Istanbul festival hands out awards

Ceylan, Demirkubuz among winners at event

ISTANBUL — Two of Turkey’s best-known directors came away the big winners at the Istanbul Film Festival, which wrapped its 26th edition April 14.

In the National Competition, a jury led by Italian-based Turkish helmer Ferzan Ozpetek awarded Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Climates” best film, while Zeki Demirkubuz copped best director for “Destiny.” Latter film also won the Fipresci award and shared the actor prize.

Both pics — existential dramas centered on male protags’ obsessive problems with women — also shared the top prizes at Turkey’s Antalya fest last fall. “Climates” won a Fipresci award at Cannes last year.

Prizes hardly reflects the diversity and depth of current Turkish cinema, which is on its biggest high in decades. Last year, of the 212 pics released in the country, 34 were Turkish, and they accounted for a massive 51% of the nation’s total box office tally.

The 21 features in the National Competition showed a wide range of subjects (including a revived interest in stories set during the ’80s military junta), as well as much-improved technical and commercial smarts. Like Bollywood movies, Turkish pics now profit considerably from overseas distribution to ethnic communities, both in Europe and North America. Increased revenues are now being funneled back into bigger production budgets.

Other local films favored by foreign observers included “International,” an ironic comedy set in a small town during the junta; wacky cop drama-cum-genre riff “Police”; slick psychothriller “The Little Apocalypse”; crowdpleasing village dramedy “Adam & the Devil”; and sumptuously lensed drama “Bliss,” one of three movies showcasing rising young actress Ozgu Namal.

New IIFF director Azize Tan assembled a strong program heavy on tributes to filmmakers such as Gus Van Sant, and an international competition praised at the closing ceremony by British director Michael Radford, jury prexy.

Radford and the five other jurors, including Demirkubuz, Icelandic director Dagur Kari and German thesp Udo Kier, gave the top Golden Tulip Award to Norwegian dramedy “Reprise,” a first feature by Joachim Trier, and special prize of the jury to Tom Di Cillo’s Gotham paparazzi comedy “Delirious,” with Steve Buscemi.

Aside from Van Sant and Di Cillo, other notables who jetted in included Paul Schrader (for an honorary gong) and South Korean helmer Park Chan-wook.

Fest, which ran March 31-April 15, still labors under poor screening conditions in the city’s crowded Beyoglu district, but, per Tan, admissions were up more than 10% vs. last year, tallying 170,000 tickets sold.

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