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DISPATCH FROM TURKEY | Mysteries, Whirling Dervishes and Ancient Treasures Unfold at Antalya Fests

DISPATCH FROM TURKEY | Mysteries, Whirling Dervishes and Ancient Treasures Unfold at Antalya Fests

In the mystical and ancient Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya, sometimes referred to as the Turkish Riviera, international buyers and sellers from all over the world recently attended the Eurasia International Film Market (October 22 – 25), running parallel with the Antalya Film Festival and the third Eurasia International Festival, respectively (October 19 – 28th). Although one may instantly presume that Turkey has only one international film festival to offer, in the form of Istanbul, it is in fact Antalya that garners the most prestige and respect, as the country’s oldest and more lavishly funded (by TurkSak).

This year Antalya, the fruitful soil of the ‘ancient mythology’ is embracing the cinema, the ‘mythology of the modern times.’ The Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival is the first national film festival organized in Turkey, and this event has supported the Turkish film industry through its film competition and annual Golden Orange Award Ceremony. More than 200 films of every genre, length and format from different countries all over the world are screened throughout the whole event.

What Antalya offers that the Istanbul fest (which takes place in April next year) is unable to yet do, is to create a stage for international buyers and sellers to meet and mainly sell off remaining ancillary and TV rights. The Eurasia Film Festival programmer, Esra Even commented that one “Shouldn’t think of the international festival as a separate event. We wanted to do something to promote the national film industry and also promote the municipality of Antalya, which is one of the festival’s biggest sponsors. The Eurasia festival and market is a platform where Turkish and foreign guests can meet each other. Menderes Tuerel (honorary president of the festival) went on further to sate that their “film market aims to carry the vital and impressive advancements of the world cinema to the Turkish film industry.”

Director Francis Ford Coppola was in Turkey with “Youth Without Youth” and to pick up an award. Photo by Kerem Bayraktaroglu

Unfortunately not many major deals occurred at the market in this quiet year and there weren’t as many national and international industry professionals as expected from the past 1,000 attendees. Adding to this matter, several prominent celebrity guests decided to cancel last minute. However, representatives from over 70 countries did manage to make an appearance this year and joined the market, while various panel discussions (dealing with the importance of ‘Crossing Boarders’ in co-productions) and master classes, script writing workshops were held to great success. Furthermore this year’s creation of the ‘Eurasia Film Festival Script Development Fund’ was set up and aimed at opening a new window to film producers and enabling Turkish projects to take part in international co-productions. With an award of approximately $20,000 the fund lends support to film producers and encourages Turkish cinema to further co-produced projects. This year’s recipient of the award went to “50 Reasons All in Her Eyes” by Cem Akas.

Various reasons have been given for a slightly dampened market and festival. The most notable was the recent terrorist incidents that occurred in Turkey before the market had a chance to get underway and also in having the events postponed a month, in order not to coincide with the Islamic month of Ramadan in addition to being sandwiched between Pusan, MIPCOM, Rome, The London Film Festival and the American Film Market. Yet even with all these slight mishaps, most guests weren’t deterred to set out and enjoy a week’s long celebration of the Seventh Art.

Tony Watts, director of the Eurasia Film Market nevertheless expressed enthusiasm with the general outcome, “Given the intense pressure on the buyers and sellers who have to plan where they go in a crowded autumn of festivals and markets… We were pleased with the calibre of attendance at the market with the likes of Studio Canal and Fortissimo Films. We also had a strong contingent from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.” Concluding, Watts added, “Applause is due to Hong Kong for doing deals for this year’s biggest film in China, ‘The Warlords’ starring Jet Li and Any Lau.”

The coveted Golden Orange award of the Antalya Film Festival went to Semih Kaplanoglu‘s “Egg,” which was recently screened at Cannes Film Festival, and for best direction to Fatih Akin‘s “Edge of Heaven.”

Eurasia Film Market director Tony Watts. Photo by Kerem Bayraktaroglu

The International Eurasia Film Festival also awarded prizes within categories: The International Best Feature Film, The Critics Choice Award and the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC). The Best international feature film was given to the fabulous “The Band’s Visit” by Eran Kolirin. Best direction was awarded to Abdellatatif Kechiche for “The Secret of the Grain.” The Critics award for best feature was given to “Under the Bombs” by Philippe Aractingi. The NETPAC jury split the award between “Under the Bombs” and “Egg.” Honorary awards were also handed out to Hanna Schygulla (Germany), Francis Ford Coppola and Shkhar Kapur (India). The aforementioned two filmmakers were also at hand not only to collect their prizes but to screen the Asian premieres of “Youth Without Youth” and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.”

The success of the festival was quite apparent in not only its contribution to the ever increasing pool of national films that have been produced over the past year but also in its attraction to entice the attendance of some of the leading names of cinema. Notable attendees included Stephen Hopkins (UK), Nic Roeg (UK), Miranda Richardson (UK), Mario Kasser (USA), Rita Tushingham (UK) to name a few, and all participated in Q&As. Judging by the current combination of recognizable names from the world of cinema as attendees and also by the dramatic increase in the Turkish films produced this year (in 2004 only 17 movies were released, though by the end of 2007 there will be over 70) it seems all too evident that this particular event will be making significant strides in the coming years.

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