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Istanbul fest axes its helmer

Director dismissed after closing ceremony

The Istanbul Film Festival axed Hulya Ucansu, its director of 24 years, without explanation just hours before its 25th anniversary event shuttered Friday.

Fest umbrella org, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture & Arts, said Ucansu would be replaced by deputy director Azize Tan, who will report to Foundation general director Gorgun Taner.

Ucansu said she had been made an “unacceptable offer to continue as director” by Foundation chairman Sakir Eczacibasi, whom she had known for 25 years. This reportedly involved a 50% salary cut.

However, Eczacibasi said the fest wanted younger blood at the top. Tan is 34, while Ucansu is 55.

Discussions look set to continue in the coming days once the local storm has subsided.

Ucansu has been a well-known figure on the fest circuit for many years, repping the fest and serving on juries.

The change was not mentioned at the awards ceremony, televised live on Friday. However, it overshadowed the fest, which was dominated by French celebs.

Jeanne Moreau jetted in for the opening on April 1, and fellow thesps Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu received honorary awards on the closing night.

International competition jury, headed by Gallic helmer Jean-Paul Rappeneau, gave the Golden Tulip Award to Michael Winterbottom’s “A Cock and Bull Story.”

Clear standout among Turkish pics in the national competition was Reha Erdem’s poetic study of village life, “Times and Winds,” which looks likely to show up at a major international fest in the coming months. It won picture prize from the national jury, as well as a Fipresci award.

Two other local pics, by directors Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Zeki Demirkubuz, were not screened, as they are still awaiting a decision from Cannes, which announces its Official Selection Thursday.

Fest ticket sales mushroomed from 90,000 to around 140,000, thanks to prices being slashed to 25% for weekday matinees.

For a list of winners see http://www.Variety.com/Istanbul.