The 59th Antalya Film Festival ended on October 8 with a glamorous ceremony and saw Emin Alper’s film burning days, about the misadventures of a young prosecutor in a small town in Anatolia, who wins 9 prizes in the national competition. The most dramatic moment of the evening was of course the announcement of the latest prize for the best Turkish feature film. After already getting the award in 9 categories, everyone thought the award would go to burning days but he went, instead, to Black night by Ersin Çelik and Bülent Makar, about a young man who returns to his village to be with his dying mother and tries to investigate a lynching incident he was also involved in several years ago. The film also received the Best Screenplay award.
The Turkish selection of the festival included several films that dealt with the subject of the urban-rural divide which has been a major theme since the beginnings of Turkish cinema. It’s a formula of trust that the new filmmakers try to rearticulate from different angles. Another national competition winner was The snow and the bear, where, this time, it is a nurse who comes to the countryside to “serve” the inhabitants, an effort that gives very unexpected results. Merve Dizdar (pictured above), from the hugely popular TV drama Innocents received the Best Actress award for her portrayal of the well-meaning nurse.
The crossover between television series and the festival was also felt in the selection of Turkish short films. Antalya moviegoers must have been alerted to the fact that the shorts were quite ambitious this year, as the films sold out.
One of the actors in the much-discussed Turkish drama Ethos, Esme Madra, was in the shorts program as both director and actor. His Stormers is an inspired film where we witness the love language of two young people and where the story ends with a dance. Madra also starred in Emre Birişmen’s Tower where two young women play at story time, locking themselves into a plot to ward off the fact that one of them has to go abroad.
Another short that had a strong connection to television, this time in terms of theme, was Benhür Bolhava The Sheep, about the Bekir sheep seller who has a small paddock in a small wasteland among the skyscrapers of Istanbul. The small size of his “farm” and business compared to the “business” conducted in the squares above his head provides a perfect commentary on how Istanbul has “developed” in recent decades. The script does not make this comment explicit and follows its own dark comedy theme of Bekir trying to find his lost sheep under freeway overpasses and plaza backyards, with exquisite shots of urban infrastructure, juxtaposed to his little moped. SheepThe side story of a 90-year-old grandma who committed suicide has an affinity with the new black comedy series As if who has changed the face of comedy in Turkey over the past two years. In As ifthe granny gets eaten out (yes, you read that right) by an Erasmus exchange student.
The award for best film for short films, however, went to Barış Kefeli & Nükhet Taneri You all and me aloneset up during a night of power cuts, and a Special Jury Prize was awarded to Özgürcan Uzunyaşa Hell is empty, all the devils are here about the life of an actress on and off stage that intertwines, with lots of running and stumbling over backstage architecture and hostile (male) colleagues, a metaphor for the struggles of an aspiring actress.
Like the Turkish selection, the international films included stories about cultures in conflict and about people uprooted from their known surroundings. The prize for best film was awarded to the Bolivian director Martín Boulocq The visitor, where the culture clash is between the evangelical form of Christianity and the locals, and how this clash leads to new rifts between social classes. The prize for best director was awarded to Damian Kocu bread and saltanother story of big city values put to the test in a small village, this time in a Polish setting. The beastsabout a French couple who settle in a small Galician village, received the prize for best actress for the performance of Marina Foïs, and the best actor was awarded to Pejman Jamshidi in his role in dusty earthabout an interrogator in a very complex court case, one of those Iranian films where the characters are put in impossible situations and the actors have to deliver all kinds of emotional upheaval in their performance. My favorite was The quiet girl, the first film I watched in Irish. It is about a girl from a very disadvantaged family who goes to live with relatives for a summer and the secrets she discovers. The plot may not seem like much, but director Colm Bairéad creates a whole world that is both enchanted and ordinary.
This year’s festival took place from October 1-8 in Antalya, Turkey.