April 22, 2007 -- OZGU Namal had a dream. As a teenager in Istanbul, she would stand in front of the mirror after taking a bath, wrap a towel around her head and pretend to be a Hollywood star.
She has yet to realize her fantasy, but at the tender age of 28 she is Turkey's hottest young actress - star of screen, stage, TV and commercials. Not to mention magazine cover girl.
Last weekend she received a new honor, the top-actress prize at the 26th Istanbul International Film Festival. It was for the love story "International," one of three fest movies in which she appeared.
"I am so excited, my knees are trembling," the petite, dark-haired woman exclaimed as she accepted her prize at a ceremony broadcast live on Turkish TV.
Said an Istanbul newspaper, "This [trembling legs] came as quite a dangerous situation, as the actress was wearing very high heels." Luckily, she never lost her balance.
Earlier that week, Namal and I, with a translator or two helping, had a pleasant chat at the festival. Dressed casually in jeans, Namal said she still dreams of going Hollywood.
"I stayed in Los Angeles for three months in 2001, and attended UCLA language school. I stayed with an American family. Los Angeles is a beautiful city, and I have dreams of living there as an actress." She even dreams of winning an Oscar.
Her idols include Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Mel Brooks, Pedro Almodovar and French director Gaspar Noe. Surprisingly, she's a fan of Noe's brutal 2002 shocker "Irreversible."
She would love to work for Woody Allen, so I asked if he knew of her wish. "He will learn from your story," she replied. "Life is full of surprises."
More than 200 movies unreeled at the Istanbul festival, which ran for 16 days at six theaters on two continents (Europe and Asia).
Two movies that I saw there are worthy of note: Goran Paskaljevic's "The Optimists," a funny and at times sick film from Serbia, and Danish director Peter Schonau Fog's "The Art of Crying," a sensitive study of father-daughter incest.
New Yorker Tom DiCillo's "Delirious," with Steve Buscemi and Michael Pitt, won a special jury prize.
The top honor, the Golden Tulip, was taken by "Reprise," Norwegian helmer Joachim Trier's homage to the French New Wave.
V.A. Musetto is film editor of The Post. Vam@nypost.com
For more on the Turkey Talk series in the NewYork Post:
Part-1 Off to Istanbul
Part-2 Arrived in sunny Istanbul
Part-3 Beating jetlag
Part-4 Defying terrorists
Part-5 Party time in Istanbul
Part-6 Merhaba from Istanbul
Part-7 Ozgu Namal interview
Part-8 Take a lesson from the folks in Istanbul
Part-9 The End