Antalya Film Festival Nurtures Cinema’s Young Turks

Half a century ago, the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival was launched to boost production of quality Turkish pics by showcasing them alongside global standouts in an international movie industry milieu.

That plan seems to be working.

Local auteurs are going strong with Nuri Bilge Ceylan winning this year’s Cannes Palme d’Or for “Winter Sleep” and first-timer Kaan Mujdeci’s “Sivas” recently taking a top Venice nod. These are not one-off cases. Semih Kaplanoglu’s poetic “Honey,” about the touching rapport between a beekeeper who works in the mountains of Rize province and his 6-year-old son, took the Berlin Golden Bear in 2010.

“The awards received in important film festivals around the world clearly indicate that the Turkish film industry is on its way to becoming one of the world’s strongest,” says Mesut Cem Erkul, who heads the Turkish culture ministry’s film department.

There is plenty of room for improvement, especially outside the arthouse sector. But as Turkey celebrates the centennial of its cinema — and enjoys an unprecedented economic boom — the Antalya festival is being revamped. The fest, which has had its ups and downs over the years, is repositioning to capitalize on Turkey’s current cinematic traction.

Key novelties being introduced at Antalya this year include a Pitching Platform project development market and a Work in Progress Platform co-production market. There are also several master classes, including one by Zeynep Ozbatur Atakan, producer of “Winter Sleep.”

“I want Turkish filmmakers around the world to know that they can start seeking financing for their projects in Antalya,” says the seaside city’s mayor Menderes Turel, the man behind the fest’s relaunch plan. “And it’s equally important for us that international producers and festival programmers can discover new films from Turkey, the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa while they are still in production.”

Turel’s ambition is for Antalya to soon stand on a par with Rotterdam or even Cannes as a project development platform for films from Turkey and countries it intersects with, from Europe to Asia and the Middle East.

As for the fest’s international side, the lineup includes works that can certainly be inspirational for Young Turks: rookie Indian director Chaitanya Tamhane’s “Court,” which scooped this year’s Venice Lion of the Future; Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund’s “Force Majeure,” which took Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury Prize; and Russian director Alexander Konstantinovich Kott’s “Test,” a silent love story set against the backdrop of Russia’s first hydrogen bomb tests, which won top nod at the Kinotavr Film Festival in Sochi.

Also in the fest’s main competish are two films involving an adolescent, a canine and gruesome dog fights: “Sivas” and Hungarian actor-director Kornel Mundruczo’s “White God,” which won Cannes’ Un Certain Regard nod. Others are Iranian-Austrian filmmaker Sudabeh Mortezai’s “Macondo,” which was in competition in Berlin; French director Marianne Tardieu’s debut feature “Insecure,” which preemed at Cannes; Palestinian auteur Suha Arraf’s “Villa Touma,” which launched in Venice; tyro Chinese director Xin Yukun’s “The Coffin in the Mountain,” which bowed at the Venice Critics’ Week; and Polish filmmaker Maciej Pieprzyca’s “Life Feels Good,” about a man with cerebral palsy struggling to communicate his intelligence and humanity that took many prizes in Montreal.

The Antalya jury will be headed by Jerry Schatzberg, the U.S. photographer-filmmaker known for his portraits of Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Andy Warhol. Schatzberg won the 1973 Cannes Palme d’Or for “Scarecrow.”

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