Debut pic tops Istanbul film fest

Ulucay's 'Boats Out' is surprise winner

ISTANBUL — A striking first feature by an unknown director from a village in central Turkey beat established helmers’ pics to win the top local prize at the 23rd Intl. Istanbul Film Festival (April 10-25).

“Boats Out of Watermelon Rinds,” by 50-year-old, self-taught Ahmet Ulucay, charmed critics and auds with its autobiographical tale of two film-mad kids in a Western Anatolian village during the 1960s. DV-shot pic quickly nabbed invitations to a clutch of fests this fall.

Zeki Demirkubuz (“Fate,” “Confession”) won director honors for his low-key drama “The Waiting Room.” Yesim Ustaoglu, known for “Journey to the Sun,” went away with a special jury prize and actress award for her third feature, “Waiting for the Clouds,” a 1970s-set story about a Greek-Turkish woman’s hidden past.

Fest’s international competition jury, led by Hugh Hudson, gave the Golden Tulip to Taiwanese drama “Goodbye, Dragon Inn,” helmed by Tsai Ming-liang. Special jury prize was shared by Serbian political satire “The Professional” and French youth drama “L’Esquive.”

International filmmakers honored this year include Australian-born cinematographer Christopher Doyle and Iranian director Bahram Bayzai. Veteran British helmer Ken Russell was on hand for a tribute that included a special screening of his 1970s rock classic “Tommy.” At Saturday’s awards ceremony, telecast live, the still-sprightly septuagenarian dubbed the IIFF the “most swinging festival on the whole planet.”

Admissions at this year’s event dropped by around 10% due to a hike in ticket prices, but the overall program was well received by press and public.

And the winners are…

INTL. COMPETITION

Golden Tulip Award: “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” (Taiwan)
Special Jury Prize: “The Professional” (Serbia-Montenegro), “L’Esquive” (France)

NATIONAL COMPETITION

Film: “Boats Out of Watermelon Rinds” (Ahmet Ulucay)
Director: Zeki Demirkubuz (“The Waiting Room”)
Special Jury Prize: “Waiting for the Clouds” (Yesim Ustaoglu)
Actor (shared): Emre Kinay, Sevket Coruh (“Under Construction”)
Actress: Ruchan Caliskur (“Waiting for the Clouds”)

OTHER AWARDS

Fipresci Awards: “L’Esquive” (France), “What’s Human Anyway…” (Turkey)
Audience Awards: “Reconstruction” (Denmark), “A Little Bit of Freedom” (Germany-Turkey)

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