Director Johanna Bernhardson on the feeling of intrusiveness when filming one’s own family and other Nordic input at the Greek festival.

The Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival (7-17 March) is one of the main non-fiction gatherings of the European festival season. Held between the historical Olympion Theatre and four restored port warehouses, the 2024 edition of the event welcomed 250 Greek professionals and 150 foreign industry reps. Some prominent Nordic attendees included producer Mario Adamson, DFI rep Heidi Kim Andersen, and SVT’s Charlotte Gry Dae Madsen.

The Greek gathering hosts an international competition, along with other competitive and non-competitive sections. The industry strand, known as Agora, is defined as "the festival's development section". Agora is made up of the Pitching Forum, the Docs in Progress sessions as well as panel discussions, 1:1 meetings and other parallel initiatives. This year, Paradiddle Picture’s Ove Rishøj Jensen served as one of the Pitching Forum’s tutors.

On 13 March, Thessaloniki hosted the international premiere of Johanna Bernhardson’s debut The Andersson Brothers (Bröderna Andersson). World-premiered at Gothenburg, the feature is an emotionally intense portrayal of four brothers who have drifted apart. One is famed filmmaker Roy Andersson, another is the director’s own father. This is a story about art, family, addiction and “a legacy that stretches back over several generations”.

The doc is a Swedish-Finnish co-production led by Cinenic Media, and co-produced with Film i Väst, SVT, Making Movies and Subjektobjekt.

Ahead of the Greek screening, Bernhardson is filled with pride and joy. “I've been thinking about making this film for many years, but it was only when I became worried about one of the brothers’ health, Roy’s, that I felt I just had to make it now. Otherwise, I would have regretted it later,” she told NFTVF.

“In 2019, I started working with producers Annika Hellström and Erika Malmgren of Cinenic Film, which really kick-started the process. They had been following my filmmaking work for many years, and were excited to produce my first feature. Production started in 2019, and we’ve been editing in several stages. I filmed one of the brothers already back in 2003.”

Zooming in on the main challenges she has been facing along the way, Bernhardson reveals: “It’s been hard to remain updated on all the participants in the film, keeping track of what was happening in their lives and - in case something would happen - be ready to film. At times I felt too intrusive. Even though we’re related, I couldn’t film them all the time. But they’re happy with the film.”

“I also found it difficult to record my voice-over tracks. It’s a delicate balance between guiding the audience and at the same time not telling them too much. In this sense, I received great support from my editor Andreas Jonsson Hay,” the helmer concluded.

On 11 March, Thessaloniki’s Pitching Forum hosted the presentation of a new Danish-Greek co-production, titled While Our Sun Burns and helmed by David Krøyer (CPH:DOX 2023-bound Intruders (De invasive arter)).

Backed by the Danish Film Institute and FilmFyn, this doc in development revolves around a group of young Greek volunteer firefighters who spend the summer trying to protect their village north of Athens from wildfires. In detail, it zooms in on three of them – watchtower operator Panagiotis, “charmingly witty” Alexandros, and “young, quiet, observant” Yorgos.

During their pitch, Krøyer (who is also serving as a producer for his own banner Onomamamono) and Anemon producer Anna Marina Skouros showed a trailer made up of research material shot last year. They aim to enter production this summer, and to release the film over the course of 2025.