Organizer muses over fest's freshman year

The enthusiastic Pelin Turgut, one of the IFIstanbul fest organizers, mused over its freshman year, its mistakes and good luck.

Biggest regret: “Not having invited Jennifer Jason Leigh in time. We showed both her directorial debut, ‘The Anniversary Party’ (co-directed with Alan Cumming) and the Dogma film ‘The King Is Alive,’ (in) which she stars. She would have been great, but we didn’t get to her in time — she was doing a Broadway show.”

One thing we’ll change next year: “Add a discount 10 a.m. matinee for students and the self-employed.”

Funniest moment: “When photographers chased after the ‘”The Mummy” girl’ Rachel Weisz rather than her boyfriend and our official guest, ‘Pi’ director Darren Aronofsky.”

Festival highs: “The amazingly long ticket queue we saw at 8 a.m. on the first day of our festival. And definitely having Hal Hartley open the festival. Hal epitomizes everything that is great about independent cinema — he is modest to a degree, quirky, interested, great to talk to and oh, such a nice guy!”

Festival lows: “Some short-film directors whose works were rejected from the official festival competition interrupted one of our panels and caused chaos. And still not being sure whether we had enough funds in October for the festival to go ahead — just three months before the opening date. We kept film distributors, stars and the whole festival workforce on hold until the last possible minute.”

Beginner’s luck: “For a first-time festival, we had amazing press support. We also had strokes of good luck. For instance we got hold of Hal Hartley’s email after a long search, and emailed asking him to attend the festival, which opened with his latest film, ‘No Such Thing.’ We weren’t really expecting much, but sure enough a few days later he wrote back saying yes. We were bowled over.”

Biggest hits and biggest bombs: “The top sellers included ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There,’ ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’ and ‘Memento’ director Christopher Nolan’s first feature, ‘Following,’ plus Matthew Barney’s ‘Cremaster’ special screenings did very well. We were disappointed by lower turnouts for the first films section, proving perhaps that Turkish audiences are not yet as experimental as we had hoped.”

Biggest mistake: “Printing IFIstanbul logo T-shirts to sell. We only sold about six and the rest are sadly sitting in storage. Turns out Turks are famous for never buying merchandise.”

Future plans: “To stay independent. We want young Turkish filmmakers to feel they now have a platform which will promote them.”

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