Film Festivals


By • Oct 4th, 2005 •

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As some of you might recognize from my name; I am the webmaster of Films in Review. However, this time I was on duty for another project; the 7th Annual NY Turkish Film Festival. The Festival was held on September 24 to October 2 at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City.

The event was organized by the Moon and Stars Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to Turkish Arts & Culture in New York City. Since I am affiliated with both places I suggested that we (as Films in Review) should be a supporting organization for the event and perhaps for some more events in the future.

The festival had a great success; it had 26 events which included feature films, short films and documentaries. All the feature films were introduced by a short film. The festival featured films which already had great success world-wide and also some newer ones that nobody has seen before. I was able to attend to some of the films, as well as the opening and closing receptions.

Festival Director Mevlut Akkaya and I

The first film of the festival was GORA, Turkey’s first full-scale Sci-Fi film (with some comical elements). It was written by Cem Yilmaz, a comic who is one of the people who introduced stand-up comedy to Turkey. Cem Yilmaz’s observations of the Turkish nation and culture were his departing point for the film. Therefore, to be able to understand the film you must be Turkish or at least have some acquaintance with Turkish sense of humor. After the film there was going to be a Q&A session with the film’s director Ömer Faruk Sorak, however it didn’t happen since he cancelled at the last minute.

Head-On, the second film of first the day, and one of the most successful films in the festival, was directed by Fatih Akin, a Turkish-German director who is mostly interested in depicting the Turks in Germany. The festival also featured his first film, Short Sharp Shock, on the sixth day of the festival.

Next, I watched Boats out of Watermelon Rinds, which is one of the most famous Turkish films of this decade. It depicts two kids from Anatolia (or the Asia Minor, eastern Turkey) who are interested in filmmaking, and their adventures building a machine to project movies and a place to show films.

Olgun Simsek, Festival Director Mevlut Akkaya and Ugur Yucel

The last film of the festival was Toss Up, and at the after-film discussion, the film’s director/writer, Ugur Yucel, and leading actor Olgun Simsek were present. Aside from the engaging concept and story of the film, it featured extra-ordinary cinematographic work by Roy Kurtluyan. It was interesting to see Yucel and Simsek in this project since it represents a 180 degree turn from their previous experiences. Yucel started his career in 1985 and has been an actor mostly in comedy films. Simsek began and continued his career in comedy also. I found it very interesting that they both switched from comedy to drama. Olgun Simsek, in particular, has shown that he is not only a funny guy, but a full-scale and talented actor. Ugur Yucel showed that he is not only a comedian but a good observer and a writer.

In the after-film Q&A, which was moderated and translated by Kaan Nazli, one of the questions to the filmmaker was; “Why did you make a drama film after all these years of comedy?” He answered “That was entertainment; but now, in this era of my life, I am very interested in the reality of life and I wanted to show it in my first film”. Ugur Yucel also stated that he wants to make films until the end of his life, since that’s the meaning of life for him.

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