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Yeşim Ustaoğlu’s ‘Clair-Obscur’ Wins Top Honors at Antalya Film Festival

Turkish helmer Yeşim Ustaoğlu’s powerful, complex portrait of two women struggling to escape unhappy lives, “Clair-Obscur,” was the big winner at the 53rd Antalya Int’l Film Festival, taking home the awards for best picture and best director at the closing ceremony Sunday night.

Ustaoğlu’s sixth feature was the unanimous choice of an international jury headed by Hugh Hudson, who praised the film’s unflinching look at domestic violence, which he said affected women around the world.

Lead Ecem Uzun won best actress honors in both the international and national competitions for her gut-wrenching portrayal of a young woman trapped in an oppressive marriage that finally pushes her over the brink.

The award for best actor went to Tamer Nafar, for his role as a Palestinian rapper using music to fight back against Israeli oppression in the musical drama “Junction 48.”

In a ceremony that frequently invoked the lives lost during a failed coup attempt in July, there was a feeling of resilience among those in attendance. Tributes were paid to the victims of the ongoing war in neighboring Syria, with Turkish thesp Menderes Samancilar (“My Father’s Wings”) dedicating his award for best actor in the national competition to Syrians, urging them, “We will always hope for tomorrow.”

For a festival that might have seemed in doubt just three months ago, the ceremony was the culmination of a triumphant week. Ustaoğlu’s victory was part of a wider celebration of Turkish cinema, capped with Ümit Köreken’s feature debut “Mavi Bisiklet” (Blue Bicycle) winning the Golden Orange for best film in the national competition, along with best director and screenplay awards.

Accepting a lifetime achievement award, Harvey Keitel urged young Turks to remain unbowed in the face of their current challenges, telling audiences watching at home, “We need your stories.”

Iranian helmer Asghar Farhadi was also given a lifetime achievement award Sunday night. The audience award went to Spanish dramedy “The Open Door,” which also won best screenplay for scripter Marina Seresesky. A special jury award went to the Georgian helmer Rusudan Glurjidze’s powerful debut, “House of Others.”

In the creator’s awards handed out Saturday night, “Babamın Kanatları” (My Father’s Wings) won the best first feature award for director Kıvanç Sezer, as well as the Dr. Avni Tolunay special jury award.

The Behlül Dal special jury award went to Mete Gümürhan’s documentary “Genç Pehlivanlar” (Young Wrestlers), about the students at an elite boarding school hoping to find glory on the wrestling mat. It was also awarded for best editing.

Vividly lensed in the rugged hinterlands of eastern Turkey, “Rauf,” Soner Caner and Barış Kaya’s feature debut, took home awards for art director Devrim Ömer Ünal and cinematographer Vedat Özdemir.

The Antalya Film Forum also wrapped with a ceremony Saturday night, awarding a number of Turkish films currently in production.

The Villa Kurt Berlin artistic support award went to “Anadolu Leoparı” (Anatolian Leopard), by producer Olena Yershova Yıldız and director Emre Kayış.

The TRT award went to “Şahmerdan” (MNK Boy), by producer Zeynep Aşkın Korkmaz and director Mete Gümürhan.

First prize in the pitching platform went to “Kız Kardeşler” (Sisters), by producer Nadir Öperli and director Emin Alper. Second prize went to “Güven” (Trust), by producer Serkan Acar and director Sefa Öztürk Çolak.

The AFF Work in Progress award went to “Mr. Gay Suriye” (Mr. Gay Syria), by producers Ekin Çalışır, Antoine Simkine, and Christine Kiauk, and director Ayşe Toprak.

The Work in Progress – Digiflame Coloring and Visual Effects award went to “Daha” (More), by producer Ziya Cemre Kutluay and director Onur Saylak.

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