• July 16, 2024

Controversies led to the cancellation of the 60th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival

 Controversies led to the cancellation of the 60th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival

In an unprecedented turn of events, the 60th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, Turkey’s most prestigious film festival, has been canceled.

This marks only the second time in its six-decade history that the festival has been called off, with the first cancellation occurring in 1979 due to censorship issues, and the second following the September 12 Coup. The festival’s abrupt cancellation this year has sent shockwaves through Turkey’s cultural and arts community.

The controversy began on September 23 when the documentary film titled “Kanun Hükmü” (Provision of Law) by Nejla Demirci, selected for the National Documentary Film Competition section of the festival, came under scrutiny. The film delved into the post-dismissal struggles of public workers who had been ousted through statutory decrees. However, it was excluded from the festival’s lineup on the grounds of “not affecting the process and impartiality.”

The decision protested by Jury

The decision to exclude the film sparked a protest by 20 individuals serving as jury members, including prominent actress Demet Akbağ, who was the jury president of the National Feature Film Competition. In a joint statement, they declared their refusal to fulfill their duties unless the documentary was reinstated.

This protest gained momentum as directors and producers of the 27 films competing in various categories, including National Feature Film Competition, National Documentary Film Competition, and National Short Film Competition, also joined the movement. They collectively announced their withdrawal from the festival, vowing not to participate until the controversial documentary was reinstated.

Notably, acclaimed filmmaker Zeki Demirkubuz, who wasn’t among the initial signatories, later decided to withdraw his film from the National Feature Film Competition.

Amid escalating tensions, festival director Ahmet Boyacıoğlu, who initially excluded the documentary, reversed the decision on September 28. The reversal came after it was documented that the trial process involving the individual in the film was not ongoing.

However, the controversy had already spilled over into the political arena. The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism withdrew its support for the festival, citing concerns about the promotion of a terrorist organization. Minister of Justice Yılmaz Tunç echoed these sentiments, stating, “Propaganda of a terrorist organization cannot be allowed at the Golden Orange Film Festival.”

Additionally, several government institutions and sponsor brands, including Turkish Airlines (THY), announced their withdrawal of support for the festival.

Investigation to the festival committe

Festival director Ahmet Boyacıoğlu revealed that an investigation had been launched against him and his team. They claimed to have received threats to their safety and expressed their desire to clear their names of any involvement with a terrorist organization. In response, they removed the documentary “Kanun Hükmü” from the festival’s selection.

The fallout continued as Demet Akbağ, the National Feature Film Competition jury president, declared her refusal to serve in her role, and Armağan Lale, the manager of the Antalya Film Forum, resigned from her position. Other jury members and filmmakers who had aligned themselves with the initial protest similarly began announcing their withdrawal from the festival.

Even Reha Erdem, whose films were slated to be screened in non-competitive sections, decided to withdraw them from the festival.

Böcek announced the cancellation

After all, Muhittin Böcek, the Mayor of Antalya Metropolitan Municipality and the festival chairman, announced the festival’s cancellation through a video statement. He emphasized that external factors had forced this decision and disassociated himself from any accusations made against him or the municipality in connection with the controversy.

The cancellation of the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, a revered cultural institution, raises questions about artistic freedom, censorship, and the delicate balance between politics and art in Turkey. As the festival’s future hangs in the balance, the country’s cultural and artistic community remains divided, grappling with the aftermath of this contentious episode.