Tag Archives: film festival

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-04-27

1 – Clampdown on expression – Meral Tutcali, a second year university student, has received a suspended sentence for retweeting a satirical article about the governor of the province of Adana from Zaytung, Turkey’s equivalent of the Onion. Both Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report that members of the press were prevented from attending a meeting with Turkey’s first lady Emine Erdoğan, apparently at the behest of her security team. Lawyer Umut Kiliç was arrested after a job interview for a judge position on the grounds that he insulted Erdoğan by calling the president a fascist, leading other lawyers to object. The European Parliament criticized Turkey for its crackdown on independent media at a seminar on Wednesday. One of the invitees for this seminar, Zaman newspaper editor Ekrem Dumanli, had to participate via video stream because he is currently under investigation on charges of terrorism. Gültekin Avci, a former prosecutor, is facing a life sentence for retweeting audio that implicates President Erdoğan and his son Bilal in corruption, as reported by Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman. A number of artists have been sued for releasing a video commemorating the death of teen Berkin Elvan, who was shot by police during the Gezi Park protests and died months later. Today’s Zaman reports on the effects of new “penal courts of peace” that were established by the AK-Party and appear to be used to censor critical media. The same paper reports on the fate of professor Sedat Laçiner, an AK-Party critic who has been asked to stop writing for news site internethaber.com and who was removed from his position as rector of Çanakkale 18 Mart University by President Erdoğan.

2 – Election roundup – President Erdoğan has released a video commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli (referred to as Çanakkale in Turkey), which many are taking as an AK-Party election ad. An ad by the president for such a purpose would be illegal both on the grounds that the president is supposed to be impartial and that use of the flag and religion for political purposes are banned, but there is a clear history of both Erdogan and the AK-Party ignoring both of these grounds (Touched on here and, more recently, here). Both Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman cover the ad.

Government broadcaster TRT provided 1:20 and 1:17 of coverage for the manifestos of the AK-Party and main opposition CHP, respectively, while giving only 15 minutes to the HDP, a party on the border of passing the 10% threshold to enter parliament. The AK-Party-appointed governor of Erzincan province, Süleyman Kahraman, denied the HDP a permit for an election rally on April 25th, with the excuse that the AKP had the same public square reserved for the 26th. Abit Nasiroğlu, son of a former AK-Party deputy, has been killed in an attack on AK-Party headquarters in Batman by unidentified attackers, while HDP offices in Yalova have also been attacked with gunfire, though nobody was injured.

3 – Turkey, Armenia, and the world –  Both President Erdoğan and the Turkish Foreign Ministry have reacted strongly to proclamations from other nations that the massacres and mass deportation of Armenians 100 years ago, which are commemorated on 24 April, constitute a genocide. The withdrawal of Turkish ambassadors from the Vatican and Austria in the wake of genocide claims brings to seven the number of countries from which ambassadors have been removed in recent years. On the local front, a nationalist group left threatening wreaths in front of Armenian newspaper Agos, where journalist Hrant Dink was editor and where he was murdered in 2007. Hürriyet Daily News reports that students marching to commemorate genocide at Istanbul Technical University were attacked by police and that academics from Bilgi University released a statement against that university’s choice to cancel a conference bearing the word “genocide” in its title.

4 – Film festivals – In the wake of Istanbul Film Festival’s pulling of Bakur (North), a documentary about PKK guerrillas from its lineup under pressure from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MOCT), the Ankara Film Festival, which also pulled Bakur and a number of other films, has started with a much-reduced lineup of films and competitions. Meanwhile, while the MOCT has yet to comment on charges of censorship, it has opened the 7th iteration of its own Turkish Film Festival in Sarajevo, with a host of nationalist and popular films, as well as Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da (Once upon a time in Anatolia) by Turkish auteur Nuri Bilgi Ceylan. The IŞÇI (Workers) Film Festival, taking place in Istanbul, Ankara, Diyarbakir, and Izmir starting on 1 May, has released its program for the year.

5 – TV and cinema – Süleyha Kurtuluş, the final manager of Istanbul’s historical Emek Cinema, has for the first time released a statement on the events that led to the cinema’s demolition despite massive protests, saying that, contrary to accusations by Levent Eyüboğlu, a partner in the project that’s been built in Emek’s place, she never asked for that firm’s help or handed over the keys to the building. Serdar Akar’s Kara Kutu (Black Box) series, which was airing on Kanal D, has been cancelled due to poor ratings. It is a Pana Film production and it recently received a 700,000TL fine from RTÜK for “advertising beer” as part of everyday life. FOX has revealed that its 7-years-running series Unutma Beni (Forget Me) will end this year after more than 1,450 episodes.

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5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-23

1 – Insults to Erdoğan weekly roundup – a now regular feature of the Turkish news-scape is the count of how many journalists, cartoonists, students, activists or others are currently being tried, fined, or jailed for various forms of insult to President Erdoğan. Examples this week include …

Today’s Zaman regarding a student in Izmir:

A 21-year-old university student is facing the prospect of up to four-and-a-half years in prison for posts on Twitter that are alleged to have insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he was prime minister.

Hürriyet Daily News and Diken on cartoonists, with a link to the “problem” image at the latter:

Two Turkish cartoonists face up to two years in jail on charges of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, over a satirical piece on free speech in which they allegedly included a hidden offensive gesture. Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan, cartoonists for the popular satirical weekly Penguen, have been sued by Erdoğan for the Aug. 21, 2014 cover of the magazine. In the picture, Erdoğan is seen asking whether officials at the new presidential palace in Ankara have prepared “any journalists to slaughter,” referring to ritual sacrifice in Islam.

Hürriyet Daily News on the sentencing of a journalist in Adana and on the investigation of others in the same city:

A journalist in southern Turkey has been sentenced to a five-month suspended prison sentence, while the houses of two more journalists from the same city have been raided by police, all for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on their social media accounts. Mine Bekiroğlu, a 28-year-old local journalist from Adana, was sentenced to a five-month prison sentence by Adana 6th Criminal Court of First Instance on March 19, Doğan News Agency reported.

2 – Today’s Zaman reports on the YSK (Supreme election board) banning an AK-Party Nevruz/Nerwoz ad:

Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) has banned a television ad prepared by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for the Nevruz festival because of the use of the Turkish flag and religious symbols, a news report said on Sunday. The three-minute ad was released last week to mark the Nevruz festival — a now officially recognized holiday widely celebrated in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of Turkey — to send a message of unity amid efforts as part of a settlement process to resolve the decades-old Kurdish issue through talks.

The AK-Party is clearly aware that such use of symbols is illegal, as they had an ad banned for similar reasons almost exactly one year ago, in the run-up to the March 2014 municipal elections. More about that ad and its zombie-like imagery can be found at endtimescafe.

3 – Ileri Haber and T24 report that he Beyoğlu Zabita raided a screening of the 13th annual Filmmor Women’s Film Festival taking place in the Rampa Kafe, saying that the cafe didn’t have a license for screening. Festival coordinator Melek Özman noted that the festival had received all the necessary permissions from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The filmgoers resisted the police for about an hour, until organizers told the police they had called officials in the municipality and parliament, at which point the police finally relented.

4 – Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report on a bill approved by parliament that increases governmental oversight of the internet. From Hürriyet Daily News:

Parliament has approved a key article of the contentious omnibus bill which gives power to the prime minister and other ministers to shut down websites within four hours, just six months after a similar bill was overturned by the Constitutional Court. Parliament approved 13 more articles of the omnibus bill late March 12. A key article stipulates that ministers will have the power to order the removal or blocking of an online publication for “defending the right to live, securing property, ensuring national security and public order, preventing crime or protecting public health.” The Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) could enforce the request of the ministry, as a blanket ban of the website if deemed necessary, within a maximum of four hours.

The same paper also prints an interview with scholar Aslı Tunç on the importance of social media in Turkey and the government’s strong efforts to curtail it.

5 – Censorship round-up – Hürriyet Daily News reports on members of the US Senate pressuring Secretary of State John Kerry to act on press freedom in Turkey; Today’s Zaman details a new report by Transparency International that says 86 percent of journalists in Turkey believe self-censorship is common; and columnist Melis Alphan notes the long history of censorship in cinema and art related to Kurdish identity.

Concerts of the Cinematic World – an interview with Azize Tan

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) Istanbul Film Festival (IFF), Turkey’s biggest both in terms of number of films shown and number of viewers reached, is back for its 34th round from the 4th to the 19th of April, featuring some 204 films by 222 directors from 62 countries. With over 20 categories ranging from horror to children’s films to cinema of the Balkans, as well as numerous competitions and awards, including best domestic feature and documentary, international feature, and best film on the theme of human rights, the festival has something for everyone and, according to director Azize Tan, that’s precisely the goal. I had a chance to speak with her last fall, during the lead up to IFF’s sister festival, Film Ekimi (Film October – FE), in a discussion ranging from the history of the festivals and their evolving role to the challenges facing the film industry in Turkey.

IFFLOGOJC – Can you tell me a bit about the history of the two festivals, how they came about, and what distinct roles they have?

AT – Well, IKSV (Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts) was founded in 1973 by businessmen before there was even a Ministry of Culture. They were organizing a big festival in the summer, quite similar to the one in Edinburgh now, featuring mostly classical music concerts, as well as some theater and dance. In 1982, after the military coup, they decided to screen films at that festival too. It started with just six films, but there was a great interest because cinema was practically dead in Turkey at that time. The cinematheques had been shut down with the coup in 1980 and almost no films were being produced or released, so that was the only place where people could go and see what was happening in world film.

The demand was so great that they decided to make it a separate festival. They pushed it to March, and they gave it the name FilmDays. It was like that for almost 10 years, and then it shifted to become International Istanbul Film Festival, as they added an international and national competition. On the 30th anniversary, we decided to drop the title International, since everybody knew the festival was international, so now it’s only IFF.

If IFF is a festival for the film world, FE is a festival just for the audience.

FilmEkimi started 13 years ago and, just as IFF marks the coming of spring, FE announces arrival of autumn. In fact, this year we did our press conference on the 23rd of September, which is the first day of autumn, and there was a storm and the weather changed in a single day. FE is similar to the gala screenings of the big films at IFF. It’s kind of a “best of” fest, and it’s the right season to do an event like that because summer is quite slow for film in Turkey. October is the time when people start to go back to cinema.

If IFF is a festival for the film world, FE is a festival just for the audience. We don’t have any guests, competitions, or industry events. Take a look at the program and if you’re interested in independent or auteur cinema, you’ll find that you can catch up with most of the films that you want to see within the season. FE is organized to get films to viewers while they’re still fresh. If we start the cinema season with Sundance in January and Berlin in February, we get many of those films in IFF. But with films that come to Cannes (May), Venice (September), and Toronto (September), it would be a long time to wait for April to see those films, and many will have been distributed digitally or on pay TV by that point.

FE also allows us to follow the films and the directors we’re interested in. So if there’s a director that we’re following throughout his career at IFF, and there’s a new film that can’t wait for April, we include it in FE. That’s how it works. For us it’s a kind of relief, because we don’t lose those films, and it seems to be working very well. In fact, we started our sales on Saturday the 27th after two days advance sales for our loyal members, and by the end of the second day, which is the fourth day in total of sales, we had sold 75% of the tickets. We even had to open 15 additional screenings and extend the festival by a day on either side. We expect an audience of 50,000 people in Istanbul alone.

JC – Do you show any Turkish films at FE?

AT – Not in the Istanbul program. We do a big showcase of Turkish cinema at IFF, including a number of competitions, and even if a Turkish film has already been released we prefer to leave it until April in order to showcase it for our foreign guests. But FE also has a traveling selection, which varies from city to city, and we do show Turkish films in each edition. For example, the 2014 National Competition Golden Tulip winner I’m Not Him is going to be shown at the traveling festival in Urfa, Diyarbakir, and Trabzon, because the film won’t be released in those cities, but we won’t show it in Istanbul, Ankara, or Izmir because they’ve all scheduled it for release.

JC – So it sounds like you’re very careful on the matter of film distribution. Could you say more about the role of festivals as they relate to that?

… film festivals are becoming an alternative distribution channel for film

AT – When we started to take the festival on tour it was a collaboration between Sarajevo Film Festival, Sofia Film Festival, Transylvania Film Festival, and ourselves, and we still continue this collaboration. We generally go to cities where there’s a big university and a young audience and our goal is to promote these films. We hold screenings in real movie theaters, not alternative venues, and we project digital, with good subtitles, so the quality is quite high. The project has been very successful and our audience has been increasing steadily each year. We have a very loyal audience, and it’s kind of proved that film festivals are becoming an alternative distribution channel for film. On the other hand, this highlights a problem with the current distribution system as well, because during the normal public releases this audience kind of gets lost.

JC – That’s an interesting point about alternative distribution models. Do you coordinate with Başka Sinema (Another Cinema – a new distribution model in Turkey for independent and arthouse cinema)?

AT – Yes, we coordinate with them on a number of fronts. We’re all from a generation who grew up with IFF, and it had a big impact on all of our lives. What they are creating is quite parallel to the legacy of IFF in many senses—their special sections and theme nights, for example. In the case of FE, nearly 90% of the films there have a Turkish distributor, and in many cases that is Başka Sinema. In order to defend and sustain independent cinema, we have to collaborate with other parties, otherwise we wouldn’t stand a chance.

The Karaca Cinema in Izmir is a good example. It’s in the city center and the owner decided to shut it down. But FE had been holding the festival there for the last four years and we had seen the potential of bringing quality films to that place—in fact, there was a huge demand from Izmir. So we suggested that they collaborate with Başka Sinema and now they’ve got an agreement for the small screen there. We still use the cinema for the festival and now we also promote Başka Sinema with commercials throughout the festival. So far it’s a collaboration that’s helping a cinema to survive.

AZIZE TANJC – This highlights another aspect of the role of festivals—their effects on the local economy.

AT – Yes, when you have a successful festival you can have a major effect. IFF lasts 16 days and includes three weekends, FE is 10 days, and many cinemas that we collaborate with, especially the smaller ones in Beyoğlu, rely heavily on this income to make it through the year. And it’s not only the cinemas that benefit. The face of Istiklal Street changes during the festivals. Different people come here and even the shop owners on the street ask us ‘why don’t you organize a festival every month?’ Our audiences come, they sit, they eat, they spend money. They buy books—well, there are no more book stores left on Istiklal, that’s another story—but I mean we create an economy.

JC – Last year we corresponded when IFF chose to screen Nymphomaniac (Lars von Trier) after it was banned by the ratings commission. There were concerns about censorship hitting the festivals in a new way at that point because Cinema Directorate (a subsidiary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism) head Cem Erkul had written to festival organizers saying that all films would have to go through the ratings procedure, which would mark a major shift in the way festivals worked. Did IFF face any fallout from the choice to show Nymphomaniac or local films without a certificate?

AT – The system has to be completely redefined, and instead of a certificate, the existing rating system should be put in effect. The cinema law drafted three years ago will, I believe, help regulate the system and alleviate certain problems, as soon as it is ratified.

JC – 2014 is, by some accounts, the 100th anniversary of Turkish cinema. What do you see as the brightest spots and biggest challenges as cinema moves forward?

Before MP3 downloads, concerts were not so big. But now with the downloads it’s like albums are dead and the big thing is the concert. I think we are witnessing a similar thing with the film festivals. Now festivals are becoming the big event.

AT – You know we’ve been lucky in the sense that our films did pretty well at the festivals. Winning the Golden Palm (Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Kış Uykusu – Winter Sleep at Cannes) after 34 years was a big success in itself. And then we had Song of My Mother (Erol Mintaş – Kurdish and Turkish titles: Klama dayîka min / Annemin Şarkısı) which won the Sarajevo film festival. And then Sivas (Kaan Müjdeci) at Venice, being a first film selected to the main competition. So in that sense it went pretty well.

On the other hand I think we still have a lot to do for Turkish cinema. For example, the main problem is that we’ve been waiting three years for this new cinema law to pass. It’s ready, it’s waiting at parliament, so I think the most urgent thing to do is to pass it. There are new regulations, the system is changing, the industry is changing, and we definitely need a new law.

At the same time, the festivals and general distribution will have to redefine themselves. In a way it’s like the music industry. Before MP3 downloads, concerts were not so big. But now with the downloads it’s like albums are dead and the big thing is the concert. I think we are witnessing a similar thing with the film festivals. Now festivals are becoming the big event. So you can come together, see the films together, talk about the films, see the directors, ask them questions, and it’s become something popular. But then we have to redefine regular release in some way.

poster_50x70_kopru-01We have to sit down and think about what we are doing and having a film institution at the center of it all would be very useful. I mean everybody is trying to work for the promotion of Turkish cinema, like the festivals, the producers’ association, but I think we need a center to organize all these efforts. Otherwise there are too many people working on the same things and there is no continuity.

JC – Something apart from the Cinema Directorate?

AT – I mean a structure similar to the establishments in Europe. Someplace to organize everything. The Ministry of Culture is working with different parties for different tasks, but since there is no continuity there is often no follow-up. This year they did good things—Venice proved to b a wonderful opportunity to make our presence felt celebrating the 100th anniversary of Turkish cinema, and we did something big at Cannes, with the stands and everything—but I think for the upcoming years we have to improve. However, these and similar efforts need to be expanded into the whole year. International bonds, once built, must be sustained. The international presence and representation of Turkey must be continuous. A new cinema law, and a film institution to provide continuity are the most urgent, and then we must tackle the problem of distribution with regards to changing windows, like everywhere else.

JC – And what is the primary problem of distribution?

… we know that 60% of the Turkish box office comes from Turkish films, but it’s only five films that make this number. What happens to the other 65 films?

AT – I mean we are talking about successful Turkish cinema. We’ve got about 70 films produced per year, but we don’t know how many of them are going to be released. Or, for example, we know that 60% of the Turkish box office comes from Turkish films, but it’s only five films that make this number. What happens to the other 65 films? We have to talk more about that. We should have a quota for the distribution of Turkish films. And maybe there are too many films being produced in Turkey, that’s something that we have to discuss as well. It’s not only a problem for Turkey either. It’s all of Europe, with the existing funding system. In fact there are 700 films being produced in Europe per year. Is there an audience for so many films? Apparently not.

Maybe the focus should be to produce less films, but make them more appealing to the audience in a way. I think for the whole world, not just for Turkey, I think to reach and connect with potential audiences is the first priority.

This piece published simultaneously on EndTimesCafe.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-16

1 – Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman

Turkey’s media watchdog will be given the authority to fine TV channels that violate election broadcast limitations, according to a new omnibus bill presented to parliament, de-authorizing the High Election Board (YSK). The media watchdog, the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK), will take over the authority to issue warnings and fines to broadcasters for election violations, instead of the YSK, which currently holds the authority, if the bill is passed by parliament. Opposition parties have reacted against the bill, claiming that it is a move to protect pro-government broadcasters.

GIRGIR kapak 2015-03-11 - RTE directing Kabatas shoot2 – Today’s Zaman and others – follow further developments in the Kabataş Gezi Park story, as pro-Government paper Sabah publishes a mock image alongside claims (also in English) that the lack of evidence in the case is actually evidence, and that all of the alleged crimes took place in a 52-second gap in security footage. Satirical cartoon magazine Gırgır includes a cover showing Erdoğan directing a shoot of the events. From Today’s Zaman:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the pro-government media have revived discredited claims that a woman wearing a headscarf was attacked by a group of Gezi Park protesters, as government mouthpiece the Sabah daily published an illustration on Wednesday linked to debunked claims, even though police have confirmed that the video footage showing the incident does not exist. There were claims that a physical assault was sustained by the woman, whose family has close ties to Erdoğan, during the nationwide anti-government Gezi Park protests in 2013 in front of Istanbul’s Kabataş docks, where nearly 100 men allegedly harassed the woman and her baby. These allegations gave rise to the withdrawal of support by certain segments of society from the Gezi protests.

3 – BGN News and Today’s Zaman report on a piece in Taraf related to a major shift in government surveillance – from BGN:

A new Big Brother-esque surveillance center in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s TRY 1.4 billion (USD 540 million) presidential palace has been completed. The center will allow the president to monitor all 77 million citizens at all times, with its 143 different screens providing access to all MOBESE (law enforcement CCTV) cameras in all 81 municipalities, all images taken by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) as well as all security camera footage. Able to directly receive information from the systems belonging to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), the National Intelligence Agency (MIT), the police and the gendarmerie, the center will also be able to project a target’s personal details and information instantaneously.

4 – Hürriyet Daily News

Turkish police on March 13 detained three people accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other top officials on Twitter, after raiding their homes. The raids were the latest in a string of actions against critics of Erdoğan on Twitter, as activists express growing alarm over the limits on freedom of expression in Turkey.

5 – Istanbul Film Festival, sponsored by the The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), released its program for this year’s festival, to run from April 4th to 19th.