ROME – The Antalya Film Festival will open its 54th edition with the world premiere of Bosnian director Aida Begic’s “Never Leave Me,” based on a true story about Syrian orphans living in a refugee camp in Turkey. The country now hosts more than 3 million refugees, mostly from war-torn Syria.
“Never Leave Me” (pictured), which will launch out-of-competition, is one of four films in the festival’s official selection that touch on the refugee crisis.
Also world-premiering at the Oct. 21-27 event in the Turkish resort city is Turkish director Andac Haznedaroglu’s “The Guest,” starring Jordanian actress Saba Mubarak as a Syrian named Meryem fleeing from war-torn Aleppo with two children whose parents have perished, and “Ugly Duckling,” a drama that mixes a young woman’s desire to have plastic surgery with the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, directed by first-timer Ender Ozkahraman.
They will compete for prizes alongside Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s global refugee documentary “Human Flow” and screen alongside Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismaki’s out-of-competition entry “The Other Side of Hope,” in which a Syrian refugee, whose request for asylum in Finland is rejected, strikes an unlikely friendship with a cranky poker-playing Helsinki restaurateur.
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The Turkish fest, which for five decades has showcased local pics and global standouts sections, is being revamped under new artistic director Mike Downey. The British producer and film industry expert has merged the fest’s international and national competitions, a move that has angered some local film-industry trade groups, which say the festival’s Turkish identity is being diluted.
Downey noted in a statement that the fest “is providing the Turkish industry with the proud place that it deserves on the international scene, competing as an equal player with the best of world cinema.”
On the international side, Oscar-winning French director Michel Hazanavicius is among the talent expected to make the trek for the Turkish premiere of his Jean-Luc Godard biopic “Redoubtable.” Also heading to Antalya are Mexico’s Michel Franco for his teen pregnancy drama “April’s Daughter”; first-time Georgian director Ana Urushadze for her attention-grabbing drama “Scary Mother,” which has won prizes in Locarno and Sarajevo; and China’s Vivian Qu, who is bringing her dark sophomore feature “Angels Wear White.”
“Angels” was the only entry by a female filmmaker to compete for the Golden Lion recently at the Venice Film Festival. Antalya, by contrast, is boasting an even gender balance in this year’s competition, which includes “Radiance” by Japanese auteur Naomi Kawase, who is expected to attend the festival with star Masatoshi Nagase, and “Loving Vincent,” the fest’s out-of-competition closer, from co-directors Dorota Kobiela (Poland) and Hugh Welchman (U.K.), who are also expected in Antalya.
It’s unlikely that Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof will make the trek to Turkey to present “A Man of Integrity,” which is in competition, given that authorities in Tehran confiscated his passport, without providing a reason, when he returned from the film’s screening last month in Telluride. But the “Integrity” acting team is confirmed to attend.
Palestinian auteur Elia Suleiman (“The Time That Remains”) will preside over the jury.