ANTALYA, Turkey — The Eurasia Film Festival may still have some distance to go before fulfilling its ambition of becoming “Cannes East,” but with the addition of a market this year, the Sept. 16-23 event was on an upswing.

While unseasonable rains forced the fest to cancel the planned closing ceremony in the Roman amphitheater at Aspendos, international guests still had plenty of time to sample Antalya’s wealth of Greek and Roman ruins as well as relax in the posh hotels and restaurants that line the beachfront of the Mediterranean resort.

The second edition of the Eurasia fest, featuring international films, runs concurrently with the 43-year old Golden Orange fest, concentrating on Turkish films, and the two-day Eurasia Film Market.

Faye Dunaway, Taylor Hackford and Roger Corman were among those who made the trek, along with lifetime award honoree Norman Jewison and honoree Helen Mirren, fresh from her Venice fest actress victory.

Turkish delights

The Golden Orange fest has long been the main industry event for local film professionals who come to Antalya to see new Turkish pics. The Eurasia fest was launched last year as an international event, with the aim of screening an outstanding selection of films from Europe and Asia as well as showcasing the region’s rich cultural heritage.

The fest wants to introduce Turkish films to the international film community, as well as bringing the best titles from international festivals like Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Toronto to local auds.

In the Eurasian section, a grand prize of $75,000 helped attract a generally strong lineup, with the top award going to Romanian director Radu Muntean for “The Paper Will Be Blue.” Director award went to Hungarian Gyorgy Palfi for “Taxidermia” and the Critics Award was picked up by another Romanian, Corneliu Porumboiu, for “12:08 East of Bucharest.”

Much more controversial were the hotly contested national cinema awards, which the local jury awarded to Zeki Demirkubuz’s “Destiny”; many international critics found that pic disappointing after his earlier successes, “Fate” and “Confession,” both of which screened in Un Certain Regard in Cannes several years ago. The award for director went to Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Climates,” a competitor in Cannes earlier this year.

The first edition of the Eurasia Film Market got off to a solid start, bringing together more than 350 participants from 180 organizations.

Buyers and sellers of both film and TV product from the Middle East, Turkey, the Balkans and Eastern Europe met in a relaxed environment to form relationships and strike deals. Turkey’s own rapidly growing production industry, dominated by up to 60% local product, was one of the main draws for buyers.

Foreign companies represented included MGM Grand, Gaumont and Media Luna; major Turkish players such as Dygyturk and national broadcaster TRT turned out in force.

Market director Deniz Ziya Temeltas reports that at least 16 deals were concluded; final number could be more like 30.

Can Anamur, head of acquisitions for Turkey’s Dogan Media Group, which owns top TV station Kanal D as well as other media outlets, said: “We go, of course, to Cannes, AFM and Mipcom, but this market is something new for us. The location is great, the city is wonderful and there is a chance to sit down with people and form relationships that you don’t have time to do in larger markets.”

“We don’t just buy American product, we also buy arthouse. We are buying from different companies here than at the other markets.

“At this market we have already bought two titles from Studio Canal for all rights and we will probably close two more deals after the market closes.”

Anamur said having the chance to see all the new Turkish movies in Antalya was also a big draw. With Turkish broadcasters ready to spend up to half a million dollars on a hot Turkish title, the market for top local product has become highly competitive.

Festival president Engin Yigitgil, who is also chairman of film promotion org Tursak, said, “The film market should not only serve as an international platform for marketing for TV and film companies worldwide, it should enhance the image of Turkish cinema internationally and bolster the development of the Turkish film industry.”

(Jay Weissberg contributed to this report.)