Tag Archives: film

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-05-05

1 – Press freedom and censorship – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has released a new report noting the strong moves against critical journalism in the country. Yavuz Baydar’s article on the CPJ website summarizes the situation, and his former newspaper, Today’s Zaman, also covers the story. Freedom House released its new report on global press freedom, ranking Turkey “not free” once again, with a worse score than last year, Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report. On the heels of such reports, it is perhaps little surprise that even AK-Party officials find it hard to claim Turkey has a free press. Writer and professor Osman Özsoy, who lost his job at the pro-government paper Yeni Şafak after he criticized the government in the wake of corruption allegations, has been detained on suspicion of terrorism. The case of journalist Sedef Kabaş, in trouble for Tweeting about the same corruption scandal, has been sent to a higher criminal court in Istanbul. Pro-government paper Star and its writer Ergun Babahan have been fined for a piece written against media mogul Aydın Doğan in 2012. Prominent journalist Cüneyt Özdemir took to Twitter to note the heavy pressure his channel, Kanal D, is under from the government. As Today’s Zaman notes, he later edited some of his tweets to less directly implicate the government. Pop singer Sevval Sam has been questioned for her participation in a video commemorating Berkin Elvan. The Carmina Burana was removed from a performance schedule in Antalya at the last minute after Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say, who has been penalized and censored for his criticism of the government, pointed out that the piece touches on topics such as sex and alcohol. Journalists marched in Istanbul for press freedom on World Press Freedom Day (May 3rd) and also held a screening of the documentary Persona Non Grata, which deals with press restrictions in Turkey.

2 – Film and festivals – The banned film Bakur (North), dealing with Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey, was also screened for the first time on May 3rd, in an invite-based event that took place at Bosphorus University. The 10th annual Labor Film Festival opened on May 2nd in four cities, and its Istanbul gala was preceded by a march against censorship. The upcoming 18th annual Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival will start in Ankara on May 8th.

3 – Erdoğan’s image – Turkey’s president has been a constant feature in the news this week, making headlines for insulting the newly elected President of the Turkish Republic of Norther Cyprus, Mustafa Akıncı, and making repeated claims and threats against the Gülen movement (here, here, and here), in the lead-up to Turkey’s June elections. Erdoğan has responded to criticism from HDP party co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who claimed that the president was abusing his office by campaigning on behalf of a particular party and doing so at taxpayers’ expense. (The president is bound by oath to be impartial.) Erdoğan claimed he has every right to hold such rallies because he won the presidential election with 52% of the vote. Meanwhile, a pro-HDP ad has responded to taunts from Erdoğan, who recently asked rhetorically of Demirtaş, “who are you?” (implying, who are you to question me?), by releasing an ad inviting Erdoğan and voters to get to know the party. The ad is here. On a related note, government channel TRT made headlines for switching from live coverage of AK-Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu to that of Erdoğan the moment the latter began to speak in a different part of Turkey. As always, the list of those detained, on trial, or penalized for insulting Erdoğan continues to grow, with developments in cases against journalist Bülent Keneş, lawer Umut Kılıç, and columnist Mümtazer Türköne. An interesting addition to this list is the case of a Turkish Armed Forces commander, M.E.A., who, under order from an AK-Party appointed regional governor, Musa Işın, became involved in an altercation with the PKK in early April. Many had speculated that this was an AK-Party tactic to increase nationalistic votes but, if so, the intended nationalist fervor did not reach great heights, in part because no Turkish soldiers were killed (some sources say this is because PKK guerrillas intentionally shot only at soldiers’ feet), and in part because HDP members intervened quickly to transport wounded soldiers to safety, an effort that was verified by the armed forces. Now, according to Taraf and reported in English by Today’s Zaman, the head of the unit that led the attack, M.E.A., is under investigation for insulting Erdoğan via social media in 2012.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 7.29.01 PMOn a somewhat lighter note, British cyclist Mark Cavendish became a social media phenomenon when he tried to leave the podium in the midst of a very long speech Erdoğan was giving after the Tour of Turkey. He was forced to return to the podium for the remainder of the speech. Finally, the story of severely botched restorations at a mosaic museum in Antakya was given a comic twist when Penguen cartoonist Selçuk Erdem tweeted an image of one of the restorations with the comment: “maybe the goal of restoration in the museum was to make it look like Erdoğan.”

4 – May Day –  Amidst reports that 351 workers in Turkey have already died in 2015, the government decided, once again, to ban demonstrations in Taksim on that day. A number of groups made plans to head there nonetheless, and pro-government paper Vahdet made headlines when it reported on a poster from one such group, the United June Movement (BHH). The poster features an image of the Beatles, but Vahdet claimed it was “Gezi activists.” When this mistake was brought to the attention of editors, they claimed to be proud not to know who the Beatles were. Both Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report on various clashes between police and protestors that took place, with a total of 339 people reportedly being detained. Numerous outlets reported on a group of shopkeepers who apparently beat activists attempting to get to Taksim and then later bragged that the police had thanked them for the help.

5 – TV developments – Turkish TV and radio regulator RTÜK granted permission for the Ismailağa sect to open a channel. Popular cleric Cubbeli Ahmet is among the most famous members of the sect in Turkey and will likely appear on the channel. Turkish TV drama Kurt Seyit and Şura, which received massive investment in Turkey but was nonetheless cancelled due to poor ratings, has started airing in Spanish on Mundo Fox TV in the US. And Oktay Alkaya writes for Radikal about the 1990s TV program Plastic Show, noting that Turkey’s situation has really changed in terms of what’s admissible on TV in the form of political satire.

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5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-04-13

1 – Mixed messages on the Kurdish situation pre-election – The AK-Party’s shifting stance on the Kurdish situation became even more confusing this weekend after a clash between the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) in the eastern province of Ağrı. Details on the reasons for the clash are unclear, as both sides have blamed the other, and the number of casualties involved is also in dispute, but at least two people (at least one of them a PKK soldier) have died and a number of Turkish soldiers were injured. President Erdoğan and PM Davutoğlu blamed the PKK and attempted to implicate the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) after the incident, but HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said the operation was staged, and pointed out that it was HDP members who went to rescue the injured soldiers, sharing links to photo and video on social media to back this claim up. The TSK released a statement thanking the civilians who helped the soldiers today, to some degree supporting Demirtaş’s claim.

This situation puts a fragile peace process in question. For the past three years, the AK-Party had been making moves towards peace, negotiating with the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan and conceding to some aspects on language rights and regional autonomy desired by many Kurds in Turkey’s southeast region, often called Kurdistan. More recently, however, President Erdoğan, who is nominally unaffiliated with a party but still overtly acts as the head of the AK-Party, reversed his stance on the so-called “Kurdish opening” simultaneous with the celebration of Newroz, the spring holiday most closely identified with Kurds. This was interpreted by many as Erdoğan’s move to coax nationalist voters, known for their anti-Kurdish stance, in the run-up to the 2015 parliamentary elections. Numerous polls show the AK-Party losing ground and the HDP moving towards the 10% threshold necessary to enter parliament as a party, and this likely has Erdoğan very worried. Up until now, HDP members have been running as independent candidates since they were not likely to pass the 10% threshold, but this situation greatly decreases their representation in parliament while simultaneously increasing that of the AK-Party. So the political calculation in Turkey currently hinges on the fate of the HDP, and the AK-Party has every incentive to prevent their passing the threshold.

Given these circumstances, the timing of the Ağrı conflict is interesting, because it is likely to damage the HDP’s political image and improve that of the AK-Party. The TSK’s statement, however, might change this calculus.

Potentially linked to these events is the Istanbul Film Festival’s choice, under direct pressure from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s Cinema Directorate, to cancel the screening of a documentary filmed in the PKK camps. Bakur (North) was scheduled to be shown on 12 April but, hours before the screening, the IFF announced its cancellation. Numerous Turkish filmmakers involved in the festival held an impromptu meeting after this and decided to withdraw their films from the festival, calling into question whether key competitions will continue. Specifically, 7 out of 9 films in the national feature and 9 our of 13 films in the national documentary competitions signed a statement withdrawing their films.

2 – Media wars – Pre-election tensions are also playing out in mainstream media as pro-government media sources have made a number of moves to attack non-aligned media. Perhaps most notably, state run (and theoretically impartial) broadcaster TRT has refused to run commercials for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), giving as rationale the fact that the commercials criticize the ruling government. At the same time, pro-AK-Party media outlets Yeni Şafak and ATV have both published claims against the Doğan Media Group, charging it with support of terrorism in line with similar statements by Erdoğan. Doğan has filed slander charges against Yeni Şafak in response. Yeni Şafak also filed a story claiming that Turkey’s second President, Ismet İnönü, was responsible for having Mustafal Kemal Atatürk killed with poison. These claims and their alleged documentation have been the source of ridicule in other media, and columnist Mustafa Akyol commented on why such claims would come out now.

3 – Social media bans and reactions – Reactions to last week’s government ban of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have begun to mount. Early in the week there was a threat to block Google as well, but this has not yet been executed, and the social media sites are now back online. These bans have not gone unanswered, as Today’s Zaman reports:

Two Turkish academics on Tuesday appealed a court order that allowed authorities to block access to Twitter and YouTube for several hours this week, a crackdown they say reflects Ankara’s growing authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, Hürriyet Daily News reports on international critique of the ban:

Bans on social media networks are “not appropriate” according to basic democratic standards, said European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who held meetings with a number of senior officials in Turkey, adding that he expected “meaningful answers” from Ankara on the issue.

Despite such reactions, threats against social media may actually be on the rise, as Today’s Zaman reports:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has a tendency to put everything he sees as a threat against his authority in the country’s “National Security Strategy Concept Paper” (MGSB) — often referred to as the “Red Book” — may soon be adding social media platforms, according to a story in the Cumhuriyet daily on Thursday.

4 – Censorship, trials, and lawsuits – The weekly round-up of lawsuits and trials for those deemed to have insulted the AK-Party continues, as Hürriyet Daily News reports,

A local court in Ankara has ordered main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to pay 10,000 Turkish Liras in compensation to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for “insulting” him.

Erdoğan was not alone in his actions this week, as Today’s Zaman reports,

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has filed a new legal complaint against Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş over a blog post, saying the piece, an English version of which was published as a Today’s Zaman column, insulted him.

Some of the charges are more serious than insults against individuals, as Today’s Zaman reports,

Turkish prosecutors seek up to four and a half years in prison for two columnists, Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Çetinkaya, who write for the Turkish Cumhuriyet daily, over featuring a front cover of Charlie Hebdo magazine which depicted Prophet Muhammad in their pieces.

5 – AK-Party’s Neo-Ottoman overtures – Finally, the AK-Party continues to employ Ottoman pageantry in political appearances. As Hürriyet Daily News notes, this week’s ceremonies involved both PM Davutoğlu,

Continuing the new trend of cosplay started at Turkey’s new presidential palace where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resides, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan were welcomed by policemen dressed in Ottoman-era costumes on April 10 in Ankara.

and President Erdoğan,

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was welcomed during a ceremony on April 10 with the “New Turkey Anthem” performed by an Ottoman military band, which praised him as “Our Leader.”

Though quite visible, such overtures are not necessarily a way to success with the public, as the same paper noted in covering the fate of a number of “candidates for candidacy” who had vied for position on the AK-Party candidate list, which was decided this week:

Several candidates had launched Ottoman-themed campaigns to be nominated for the AKP. However, none of the “Ottomans” were able to break the glass ceiling of modern politics when the ruling party announced its candidates for the June 7 general elections on April 7.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-30

1 – The International Press Institute (IPI) issued a special report on Turkey regarding freedom of expression and democracy, noting that,

Turkey has seen increased pressure on media in recent years, part of a drift toward authoritarianism that has led to a pervasive climate of self-censorship and one of the most troubling press freedom pictures in Europe.

2 – A nationalist retelling of the Gallipoli battle, Son Mektup (Final Letter), released in honor of the 100th anniversary of the battle, has garnered some controversy as Kemalist groups question why Mustafal Kemal Atatürk, a national hero and by many accounts a key figure of the Gallipoli defense, was left out of the film. ODA TV, an independent and often anti-AK-Party news site, asks where the money for such a project came from and notes that the steel, energy, and shipping industry firm İÇDAŞ was a major sponsor. Radikal, meanwhile, notes that the Ministry of National Education has paved the way for the film to be shown to millions of school children across the country. Emine Yıldırım from Today’s Zaman provides a cinematic critique of the film in English.

3 – The Kabataş fiasco described in previous entries (here, here, and here) has taken a new turn, as Hürriyet columnist İsmet Berkan, who claimed via Twitter to have seen footage of the attack, thereby lending weight to a story which has since been widely discredited, issued an apology to his readers at the prompting of Hürriyet’s reader representative, Faruk Bildirici. The story was covered widely, including in Hürriyet, and Today’s Zaman (English). In response, AKP Adiyaman MP Mehmet Metiner says that he trusted Gülenist police directors who told him that they had evidence of the Kabataş harassment and that’s why he had announced that the AKP had such evidence. He says that he doesn’t understand why İsmet Berkan felt compelled to lie about such things during Gezi nor why he feels compelled to confess it now.

4 – Crackdowns on perceived insults and critiques of the government continue to increase in the lead-up to the June parliamentary elections. Today’s Zaman provides a general summary, noting, that

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed complaints on charges of “ insult ing” him against a total of 236 people in the 227 days since he was elected president in the election held on Aug. 10, 2014.

In another article, the same paper notes that,

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office is seeking a prison sentence of two years for Gonca Vuslateri , an actress who works in theater and television, on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan , who has so far filed more than 220 complaints against people for allegedly insulting him since he was elected president in August of last year.

One of the cases gathering the most attention is that of cartoonists Aydoğan and Baruter. As Hürriyet Daily News notes,

Two cartoonists for the popular satirical weekly Penguen have been jailed to 11 months in prison, over a satirical piece on free speech in which they were convicted of including a hidden gesture “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Cartoonists Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan were sued for the Aug. 21, 2014, cover of the magazine, which satirized Erdoğan’s election as Turkey’s president. In the drawing, 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, to mark his inauguration.

According to Radikal, Penguen has released a statement regarding the 11 month prison sentence, noting that they are saddened that a trial can even take place against a cartoonist and that this is bad for the whole country, especially given the fact that there is no insult on the cover in question. They state that they will continue to draw cartoons and that they hope this trial is the final example of attempt to intimidate free expression.

Other charges filed include the case of students in Trabzon, as covered by Today’s Zaman:

Thirty-seven students and teachers have recently appeared in court on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan , while criminal complaints have been filed against 11 others accused of breaking Law No. 2911 on Public Assemblies and Demonstrations while attending a protest in Trabzon. Education Personnel Union (Eğitim-Sen) Trabzon branch head Muhammet Ikinci was among those who have been summoned to testify before a court on charges of breaking the law, which regulates the actions allowed in demonstrations and protests. Reacting to the decision, Ikinci said, “This intolerance to people in a country where the government is responsible for guaranteeing fundamental freedoms and rights, including the expression of all ideas, gives us a clue about the want sort of regime the government is becoming.”

Erdoğan is not the only one being “protected” from such insults. Today’s Zaman details stories of journalist Ergun Babahan being indicted for alleged insults to Erdoğan’s son, Bilal, and Prime Minister Davutoğlu suing the paper’s own journalists, Bülent Keneş and Celil Sağır, over allegedly insulting Tweets. The PM apparently also managed to block access to the tweets. Even the state run news service, Anadolu Agency, is apparently now to be shielded from critique, as Hürriyet Daily News reports:

An investigation has been launched into a total of 58 well-known figures in Turkey on the grounds that they criticized the state-run Anadolu Agency on Twitter, daily Cumhuriyet has reported. Top journalists, including daily Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, Hürriyet columnist Melis Alphan and Taraf columnist Emre Uslu are among the suspects, while the former general manager of the agency, Kemal Öztürk, and Vice-General Director Ebubekir Şahin are the complainants. The suspects have been accused of “provoking the people to hate and enmity, as well as defamation, slander and intimidation” for their posts on social media.

5 – In related news, Hürriyet Daily News reports on a new law that could affect social media users:

Social media users who share content that has been subject to a legal complaint in Turkey will be punished, according an omnibus bill currently being debated in parliament, daily Radikal has reported. The Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) will be able to decide for the removal or blocking of Internet content based on an article about the “protection of national security and public order” in the omnibus bill, and users who share such content will also be punished. On March 20, parliament approved a key article of the contentious omnibus bill that gives power to the prime minister and other ministers to shut down websites within four hours. The approval came just six months after a similar bill was overturned by the Constitutional Court.

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 (or 6) without comment – 2015-02-23

1 – Guardian

Turkey has staged its first open military operation in Syria, dispatching hundreds of ground troops, tanks, aircraft and drones to extract 38 soldiers guarding a historical Ottoman tomb besieged by Islamic State (Isis) militants. In the first such incursion into Syria since the start of the civil war nearly four years ago, Ankara launched the operation – dubbed “Shah Euphrates” – to move the remains of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman empire. The operation was conducted through Kobani, the Kurdish-controlled enclave south of the Turkish-Syrian border that was the scene of a recent victory over Isis by the US-led military coalition.

2 – Hürriyet Daily News

A high school student in Turkey was sentenced to 12 months in prison on Feb. 15 for insulting then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The incident took place as the student, identified only by the initials U.H.C., attended a demonstration in Attalos Square in the southern province of Antalya, in protest at a case involving two other high school students who had been charged after protesting against Erdoğan.

3 – Radikal – Notes that the new film Kod Adi KOZ, which deals with Gezi Park and the 17 December corruption investigations, did poorly in its first few days. Producers were hoping it would break Recep Ivedik 4‘s box office record, but it sold only 127,743 seats during its first three days, meaning it would take a small miracle to reach that goal at this point.

4 – Hürriyet Daily News

A ruling party lawmaker has blamed popular Turkish soap operas for the increase in the number of rape cases in the country, arguing that such series were ruining the nature of the Turkish family structure. “You shoot series and you know no bounds in the relationship between the brother’s wife and uncle. You set no limits, and then you complain about the increase in rape. What were you expecting?  Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind,” İsmet Uçma, a deputy from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a member of parliament’s commission investigating the reasons for violence against women, said Feb. 18 during a panel meeting.

5 – Today’s Zaman

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has levied a nearly TL 1 million penalty on the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group in what Samanyolu executives consider yet another attempt to silence media outlets close to Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. “As if there were no other channels, RTÜK is exclusively following our channels and attempting to silence them with astronomic penalties,” said Samanyolu Haber TV Editor-in- Chief Metin Yıkar, commenting on the fine. “RTÜK should be the institution that monitors and regulates this country’s television networks, but it has completely abandoned this role and assumed the position of a political actor,” added Yıkar.

6 – Hürriyet Daily News – Turkish Parliament refuses to probe issues it claims to be very concerned about. The AKP majority voted against suggestions from HDP lawmakers that probes be conducted into (1) the so-called parallel state run by Fethullah Gülen, and (2) ISIL activities in Turkey.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 without comment – 2015-02-16

1 –Oda TV – Notes two columnists writing in the pro-government paper Yeni Şafak have come out against the women who are sharing their own experiences of sexual violence on social media in the wake of recent revelations about the brutal murder of 20-year-old Özgecan Aslan in Mersin. Sevda Türküsev took to Twitter, writing: “To the women who turn to social media to talk about the harassment they’ve experienced rather than to a doctor: come to your senses, do you think you’ll be a hero like on [TV shows]?” [Assuming the dizlerdeki “the one on her knees” was meant to be [dizilerdeki, “the one on the TV shows.”] Meanwhle, Cemile Bayraktar told critics of the government, “Don’t strip at the opportunism to say this is a rapist Mulsim country. A woman is raped in America every two minutes. Now shut your mouths.”

2 – Hürriyet Daily News

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is moving to destroy all opposition its vision of an authoritarian new Turkey, according to the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB). “The government’s project is to make a new Turkey, so they are trying to design everything – the media, the judiciary. It wants a Turkey that sides with it. They get 50 percent of the votes; they call it the national will and say, ‘People want this.’ No, only 50 percent want this; the other 50 percent do not want it,” said Mehmet Soğancı.

3 – Radikal – Describes the 15 February premiere of Çekmeceler at !f film festival. The team wore black ribbons to show support for the protests of violence against women that have been raised in recent days after the exposure of Özgecan Aslan’s murder. Co-director M. Caner Alper noted that the idea for the film had come up at a previous !f festival when they were showing Zenne, and this is one reason it was appropriate to premiere the film here. As for the 18+ rating, he said the ratings system in Turkey is clearly a problem, but at least the film will be released in the country. Co-director Mehmet Binay downplayed comparisons with Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, saying that it was an honor to be compared to a director like von Trier but their film is quite different, going into the reasons behind the situation. The film will hit cinemas in Turkey on 6 March.

4 – Today’s Zaman

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has levied a nearly TL 1 million penalty on the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group in what Samanyolu executives consider yet another attempt to silence media outlets close to Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

5 – Maedyafaresi – RTÜK says it didn’t fine the dizi Ah Biz Kadınlar for using the word “Tanrı” instead of “Allah,” as reported by various media outlets but, rather, for making fun of god.