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Eskişehir, an off-the-beaten-track fılm festıval with Flair

The 10th Eskişehir (Turkey) Film festival opened on Saturday, May 2 on the spacious modern-looking campus of Anadolu University wıth a flourish and gala celebration worthy of many an A-festıval.  While this festival is relatively minor sandwiched in between the big Turkish festivals of İstanbul, Ankara, and Antalya, it has a truly international flavor and offers extraordinary hospitality to foreign visitors in a forested college campus setting with handsome modern buildings, guest houses, and landscaped gardens that looks like it might be the Anatolian branch of UCLA.  The Anadolu University is, in terms of enrollment, the largest university in Turkey and this very well endowed institution of higher learning has extensive property holdings all over the cıty.  The 2008 edition of the festival will run for ten days and present some 72 fılms from many different countries including a number of recent Turkish films and a selection of outstanding films from other festivals. In the latter category are included such recent festival hits as Matin Scorcese's Rolling Stones documentary "Shine A Light", which opened the Berlin festıval earlier this year, "Persepolis", a Cannes jury prize winner ın 2007,  and the Romanian feature "4 Months, 3 weeks, 2 Days" by Christian Mungiu, which took the Golden Palm at Cannes in 2007. Also on tap is this year's Oscar winner "No Country for Old Men".

Chosen to open the festival was the latest offering from Russian Aleksandr Sokurov, a film entitled "Aleksandra".  "Aleksandra" is the unusual story of a Russian grandmother visiting her grandson, a Russian army officer, at the army base where he is stationed in Chechenya. The old woman sharing the crude life of the soldiers in the camp comes to the wry conclusion that "even if our soldiers smell like men they're still just boys".  The film is of interest, among other things, because it provides a rather intimate look at Russian day-to-day military reality, but ıt has that brownish look of old Soviet films and was subtitled in Turkish which was an obstacle to foreigner visitor comprehension. 

Among foreign guests here are Geneva based Swiss director Jacob Berger who is presenting a French language drama entitled "Une Journée" (That Day) and Dutch filmmaker Henk Penninga with a poetic documentary  entitled "The Old Dike".   The latter film takes viewers on a tour of "the longest street in Holland". The street in question is the pathway atop the sea wall or dike running for some fifty kilometers along the Friesland coast originally constructed as a bulwark against the sea back in 1505.  Today it is a residential road with house numbers running from 1 to 1229. Henk is accompanied by his producer and wife Wicke and the two of them run a small film festival in Friesland in the city of Leeuwarden northeast of Amsterdam.

At the opening ceremony among a number of honored guests receiving career awards were the most popular Turkish movie star of all time, towerıng six foot three Tarik Akan, 59, and actress Hale Soygazi, a former Turkish beauty queen in films since 1973.  Mr. Akan, who is kind of a cross between Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston, has appeared in over eighty Turkish films since 1971 including the legendaty Cannes prize winner of 1982, "Yol" (The Way) directed by dissident director Yilmaz Güney by remote control, so to speak, from a prison cell in Turkey.  After being released from jail Güney died in exile in Paris in 1984.  The reception following the opening night film was a very lively affair with great Turkish delicacies and a plentiful supply of the national liquor, rakı.  The entire evening with TV and still cameramen galore was pulled off with such flair that one had the feeling of being at a major, not a small provincial festival.


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About AlexDeleon

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THE FESTIVALS BLOG by Alex Deleon. Watch for festival coverage from the circuit.

Ambiance and reviews from the hot spots. Welcoming your comments too.

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