‘Distant’ thunder at fest

Turk pic boosts local industry, arthouse profile

MOSCOW — “Distant” (Uzak), the first Turkish film selected for competition in Cannes in 20 years, swept the Intl. Istanbul Film Fest awards on Saturday, scooping awards for best Turkish film and director (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) and the Fipresci critics prize.

Ceylan’s sparse urban drama, set in a snow-swept Istanbul landscape, is a major boost for the local industry and confirms the appearance of a new wave of arthouse product from the territory, following last year’s last-minute nomination of helmer Zeki Demirkubuz’s “Confession” and “Fate” in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar.

Competition at the fest is divided into national and international slates, with the national jury this time headed by Tunc Basaran.The international jury, headed by Irish helmer Jim Sheridan, gave the top Golden Tulip prize to Argentina’s Diego Lerman for his small-budget road movie “Suddenly.” A special mention went to Rebecca Miller’s “Personal Velocity,” which also took the People’s Choice audience award.

As the only major film festival in Turkey’s cultural capital, the Istanbul fest has long been rich in retrospectives. This year the fest honored helmers including William Wyler, Yasujiro Ozu, Claude Chabrol, Brian De Palma and Edward Yang.

“It is hard work to run a film festival in a country without the necessary infrastructure, but I am proud to say that finally we have created a young generation of filmmakers and critics who owe their knowledge of world cinema to what they have watched here in past years,” fest president Hulya Ucansu said, reporting more than 100,000 admissions over the event’s 14-day run.

The Turkish film industry continues to be troubled by financial problems and political censorship. Its total production this year is expected to rise to 15 pics, up from nine last year.

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