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Antalya Film Festival opens under a starry starry sky

The 43rd Antalya Film Festival got under way last night (Saturday September 16, 2006) at a glittering opening ceremony attended by several international celebrities including evergreen Faye Dunaway and the resurgent Helen Mirren.
Some 6,000 people attended the two-hour ceremony under a starry sky in a 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheatre on the outskirts of Antalya, a stunningly beautiful city-resort located on the Mediterranean coast some 500 kilometres south east of Istanbul and some 300 kilometres south of the country’s administrative capital, Ankara.
Whilst much of the ceremony was devoted to meeting the requirements of sponsors and to entertaining an audience that was composed as much of local dignitaries, businessmen and their handsomely frocked wives as it was of dedicated movie buffs, the event also had its cinematic moments.
Few who were there will quickly forget the presence of Faye Dunaway, the star of ’seventies classics such as Bonnie & Clyde and The Thomas Crowne Affair, and subsequently Chinatown and Towering Inferno..
In accepting the inevitable “honorary award”, Dunaway not only thanked her hosts but also paid tribute to the role of film festivals in today’s film world.
“When we made movies in the seventies we just didn’t have film festivals. Nowadays there are almost as many festivals as there are films, and this is wonderful for film-makers…….it gives them opportunities they never had before,” said Dunaway.
A radiant Helen Mirren, fresh from winning an Emmy for her portrayal of Elizabeth I, also attracted much attention and although she didn’t make a speech she seemed to be almost as central to the proceedings as her legendary counterpart Dunaway. The warmth and mutual admiration between the two celebrities was evident for all to see.

The Festival
Now in its 43rd year, the festival is one of Europe’s oldest and, despite criticism from purists in the arts world that the event is now morphing into a promotional platform for the local tourism authority, the Antalya festival is attracting growing attention from serious film-makers, distributors, buyers and critics alike.
The main catalyst for change came two years ago when ownership of the festival was transferred to the Turkish Foundation of Cinema and Audiovisual Culture (TURSAK) which decided from the outset that the festival would have to be expanded to include foreign movies if it was going to pay for itself.
For the previous 41 years only Turkish movies had been shown. According to the country’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr Atilla Koc, the festival will continue to be the country’s main showcase for Turkish film, but it will also bring the best of foreign movies to festival audiences from now onwards.
“As a result of the changes introduced last year the festival has started to reach a higher number of people,” the minister says in the official catalogue.
A less subtle message was delivered to the audience at last night’s opening ceremony, by the honorary president of the festival who is also the local mayor. “Since the very first day our primary objective has been to make Antalya city a world brand. The internationalizing of the film festival is part of our continuing effort to achieve our goal. The film festival is of utmost importance in this regard,” said Mr Menderes Turel.
While the purists turn up their noses, the broader-minded critics argue that there is nothing wrong in using a film festival to attract attention to a destination. The factor to watch, they say, is not who is being invited to the opening and closing ceremonies but the quality of the films being screened in between.
“If artistic merit as opposed to commercial success continues to be the main criterion for selection, then the integrity of the festival will remain intact,” Istanbul-based critic Murat Berekit told
But doesn’t the introduction of foreign movies to the festival, take the spotlight off home-grown talent?
“It might have done”, a TURSAK spokesman told , “but this year for the first time ever in Turkey we have introduced a film market. We have invited a lot of foreign buyers and distributors to attend. It looks as though they have turned up and are serious about doing business here,” said the spokesman.
(The Eurasia Film Market kicked off today and will be the subject of a fuller report by later this week)

International line-up
First up on the big screen here will be Chinese director Feng Xiaogang’s latest offering, The Banquet. Another Chinese film, Bliss, by rookie director Sheng Zhimin, is one of ten films entered in the festival’s international Eurasia Feature Film Competition.
The others are Fauteuils d’Orchestre, directed by Daniele Thompson (France); Frozen City by Aku Louhimies (Finland); Taxidermia by Gyorgy Palfi (Hungary); The Boy on a Galloping Horse by Adam Guzinski (Poland); Climates by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey); Time by Kim KiDuk (Korea); Waiter by Alex van Warmerdam (Holland); Valley of Flowers by Pan Nalin (India); and The Paper Will Be Blue by Radu Muntean (Romania).
The jury is also reasonably well balanced and includes: Turkish-born Beki Probst (jury president), Barbara Bouchet, James Cromwell, Samira Makhmalbaf, Mehmet Aslantug, Wieland Speck, and Padric Delaney.
In addition to the international Eurasia Feature Film Competition there is a competition for the Critics Award which will be fought out among entrants from Romania, Iran, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, China, and France.
The major plank in the international side of the festival is a section called Lands and Dreams which includes 16 films from 16 different countries. Ken Loach’s The Wind that Shakes the Barley is among them, as are: Marco Belocchio’s The Wedding Director; Alexander Rogozhkin’s Transit; and Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation.
There is also a section titled Journey To The Far East in which there are films from Singapore, Japan, South Korea, USA (filmed in Vietnam), Germany (filmed in the Philippines), and a film called Living in Fear which is an all Vietnamese production.
Films from Tajikstan, China, Iran and Kyrgistan make up a section called Silkroad; and for those who think that the more sections you have the better, there are also sections for Bollywood Films, German films, French films, Mediterranean films, and Documentaries. Tributes to Polish maestro Kieslowski and to Norman Jewison complete the picture on the international front.

by Jeremy Colson

Pictures by DEMET AZKLI


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