Chinese Director Vivian Qu’s Sexual Assault Drama ‘Angels Wear White’ Wins Top Honors at Antalya Film Festival

China's Vivian Qu's 'Angels Wear White'
Courtesy Venice Film Festival

ANTALYA, Turkey — Chinese director-producer Vivian Qu’s sexual assault-themed drama “Angels Wear White” proved the top winner at the 54th Antalya Film Festival in Turkey where it scooped prizes for both best film and best actress.

“Angels,” which exposes the corruption of Chinese police as they cover up for a government official involved in the sexual assault of two twelve-year-old girls, world premiered in September at the Venice Film where it was the only competition entry by a female director. Pic, which has also played in Toronto and London, will be opening the Singapore Film Festival in November.

Qu was on hand in Antalya to receive the top prize and also to accept the nod for actress Wen Qi (pictured) who plays a morally torn cleaner in a love motel who becomes enmeshed in the investigation.

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof’s “A Man of Integrity,” about corruption and injustice in Iranian society, also scored a double whammy, winning prizes for best director and actor. Since Iranian authorities have confiscated his passport, Rasoulof’s award was picked up by the film’s producer Kaveh Farnam. Iranian thesp Reza Akhlaghirad flew in from Tehran to accept his nod.

U.S. director Sean Baker’s moving social drama ”The Florida Project,” which is currently on limited release in the U.S., took the Special Jury Award.

Baker and actors Bria Vinaite and Mela Murder were on hand to receive the nod onstage.

Turkish actress Sukran Akti won the Behlal Dal Award for an Emerging Turkish Talent for her role in director Ender Ozkahraman’s drama “Ugly Duckling” which tackles the hot-button issue of life among Kurds in the Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi border regions from an unconventional angle.

In Ozkahraman’s pic, Akti plays a young woman named Eylem who dreams of getting a nose job while her brother is away fighting.

The Antalya jury was headed by Palestinian auteur Elia Suleiman (“The Time That Remains”)

The Audience Award went to Turkish director Andac Haznedaroglu’s “The Guest,” which stars Jordanian actress Saba Mubarak as a Syrian named Meryem fleeing from war-torn Aleppo with two children whose parents have perished.

“The Guest” was one of three Turkish films in the competition which world premiered at the festival which this year merged the national and international competitions under its new artistic director British producer Mike Downey causing controversy within the Turkish industry.

In the leadup to the fest some Turkish industry organisations called for a boycott of Antalya claiming that the festival’s Turkish identity is being diluted. Young auteur Kaan Mujdeci, who won a prize in Venice in 2014 for “Sivas,” organised an alternative “rogue” competition section in Istanbul where eight Turkish pics unspooled.

Antalya’s move to scrap the national competition has even been attacked as an alleged form of censorship because in recent years Turkish winners have on occasion blasted the government during the award ceremonies.

Director Kutlug Ataman, who won Antalya’s top prize in 2014 for “The Lamb,” had a different take.

“Antalya is rebranding itself with the ambition to become an international film festival and there is nothing wrong with that,” he said. Ataman added that “accusations of censorship must be reserved to cases of true censorship so as not to lose the effectiveness of this word.”

Downey said in an interview that he had nothing against the initiative to launch an alternative Turkish competition section.

“Turkey has a vibrant and rich film culture – and thank goodness there is the freedom to create cultural manifestations that support the dissemination of works of art.  Reaching out to audiences with cinematic art is always to be encouraged – as long as the delight, edification and delectation of the audience is the genuine objective.”

During the closing ceremony Antalya’s artistic chief said he was “delighted that such a high level jury has chosen to honour three very important works of art which are underpinned by a profound sense of morality and social justice.”

Celebs on hand during the ceremony in Antalya’s Expo Center included Matt Dillon, Lindsay Lohan, “Entourage” star and producer Adrian Grenier and French actor Anthony Delon. Fest ran Oct. 21-27

Winners of the 54th Antalya Film Festival

Best Film

“Angels Wear White,” (Vivian Qu, China)

Best Director

Mohammad Rasoulof, “A Man of Integrity” (Iran)

Best Actor

Reza Akhlaghirad, “A Man of Integrity”

Best Actress

Wen Qi, “Angels Wear White”

Special Jury Prize

“The Florida Project” (U.S., Sean Baker)

Behlül Dal Award for Emerging Turkish Talent

Sukran Akti, “Ugly Duckling” (Turkey)

Dr. Avni Tolunay Audience Award

“The Guest” (Andac Haznedaroglu, Turkey)

Youth Jury Award

“Scary Mother” (Ana Urushadze, Georgia)