Turkish Film and TV Community on Edge After Airport Terror Attack

Turkish Film and TV Community Reacts
Photo by Jodi Hilton/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

ROME — The three suicide attacks at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, which killed at least 41 people and wounded more than 200 Tuesday night, sparked fresh fears in the Turkish film and TV community Wednesday over the increasing impact of terrorism on the country and the industry.

Security concerns have already caused the cancellation of next year’s Discop Istanbul TV content market. Basic Lead, the event’s organizer, cited “ongoing geopolitical tensions” in the region as the reason for its decision earlier this month. Last year’s international section of Turkey’s prominent Adana Film Festival was also canceled because of safety concerns.

Over the past 12 months, terror attacks have resulted in more than 200 deaths in Istanbul and Ankara, the Turkish capital. The assault on Istanbul’s airport Tuesday is being blamed on extremists inspired or directed by the radical group Islamic State.

“These attacks affect first of all the psychology of the people,” said Basak Emre, co-director of Festival on Wheels, which promotes Turkish films. She noted the drop in number of both international guests and local attendees at the Istanbul Film Festival in April. “The reason is fear and anxiety.”

Those same worries have also caused a dip in local box-office grosses, as Turkish moviegoers become more reluctant to go into movie theaters, especially multiplexes. But “the film industry is still strong,” Emre added, “as the country’s screens and film releases continue to increase.”

“We are receiving solidarity messages from all over the world, from the artists and cultural operators that we collaborate with,” said Gulun Ustun, who heads the Istanbul fest’s Meetings on the Bridge industry side. “As always, we hope music, culture and the arts provide us with healing power.”

On Tuesday night, as the massacre at the Istanbul airport was unfolding, producer Muge Ozen was on the Istanbul set of a Turkish comedy, the as-yet-untitled sequel to  “Give Me a Break!” (“Yok Artik”), a local box-office smash.

“The current events affect the potential co-productions and shootings in Turkey in a very negative way,” Ozen said. “It becomes harder and harder to convince international crews to come and shoot in Turkey, where the economic and political stability, as well as the security conditions are questionable.”

Russell Crowe’s “The Water Diviner” was shot in 2014 in Turkey. So were “Argo,” Skyfall” and “Ghost Rider 2.”

But that was before the recent spate of major terrorist attacks cast the country in a less attractive light.

Turkish artist-auteur Kutlug Ataman, best-known on the international fest circuit for sardonic rural drama “The Lamb,” (“Kuzu”), struck a stoic note.

“The best answer to acts of terror is not to become alarmist and go on with the business of daily life and obviously reflecting on life,” he said. “This is exactly what I am doing.”

“People make films, and sometimes even better films, under more difficult conditions. We will certainly overcome these inconveniences and continue telling our stories.”

Arzu Ozturkmen, a performing arts professor with close ties to the Turkish industry, said that “Turkey has a long history of coping with street terror and terror in general.” She noted that turmoil has not slowed down production of widely exported TV series such as Kanal D’s female empowerment-themed “Fatmagul,” which are fueling Turkey ‘s current boom in the global TV market.

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