Turkey’s Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, which historically has always been the country’s prime local cinema catalyst, stands as testimony that despite impediments due to the pandemic and the country’s economy Turkish filmmakers are in fine fettle.
“At the start of the year people said: ‘You will not be able to assemble 10 [Turkish] films due to the pandemic,’” because “they thought nothing was getting made,” says Antalya fest chief Ahmet Boyacıoğlu.
Instead, programmers for the event’s upcoming 58th edition that will run Oct. 2-9 in the sprawling resort city on Turkey’s Southern coast, received 44 submissions for the national competition that is at its core. And the 10 features they’ve selected rep “the strongest selection at Antalya in maybe the past 10 years,” he says.
Antalya’s artistic director Başak Emre points out that with the Turkish lira hitting all-time lows against Western currencies and waning local government support for film production that now amounts to a mere roughly €200,000 ($232,000) in total, the country’s producers are increasingly resorting to co-productions with European partners to get their projects off the ground.
This is reflected in the fact that six out of 10 films in Antalya’s national competition are co-productions. Some made in tandem with several European countries as is the case with first-time director Emre Kayiş’ “Anatolian Leopard,” which launched from the Toronto Film Festival’s Discovery section and is a co-production between Turkey, Poland, Germany and Denmark. The winners will be picked by a seven-member jury headed by Turkish writer-director Emin Alper (“Frenzy”).
Since the 1960s Turkey’s oldest film festival has been “the Mecca of Turkish cinema,” says Boyacıoğlu, who with Emre also runs Turkey’s traveling Festival on Wheels. They took Antalya’s reins in 2019 following a spell during which the fest’s national competition had been eliminated as a separate strand, sparking protests, and even a boycott, from the local film community.
Which is not to say that Antalya is now an insular event. “We still have an international competition,” which, Emre notes, is “a very important component” of their vision for the fest. This year it comprises recent global circuit standouts such as Venice Golden Lion winner “Happening,” by Audrey Diwan, as well as Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Bergman Island,” and Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car,” which were both at Cannes.
However, due to pandemic-related restrictions and their impact on travel the international presence at Antalya will be very small.
Local attendance, instead, is expected to be large with ticket sales already indicating that, just like last year, Antalya’s three socially-distanced outdoor venues for a total of 1,250 usable seats will be fully booked. Large delegations will be coming for the Turkish films, all of which will be having their national premieres.
So even though the Antalya Film Forum co-production platform industry component will be held online (see separate story) the Turkish film industry’s in-person presence will be robust.
Below is a rundown of the 58th Antalya Film Festival national competition titles that give the present pulse of Turkish cinema.
“Anatolian Leopard” – This timely drama by first-time filmmaker Emre Kayiş is about the director of Ankara’s zoo fighting for the zoo not to be shut down in the face of urban renewal, privatization and Arab investors who want to convert it into an amusement park.
“Commitment Hasan” — In this second installment of his “Commitment” trilogy auteur Semih Kaplanoglu tells the tale of “a Muslim fighting his own soul,” as Boyacıoğlu puts it. Pic, which launched from Un Certain Regard in Cannes, is set in a windswept but fertile corner of Turkey where a man named Hasan makes a living from his father’s orchard and tomato field. When Hasan and his wife are accepted for Hajj, their imminent pilgrimage to Mecca causes him to question his conscience as he scrutinizes his past and to confront his contradictions.
“Pure White” — In this religion-related drama by Necip Çağhan Özdemir, the proto-Islamic protagonist Vural, who is a seemingly pious husband and a father, has a secret that causes his life to take a sudden dark turn when a seemingly minor sin becomes a threat to his uncomplicated life.
“Together, We Shall Die” — This romancer directed by Hakkı Kurtuluş and Melik Saraçoğlu sees the protagonist Mazhar returning to Istanbul after studying in Canada. He falls head over heels in love with his best friend’s lover, which leads to a passionate and devastating affair in the midst of the vicissitudes of the sprawling and tumultuous Turkish city that also becomes a key character in the pic.
“Dialogue” — This is a film within a film “like Truffaut’s ‘Day for Night,’ ” says Boyacıoğlu. It’s a first feature by Ali Tansu Turhan in which the two protagonists are actors playing a couple in a relationship that is ending and fall in love with each other.
“Between Two Dawns” — This Turkish-French-Romanian co-production helmed by writer-director Selman Nacar is a social drama about a young man facing a moral dilemma after a worker is injured in his family’s sheet factory. The protagonist, Kadir, is forced to conspire in a cover-up that alters the lives of the people involved and unveils long-held secrets.
“The Cage” — Veteran auteur Cemil Ağacıkoğlu’s hard-hitting drama is about a former cop named Hasan who was expelled from the police force and now works in a cheap hotel in the back streets of Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula where the down and out’s live. There his only friend is an immigrant woman named Illiona with whom he dreams of a better life. Hasan feels trapped as he struggles to clear his name in court in a desperate effort to solve his problem with the police force and get his job back.
“Kerr” — In this latest drama by minimalist moviemaker Tayfun Pirselimoğlu (“Haze,” “Hair,” “I’m Not Him”), a man named Can witnesses a murder in a small town where he has arrived to attend his father’s funeral. He goes to the police and after taking his statement the cops forbid him from leaving the town. Then a quarantine is declared due to rabid dogs and he is accused of a non-specified crime. Other weird things happen and the town turns into a hell that he can’t flee from.
“Brother’s Keeper” — This social drama based on director Ferit Karahan’s own experience is about Kurdish kids living in fear at a Turkish boarding school. Pic launched earlier this year from Berlin’s Panorama strand, where it won the section’s Fipresci prize. It follows two friends, Yusef and Memo, at a secluded boarding school for Kurdish boys in the mountains of Eastern Anatolia. When Memo falls mysteriously ill, Yusuf to try to help his friend is forced to struggle through the bureaucratic obstacles put up by the school’s repressive authorities.
“Zuhal” — In this darkly humorous first feature by screenwriter Nazli Elif Durlu, an upper middle class woman named Zuhal hears a cat meowing one night from her flat. At first she pays no attention, but after the meow continues all night she thinks the cat might be stuck in a nearby flat which forces her to communicate with her neighbors whom she has so far deliberately avoided.