The history of the festival begins in 1960. That year, Thessaloniki hosted a modest Week of Greek Cinema. The event was a success, so it was decided to hold it annually. From 1965 to 1991 it was called the Festival of Greek Cinema. The festival declined during the 1980s, but it got a second wind in 1992 when it was acknowledged by FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations) as an international film festival.
The program of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival is divided into several sections such as the International Competition, the non-competitive Greek Film Panorama, the Open Horizons segment dedicated to international independent cinema, the Balkan Survey, retrospectives, special screenings and tributes dedicated to outstanding filmmakers and national cinema. Along with film screenings, the program includes panels and Q&A sessions with filmmakers, workshops, art exhibitions, concerts and other events.
The festival offers a rich and diverse program: for ten days in mid-November, audiences and guests attend screenings of more than 150 Greek and foreign films. The Thessaloniki International Film Festival has a distinct focus on independent cinema because one of its main goals is to discover, promote and support new and emerging filmmakers from all over the world. However, retrospective screenings may feature mainstream movies by world-renowned filmmakers.
The Thessaloniki International Film Festival is a competitive film festival. It’s main award is the Golden Alexander, it was inaugurated in 1992. The prize is awarded by the international jury to the best feature film in the International Competition section which consists of new director’s first and second films. From 1992 to 2007, the festival hosted the Greek State Film Awards. The award was given out by the Greek Ministry of Culture to the best film in the national program. In 2009, filmmakers boycotted the festival to make the government take action to improve funding for the country’s film industry. As a result, the national film award was discontinued.