Antalya Film Forum Seeks to Bolster Turkish Film Industry in Troubled Times

The Antalya Film Forum is countering setbacks caused by the turbulent political situation in Turkey by taking on a greater role in fostering fresh local filmmaking that can travel globally.

With other Turkish media markets teetering — Istanbul Discop TV mart was canceled last year due to security fears — this development and co-production platform for local pics is forging stronger international ties. It is adding a section dedicated to projects seeking producers as well as one for pics shot in Antalya, stepping up the resort city’s efforts to become a cinematic hub. That’s on top of the Oct. 22-25 Antalya Film Forum’s pre-existing sections for local feature films, docs, and shorts in various stages. Over the past three editions this has spawned several standouts on the international circuit.

“In Turkey there simply isn’t a clear understanding of what it really means to be a producer; they are merely seen as financiers,” says Zeynep Atakan, the prominent producer who heads Antalya’s industry sidebar and has long-standing ties to auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

The rationale behind the Antalya forum’s new section is “to allow us to zero in on the producers out there who can help the Turkish industry because they understand what a real producer does,” she says.

Atakan, who conceived the Antalya fest’s industry component from its outset, is proud of what she has accomplished so far.

Bold pics supported by the forum over the past three editions include Ozcan Alper’s historical drama “Memories of the Wind,” which tackles the taboo Armenian genocide issue and screened at Sundance; Baris Kaya and Soner Alper’s melancholic “Rauf,” which shows the Turkish-Kurdish conflict from a child’s perspective and launched in Berlin; and Ayse Toprak’s docu “Mr. Gay Syria,” which won the Sarajevo Film Festival’s Human Rights Award.

In a smart strategic move the forum is now strengthening its ties to Sarajevo. Sarajevo Film Festival director Mirsad Purivatra is coming on board this year as an Antalya consultant. His arrival creates a strong bond with Sarajevo’s CineLink co-production market where Turkish projects have always had a strong presence, reflecting the cultural links between Turkey and the Balkans.

“The common value is that we both offer a strong platform for the development of [our respective] local industries and their integration with European counterparts,” says Purivatra, who notes that Turkey has always supplied the highest number of applicants for Sarajevo’s Talent Campus incubator.

Strengthening Antalya’s ties to the Balkans is more crucial following Turkey’s January exit from the European Union’s Creative Europe program, which supports the arts, including film and TV, as relations between the Turkish government and the EU become increasingly strained.

The exit is a blow to the Turkish film industry since producers, distributors and fest and film market organizers will not be able to tap into the Media Program’s soft money. But Atakan downplays this aspect.

“Even though this [exit] might make things a bit harder, I believe that a good project can still find its way to connect with European partners,” she says.

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