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Phillip Bergson

Writing about Films and Festivals.

Film Critic, UK,Invited Member  of  The UK Critics' Circle

FIPRESCI abd the European Film Academy.

Visiting Lecturer, Prague Film School.

Winner of the  "Student Journalist of the Year" competition in the UK weekly New Statesman, as a Classics Scholar Phillip Bergson then founded the Oxford Film Festival and, on graduating, was selected by "The Sunday Times" as a 'New Critic' and in the same week began broadcasting on film for many BBC Radio programmes. A contributor to the "Times Literary Supplement", "TES",The Spectator,film critic on "The Sunday Standard", "Screen International",Variety, "Film Bulletin", "Film a Doba" inter alia, and on the FilmFestJOURNAL in Berlin and Screen Dailies at Cannes,he also worked for the "European Script Fund", has scripted shorts and features (that have been produced and released) and, fluent in eight-and-a-half languages, currently programmes and advises several international film festivals and is.Casting Consultant on several international features. At the National  Museum of Photography, Film and Television, in his native Yorkshire, he created the "Eurovisions" project, to promote classic and contemporary European cinema,which was inaugurated at the Cine Lumiere in London by His Excellency the President of Iceland.

Presenter and Programmer,London Turkish Film Week, December 2018

Co=programmer, 2nd London Turkish Film Week, April 2019

Artistic Director, 3rd London Turkish Film Week, planned for 1-7 June 2020.

As a FIPRESCI Jury Member

and a member of  International Juries at

Thessaloniki, Europa Cinema (Rimini), Munich Documentary, Manaki Brothers,Cine Jove (Valencia),Chicago, TIFF-ODA, SOFIA...


Back to Byzantium: Turkish Delights at the 31st Instanbul Film Festival

Whatever name you call it- Constantinople or Byzantium- or however you spell it    (Graham Greene's Orient Express-connected novel, also filmed, styled it Stamboul Train), modern Istanbul is unquestionably a world city, a beautiful bustling megalopolis, literally joining Asia to Europe, and the only capital that has a leg in two continents. A fascinating fusion of ancient, medieval, religious and secular architecture and cultures, cuisine and  and stylish contemporary design and fashion, where the everyday is imbued with a touch of the exotic, and a promise of the erotic, it is an unforgettable bazaar of legends and legerdemain, and a natural backdrop for countless films, often involving espionage (From Russia With Love, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The World is Not Enough) or larceny (Topkapi, set in the sublime Sultan's Palace, is one of several celebrated caper movies making free with the infinitie treasures housed within the broken walls of a city of 12 millions and more permanent inhabitants). Turkey's own film industry, hugely popular at home and in diasporas in Berlin, Mannheim, Dalston, as well as the post-Guney new wave of art-house fare ,sweeping up awards at Cannes and around the festival circuit in the past five years, make this a perfect venue for an international film festival.

In fact, the city hosts a string of arts events through the calendar, and several with a film connection. I participated once on a  panel in snow-swept January at an annual event devoted to European Cinema (which brought me the mixed pleasures of staying in the fabled Peras Palas Hotel, alas before its recent renovations- though the bar,lift and salons certainly were graced by Agatha Christie and Greta Garbo and countless passengers on the real Orient-Express and retained their art deco allure, in my period room the hot running water was legendary if not mythical).But since 1981, the unmissable rendez-vous for festivaliers has been the Istanbul Film Festival, organised under the auspices of the IKSV(The Instanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts,which this year celebrates its own 40th year of business, presenting and promoting all the arts through a variety of activities-concerts,exhibitions,publications- of which the Film Festival must be the single largest and costliest).
Marking the progressiveness of this majority-Muslim country, the current Festival Director is again a  lovely,lively lady, Azize Tan, who has succeeded the graceful Hulya Ucansu, who was in charge when I first attended a decade or more ago. Guests and sponsors came and went, as the festival with its competitive focus on features with a connection with the arts (adaptations of books,biographies of painters,films inspired by music or opera) and national local competition showcasing the latest Turkish works in all categories was  a huge fortnight  of crowded screenings, in the Taksim (European) heart of the city, with galas in the vast but antique Emek cinema,and screenings in other equally quaint cinemas in the vicinity.Foreigners lucky to be accommodated in the luxurious Marmara Palace hotel usually had a fine view of the traditional May Ist riots, as the Festival's dates often followed Easter, and the more international part of the Festival was always the second week.Often one of the newest  domestic films,which we were privileged to see in preview, sub-titled in English, would be selected for an increasingly important section at Cannes, and certainly would make its way around the circuit, as guests included a judicious blend of international critics and festival directors or selectors.

A festival often comes to reflect the personality of its director- even though all festivals are of course run by a team of people- and when that person changes, the familiarity fades a little, and it can be wise not to go back quickly, to permit the festival to find its way anew. After a gap of several years, I could not be more delighted to have returned to the Istanbul Film Festival for a long weekend, culminating in Orthodox Easter this year, and found the festival renewed,comfortably re-housed,and more successful than ever,on both the public and professional levels.

Phillip Bergson


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