Festival Reports

Antalya Report

Aditya Tuesday December 30, 2008

Known as Turkey's premier fun-in-the-sun tourist spot and often referred to as the Turkish Riviera - the mystical and ancient Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya transformed into a cinema city from 10 to 19 October 2008. The 45th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, held annually since 1963 in Antalya, is the most important national film festival in Turkey. 

The event, jointly organized by the Foundation of Culture and Arts in Antalya (Antalya Kltr Sanat Vakfi, AKSAV) and TURSAK takes place in the autumn months at the Antalya Cultural Center (AKM). Since 2005, the festival is accompanied by the International Eurasia Film Festival. The festival screened about 80 foreign films and 70 Turkish Films. 60 of the world cinema films that were screened in the festival were premieres. All the Turkish films in the in the Golden Orange Competition were Turkish premieres. 

The films were not screened just for the pleasure of watching. Over 37 high-profile international buyers, film marketing companies, distributors and broadcasters had marketing stands in the 3-day Eurasia Film Market that took place on the first three days of the Festival. The Market may not have done brisk business this year but there is no doubt that it has the potential of becoming a very productive market place to buy and sell film rights, especially ancillary film rights.

"Despite the economic crisis shaking economies across the world, the Middle Eastern countries have the potential to reap big economic gains in the film market," said Engin Yigitgil, President of TRSAK, in his opening remarks. "These countries have a tendency to enter new markets today, which will facilitate growth in those film markets." 

The festival was extremely well promoted and had the full support of Antalya's dynamic Mayor Menderes Turel - who is actively involved in the Festival as its Honorary President. Banners were prominently displayed all over the city and the residents of Antalaya showed up in good numbers at the festival screenings and followed the goings-on of the festival closely. At the opening of the Market the mayor revealed his intention of making Antalya a strategic center for cinema markets. "In olden days, we transported silks and spices. Today, cinema and films are being bought and sold, bartered and traded in Antalya and we are connecting with the world in a dynamic and cultural way," Trel stated. 

The fourth Eurasia Film Festival opened with the screening of Turkish film director Ferzan zpetek's Un Giorno Perfetto (A Perfect Day). The film was adapted from a novel and premiered at the Venice Film Festival. It subsequently made waves at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival. zpetek is the brother of well-known actress Zeynep Aksu. Both zpetek and producer, Domenico Procacci, were present at the screening along with the cast. 

The films that the audience were particularly looking forward to included Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Maymun (Three Monkeys). It is a riveting study of secrets and lies within a small family trying to hold itself together. The film had already won critical acclaim and the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival. 

One Day You'll Understand by Israel's most celebrated contemporary director Amos Gitai was also premiered at Antalya as a special screening. 

Dot (Nokta) is stunningly beautiful and an unusual crime and punishment film that incorporates calligraphy into a story about a man haunted by guilt over his theft of a Koran. The film picked up the Best Director and the Best Music Awards. Although the film did not win the Best Cinematography award, many felt that it richly deserved it. In the film the camera moves as if it is creating calligraphy.

Yesim Ustaoglu Pandora's Box, a family drama characterized by many tensions may not have impressed the jury enough for it to have won an award but the audience was very moved by the universality of the issues highlighted in the film. Ustaoglu describes the film as ‘a story of alienation and isolation' and is an account of three siblings who get together to look for their aging mother who has gone missing from her village home. They find her and bring her to the city to look after her only to find out that she has Alzheimer's. The siblings themselves live troubled lives and cannot relate to their mother and the mother longs to get back to her village and the mountains that she loves. 

Semih Kaplanoglu St (Milk) is the second part of his Yusuf Trilogy (Egg, Milk, Honey). The first film of the trilogy - Egg - had an excellent festival run and bagged several awards including the NETPAC Award at Antalya in 2007. According to Kaplanoglu, the trilogy has in a way been inspired by Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy. The Yusuf trilogy focuses on the change in the social and economic life in Anatolian provinces within the framework of a mother-son relationship.

In Milk, high school graduate Yusuf is uncertain about his future in the provincial countryside. Writing poetry is his greatest passion and some of his poems are starting to be published in obscure literary journals. But for the time being, he continues working in his single mother's village milk business. Up until now, Yusuf's widowed mother Zehra has focused all her attention on her only child. Still a young and beautiful woman, Zehra is having a discreet relationship with the town station master. The film probes into whether young Yusuf will be able to handle the changes in his peaceful existence, survive on poetry and work alongside his mother in her small-time milk business or will he be forced to move to the big city or seek a job in one of the many factories threatening the unspoiled landscape?

The other Turkish film that made its mark this year was Ozcan Alper's Sonbahar (Autumn), winner of this year's NETPAC award, a decision which was most warmly applauded by the audience present at the awards ceremony. Autumn is the story of Yusuf, a political prisoner who is released after 10 years of confinement, on grounds of health. He returns to his village to discover that his father has died meanwhile and his sister has married and moved to the city. Due to exonomic factors and lack of opportunities, the people that remain in the village are those that belong to his aging mother's generation. As the season changes from autumn to winter, Yusuf meets Eka, a Georgian prostitute. They seem to be right for each other but neither the timing nor the circumstances are right for love to blossom. Yusuf is out of prison but remains confines, and was perhaps better off in jail- still wedded to his political ideology.

The award for the best film and best screenplay in the National Competition was controversially given to The Market - a Tale of Trade, a German-Turkish co-production directed by a non-Turkish film director Ben Hopkins. Many were surprised that the National Award should go to a film directed by a foreigner.

My Only Sunshine (Hayat Var), directed by Reha Erdem whose Times and Winds was also very popular of the festival circuit, picked up the Siyad (Sinema Yazarlari Demegi - Turkish Film Critics Association) prize. The film is the story of a 14year old girl who is learning the knack of surviving in the big bad world. She lives with her father and grandfather. The father owns a boat that he uses for all kind of activities (not always lawful) and her grandfather is a bedridden but selfish old man. 

One must congratulate the Festival's programmers for showcasing the best of recent Turkish production at the Golden Orange Festival. The films are receiving awards and accolades not only in Turkey but in other parts of the world as well. 

The festival itself was very well organised, all the screenings (even the ones with star studded presence) began on time. Festival screenings were well attended by the guests and film lovers in Antalya because it was well publicized and the whole town knew about the films and the stars that were present.

The festival certainly realized the value of star presence and ensured that there were several of them in Antalya during the 10 days of the festival. The 45th Golden Orange and 4th International Eurasia Film Festivals in Antalya came to a grand finale with career achievement awards going to Hollywood heavyweights Kevin Spacey, Adrien Brody, Marisa Tomei and Mickey Rourke. The International Jury headed by Paul Verhoeven announced their winners before the Golden Orange awards were announced by the National Jury President Tuncel Kurtiz - a senior actor of Turkish cinema. The sequence of the announcement of the awards goes to show the importance that is reserved for the National Film Industry. The festival thus achieved a fine balance between international and national cinema. 

by Raman Chawla

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