Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Altın Portakal Film Festival to ditch Eurasia, film market

Altın Portakal Film Festival to ditch Eurasia, film market

Well-known Turkish screen actors and actresses salute residents of Antalya in 2003 during the traditional parade that is held every year at the start of the Altın Portakal Film Festival. In light of the ongoing global economic crisis, concern has been increasing over the future of film festivals.

After the Kars Municipality announced that its annual Festival on Wheels would “not be held for sometime” due to financial hurdles, the Culture and Tourism Ministry allocated only half the amount of last year's budget to this year's Altın Koza International Film Festival in Adana, which wrapped up last weekend. Now all eyes are turned to another southern city, Antalya, wondering whether Turkey's longest-running film festival, the Altın Portakal (Golden Orange), will also feel the impact of the global crisis.

After parting ways with the İstanbul-based Turkish Foundation for Cinema and Audiovisual Culture (TÜRSAK), the Antalya Foundation for Culture and Arts (AKSAV) will organize this year's Altın Portakal festival on its own for the first time. Film critic Vecdi Sayar, the newly appointed director of the festival, spoke with Today's Zaman about the current and future plans for Altın Portakal.

someone who has had different roles in many film festivals, what kinds of changes do you plan to make to Altın Portakal?

Taking into account the Altın Portakal Film Festival's 46-year-old legacy, we want the festival's national competition to have more of a priority. We will keep the international competition [held on the sidelines of Altın Portakal as a separate film festival known as the International Eurasia Film Festival, launched in 2005], but redevelop its structure. We plan to release more details in the near future, but I can tell you now that Eurasia will not be the main theme of the international competition. I plan to keep it as a non-competitive program within the main festival. The [Eurasia] Film Market is also not on our agenda right now. Instead of a virtual film market, we plan on focusing more on operational activities.

When new Antalya Mayor Mustafa Akaydın ascended to the post following the local elections, he hinted that the festival might shrink but that it would be open to the public. What efforts are being made to open the festival to the public?

I think that announcement hinted not at contraction but at growth. Real growth should be about quality not quantity. Last year, 1,500 guests were invited. I think that was an overextension and certainly believe a reduction in terms of numbers is necessary. In recent years, I have been hearing complaints that the festival has moved away from the people, that attendees are unable to enter theaters because there are too many guests and that opportunities for attendees to meet artists were not enough. I wouldn't want to say anything definite without obtaining data, but we have plans to screen films in many theaters across the city to enable a wide segment of society to have access to the festival and to increase the number of activities that will allow people to meet artists.

What kind of impact will separating from TÜRSAK, of which you were a founding member, have on the festival? There are concerns that the bar will be lowered.

I don't think the bar was raised too high. But certainly, we will preserve the beneficial aspects TÜRSAK has brought to the festival and the universal standards required for an international film festival. It is clear that neither the mayor nor I will choose the easy way or bring the issue down to populism. The Antalya Altın Portakal festival deserves to be among the most well-regarded and serious film festivals in the world.

How will disagreement between the local administration and the government affect the festival's gains in coming years?

There should not be a disagreement. The Antalya film festival is the oldest film festival in our country. It plays an important role in promoting our country, as it does in promoting Turkish cinema. A stable routine is necessary in order to improve its prestige and regard on the international level, and this requires serious resources. In addition to the Antalya Municipality, the Culture and Tourism Ministry and the Prime Ministry Promotion Fund must continuously extend their support. We must reach a level of maturity so that our festivals, like those in other parts of the world, will not be affected by political changes.

What will the future of the International Eurasia Film Festival be? Will we continue to see world-renowned figures in Antalya?

Instead of having two film festivals simultaneously, Altın Portakal [which was solely a national film festival since its inception] will now have national and international competition and non-competitive programs. And certainly, we will invite outstanding actors and film directors from around the world. Paying Hollywood stars to come to the festival is not the only way to preserve the festival's international recognition.

What plans or ideas do you have about the controversial selection of jury members in the festival?

We are still deliberating on this. Let me say, though, that we will have an approach that complies with universal criteria used in many parts of the world.

Is the schedule of the festival clear?

We plan on keeping the previously scheduled dates, between Oct. 1 and 8. Our mayor will make the official announcement about the date and main aspects of the program at a later date.

20 June 2009, Saturday | ALİ KOCA İSTANBUL from Today's Zaman

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