Cinema critics react against film festival’s decision
ISTANBULThe Turkish cinema sector has criticized the Istanbul Film Festival’s decision to not include the documentary “The Eye of Istanbul,” featuring the life of internationally acclaimed Turkish journalist and photographer Ara Güler, in this year’s program.
It was claimed the documentary, which was selected the Best of the Best at the recent Washington D.C. Independent Film Festival, was not accepted into the festival for ideological reasons. Last year, Güler, who took photos of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was highly criticized by some circles. He was claimed to have close relationship with Erdoğan.
The organizer of the festival, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), released a written statement saying Güler was a valuable artist, adding, “The advisory board members of the festival selected other films because they had a limited number of film selections. Just like every year, the board evaluated films without being prejudiced by another individual or institution.”
Another statement came from Güler, who said, “This documentary is not mine but it is about me. This is why I don’t think it is true to say that ‘Ara Güler’s film was rejected.’ The fact that the film was not accepted by the festival made me feel sour.”
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the producer of the film, Ümran Safter, said the film had received attention from around the world, adding, “We made a cultural film. I don’t want to be a part of this discussion but we are surprised by this decision by the festival. We were not given any reason [why the film was not included in the program]. We trust our film; it won an award at the Washington festival. It was shown in Thessaloniki for two days and received much attention. We have received invitations from other festivals around the world.
There is such concrete success [for the film] but the festival did not accept this biographical work. It really surprised us.”
Safter said the film team became very upset with the decision, and continued:
“I sent a message to the festival director demanding further explanation but I got no explanation. They did not offer a concrete reason, saying, ‘We did not like the film’s content, fiction, script or lighting.’ I have no idea about the reason. This is the best feature film on Ara Güler. I don’t know the people in [the festival’s] jury and most probably they don’t know us, too.”
‘Not every film on Güler is very important’
Cinema critic Atilla Dorsay said he served as an advisor to the IKSV, and continued:
“I have nothing to do with the selection of Turkish cinema films in the festival and have no bearing on the decision. Güler is a respected person but we cannot say that each film dedicated to him is very important and the very best. This year the festival is being organized for the 35th time. People there may have their own political views but the foundation is healthy and strong; it tries to be distanced from politics and succeeds. A political approach is not possible.”
Cinema writer Burçak Evren said why the festival rejected the film was not understandable.
“It is not possible for the festival to take a decision against Güler for political reasons because it receives support from the Culture Ministry. It is also not possible that they rejected the film because of its quality.
Something dealing with Güler cannot be unqualified. If it is a political decision, it is time to have serious discussions in Turkey,” he said.
Director İsmail Güneş said a documentary on Güler deserved to be screened at a festival regardless of its content and quality.
Criticizing the decision, photography artist Süleyman Gündüz said:
“He is one of the best seven photographers in the world. Documentaries on Güler are worth seeing. We know his approach as a journalist very well. He worked as a reporter for many of the world’s agencies. It is not acceptable that a documentary on such an artist is not included in the festival program because of political reasons.”
Another photography artist, Mustafa Yılmaz, read out a part of the IKSV statement, saying “The IKSV has so far organized many exhibitions and projects about and with Güler in Turkey and abroad and it will continue to do so.”
He said, “Yes, this is true, but all these [projects] were before he [Güler] took Erdoğan’s photos.”
Stating that it was disrespectful to the master, Yılmaz added, “The film was approached [with a] bias because of Güler’s close relations to Erdoğan. This decision to not accept the film in the festival is definitely political… This is a double standard and disrespectful to the great master.”