema and the arts come together to help organize and conduct the event for all to enjoy.

TIFF, as a cultural organization, consists of Thessaloniki International Film Festival and Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. The second one takes place every March and is an equally important event for the city. Various artists present their work and the best of them are awarded. The content of the documentaries concerns social issues like human rights and environmental issues, but stories of everyday life, music, and dance are also present as well.


60th Thessaloniki International Film Festival

This year’s festival took place from the 31st of October until the 10th of November. During these days 201 movies and 59 short films were screened, and 25 awards were given.

Besides the screenings, the festival held many events throughout the city. The first brilliant exhibition of TIFF was the “1960-2019: Moments From Thessaloniki Film Festival” exhibition, which took place in Thessaloniki Cinema Museum and highlighted the festival’s most important moments throughout its 60 years of existence. The second exhibition was named ‘Overview Effect – Encountering the Cosmos’. Great artists took inspiration from one the films of the competitive section of the TIFF and created an original work of art. All the works of art were displayed in this exhibition. The last exhibition was a tribute to artist Nikos Koundouros.

The programm this year consisted of a series of masterclasses which took place in the premises of Olympion theater. The variety of speakers was great, including John Mavroudis the famous illustrator and Albert Serra and John Waters both distinguished directors. There were also noteworthy book presentations, stand-up comedy performances, and after-parties to entertain all visitors.

Thessaloniki International Film Festival is an important event that offers a great opportunity for young artists to communicate their work and develop the art of cinema. As famous French film critic Andre Bazin once said: “The cinema substitutes for our gaze a world more in harmony with our desires.” 

  • Are you wanting to travel to Thessaloniki International Film Festival or just explore the city or Greece in general? We can curate your itinerary and plan your trip to Greece whether you are a solo explorer or a big family, “My Big Greek Fat Wedding” style. Make sure to read our free guides to the city of Thessaloniki plus 10 Things You Can Do any time of the year when visiting.   

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