While most fests are confined to a single location, Turkey’s annual Festival on Wheels has taken a strikingly different approach. Though based out of the nation’s capital of Ankara, the fest is a fleet, decidedly mobile affair.
For the past 16 years, it has rolled through many of Turkey’s cities — from Eskisehir to Gaziantep, Kars to Kayseri — and occasionally even ventured outside the country’s borders, with forays into Baku in Azerbaijan, the Georgian capital Tbilisi, and Sarajevo.
Its mission is twofold. First, to bring international cinema to regional auds, who would otherwise struggle to see anything beyond the multiplexes. (According to fest director Basak Emre, “In some cities we visited, there wasn’t even a dedicated cinema. It was only after the festival left that they set up their own movie theaters.”) Their presence serves to encourage aspiring filmmakers working far from the centers of production.
“In Kars,” says Emre, “since we visited with the festival, five films have been shot there.” One of them (the 2010 portmanteau effort “Tales From Kars”) was a project of the festival itself, with Emre and co-topper Ahmet Boyacioglu sharing producer credits.
But there’s also the flipside: a desire to introduce Turkish cinema and the more remote areas of the country to fest attendees, whose knowledge of the region might be limited to a holiday in Istanbul, or a few days on the Black Sea coast.
For 2011, the theme of the festival is Hate. According to Basak, “It seems appropriate, since we are, all of us, facing more and more of this in our daily life.” In addition, there will be a retrospective spotlight on the works of Portuguese maverick Pedro Costa, a selection of recent Turkish cinema and a Finnish short films showcase, with a special focus on the short works of Aki Kaurismaki .
The lineup is rounded out by a 10-film feature competition for the Golden and Silver Bull awards, overseen by an international jury (last year’s winners: Olivier Masset-Depasse’s immigrant drama “Illegal” and “Chongqing Blues” by Wang Xiaoshuai, respectively), and the usual array of workshops, concerts and panel discussions. All that’s left to be decided is the location: Expect an announcement in mid-October.