When autumn comes to Turkey, competition, controversy, and cinema run hand in hand in the streets of the southern city of Antalya with the Golden Orange Film Festival. The biggest event of cinema in Turkey for the last half-a-century, the festival has always been a volatile event, especially with its national competition. The selection of the films, the selection of the jury, the handing out of the awards, and the after-shock following the awards, have always made the national competition more than just a competition.
The 46th Golden Orange Film Festival screened around 150 films under 20 sections in one week, ending with a ceremony announcing the winners of the national competition for feature film, short film, and documentary, as well as the international competition, a first in the festival.
Thanks to the changing face of the festival in the past couple of years, Golden Oranges have become a younger, dynamic and professional event, earning a long-postponed respect in international circles. This is, of course, fuelled by a proliferation of inspiring Turkish films that have been leaving their marks in international festivals more and more each year. Moviemakers of international acclaim like Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Fatih Akin have received the coveted awards in the recent years, while a film in Kurdish (“Iki Dil Bir Bavul – On the Way to School”) entered the race for the first time in the history of the festival this year, even taking home the Best Debut Film award.
Extravaganza leaves room for cinema
This year, 2009, may have marked the highest point for the Golden Orange Film Festival with the experienced festival director and movie writer Vecdi Sayar heading the festival committee, bringing in anticipated recent films by international directors of acclaim, and increasing the number of films to be screened, as opposed to previous year’s extravaganza of national and international celebrities, including names like Kevin Spacey and Marisa Tomei, stealing the thunder from cinema.
Until recently, Golden Orange Film Festival was a national competition. Hence, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the selection of the jury panel and the award-winning films. Until a few years back, when they decided to collaborate with Turkey Cinema and Audiovisual Culture Foundation, TÜRSAK, the festival was at the hands of the municipality. In its history of more than four decades, the festival hardly had a year where the objectivity of the selection somehow wasn’t questioned.
To give a few examples, in 1981, one year after the military coup, seven people out of the jury of nine were from the Culture Ministry. In 1988, a member of the jury had leaked the winners to the press one day before the ceremony. And there were occasions when acclaimed directors pulled their films out of the festival to question the integrity of the selection process.
A proud Venus holding an orange
But things have changed since the first festival in 1963 and the subsequent decades, when the changing names and politics of the municipality meant a reflection of power games linked to the festival. The involvement of the civil society and experienced, respected names from the movie business meant the development of a brand new festival of international caliber. The meticulous planning and the integrity of the selection of the judges leave no room for doubt any more, led this year by veteran director Erden K?ral, and with a list that included last year’s Best Actress winner Nurgül Ye?ilçay, director Mustafa Alt?oklar, art director Mustafa Ziya Ülkenciler, movie critic Ömür Gedik, screen writer S?rr? Süreyya Önder, and writer Zeynep Oral.
This year, Antalya’s symbol, the golden Venus holding an orange in one of her hands, was finally proud to be a part of an international film festival, where young and fresh cinema from diverse background and cultures was celebrated for a week in the warm atmosphere of the Mediterranean.