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Antalya: Festival Stays Strong in Face of Turkey’s Political Turmoil

Over the years, the Antalya Film Festival, now in it 53rd edition, has successfully ridden any waves generated by Turkey’s political turbulence. Still, staging the event, which runs Oct. 16-23, just three months after an attempted coup had no precedence.

What happened July 15 in Turkey “was a really, really weird situation,” says the fest’s artistic director Elif Dagdeviren, “and it was all very traumatic for all of us.”
Antalya is not the country’s first big film event to take place after the failed coup attempt.

It follows the Adana Film Festival held in Turkey’s southeastern city of Adana in September. This year, due to the country’s security concerns, few foreign guests attended Adana, though the fest drew a large local crowd. And earlier this year, the Istanbul Film Festival took place one week after a March suicide bombing in the city’s central Beyoglu district. That festival saw copious cancellations of international attendees and also suffered diminished local audience attendance.

As the Turkish film and TV industry do its best to normalize and move on, Antalya has, significantly, managed to get some traction in terms of planned international guest presence.

The intrepid French actor Gerard Depardieu is expected to be on hand for an onstage conversation to promote his new film “Tour de France,” an odd-couple road movie in which the Gallic superstar plays an old racist traveling with a young French-Arab rapper named Far’Hook.

British director Hugh Hudson (“Chariots of Fire”) will preside over the international competition jury. Turkish film director, producer, and screenwriter Semih Kaplanoglu, who won the Berlin Golden Bear in 2010 with “Honey,” is president of the national competition jury.

International execs expected to make the trek to Antalya’s new Film Talent Marketing Rounds featuring Turkish film projects, either in pre-production or post-production stages, include prominent France-based Croatian producer Cedomir Kolar; Seattle Film Festival programming director Justine Barda; La Rochelle Film Festival’s Arnaud Dumatin; Russian producer Evgenia Tirdatova; and entertainment lawyer/dealmaker Arnold P. Peter, head of Beverly Hills-based Peter Law Group.

Kolar is a co-producer of Turkish writer-director Mehmet Can Mertoglu’s impressive debut “Album,” about a couple who, worried about Turkish society’s stigma surrounding infertility, conceal an adoption by staging a fake pregnancy with a phony photo album.  “Album,” which made a splash when it premiered in the Cannes Critics’ Week in May, is playing in Antalya’s national competition section alongside several other standout titles.

Turkish cinema this year has been on a roll on the festival circuit, its momentum unimpeded so far by the country’s political pandemonium.
But there are concerns that going forward the political climate will take its toll on the film and TV industries, which are thriving largely thanks to Turkey’s economic boom, which has also been affected by the turbulence.

Meanwhile, Antalya will tackle two themes close to home in sidebars. One, People of Nowhere, will focus on the issue of immigration. Turkey is now hosting more than 3 million refugees, mostly from Syria. The other sidebar, titled the Sun’s Eclipse, “will show what happens to people’s lives after a coup,” says Dagdeviren. Titles in this section include Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s “Post Mortem,” which dissects Chile’s social trauma; “Garage Olimpo,” by Italian director Marco Bechis, about the military regime in Argentina; and John Boorman’s “Beyond Rangoon,” set during the uprisings against Malaysia’s military regime.

What will instead happen to Turkish cinema amid President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s current crackdown on those intellectuals whom he perceives as enemies remains to be seen.

“The coup attempt is very recent, so of course all of the titles submitted for the competition [this year] had been shot beforehand,” says Dagdeviren. “The films that reflect the [country’s] current climate will be coming next year.”

It will take a year or so to really gauge the effects of July’s attempted coup in Turkey on indie filmmakers and producers in the country.

The Turkish movies in circulation don’t reflect the current climate. After the July 15 coup attempt some productions were postponed. And some government funding for film and film-related activities was pulled, due to the ensuing mayhem.

“But these are isolated cases,” says Emre Basak, co-director of Festival on Wheels, which promotes Turkish films.

Government support for local film productions is at a standstill, with the next funding session not expected before 2017. Co-productions could also be affected by the turbulence, though Turkey remains a member of the European co-production fund Eurimages.

Meanwhile, “Turkey is getting more and more conservative. That is the reality,” says a film executive who asked not to be named. “Art-wise the country is still alive, but things are getting tougher and tougher each day; we will see the results more clearly [soon].”

One Turkish director who seems undeterred is auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who will start shooting his next project soon.

Also hanging in the balance are foreign shoots in Turkey that in recent years lured Russell Crowe’s directorial debut “The Water Diviner” and James Bond pic “Skyfall,” among other international productions.

The big concern in is whether the government will try to impose creative constraints on films.

“My personal view is that there is censorship,” says Basak. “It’s not very obvious, it’s not explicit, and it does not affect film festivals. The organizers pick the films there; so you can always send films to festivals, which are truly independent.”

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