Festival on Wheels prepares to take off from Ankara
EMRAH GÜLER ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
An entertaining selection of shorts from the Finnish master Aki Kaurismaki, including music videos to the inspiring band Leningrad Cowboys started by Kaurismaki himself, as well as his latest feature “Le havre,” will be in this year’s lineup. Company photo
When the Festival on Wheels commences in Ankara every year, attending the festival feels more and more like coming home. With its political and true cinephile nature, the film festival that has been running for 17 years has always stood unique among other film festivals with its devotion to promoting cinema as art and cinema as an integral player in social and political change.
It is that time of the year again when the Festival on Wheels hits the road, starting from the capital city as is tradition. Organized by Ankara Cinema Association and supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the film festival will begin on Dec. 2 in Ankara, then move to the Black Sea port of Sinop and finish with a return to an old favorite, the Aegean city of İzmir, completing its run Dec. 18.
The festival will bring together recent award-winning films like the controversial Danish director Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” and “The Artist,” director Michel Hazanavicius’ love letter to 1920s Hollywood silent cinema, classics like John Huston’s “The Misfits,” featuring the final roles of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, and the lesser-known gems like Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “La Rabbia” (Anger).
The Hürriyet Daily News talked to Başak Emre, the festival director, on the selection of this year’s lineup of films, the selection of the cities and why Festival on Wheels is much more than a film festival.
Arab Spring meets European cinema
Festival on Wheels has always tackled social and political issues, be it with its selection of films, panels or the topic of the new addition into its Bookstand. “Festival on Wheels always makes sure that it faces social problems,” Emre said. “It takes a stand against the perception that cinema is solely a form entertainment, and that cinema is also political and it helps change. That is why we stand unique among a plethora of festivals.”
Traveling throughout Turkey brings with it a chance to discuss the problems of the places the festival visits. “The audience of the Festival on Wheels becomes much more than the consumers of a festival, they become an essential part of the festival. At least, that is our dream. We could definitely say that the festival is political by its nature,” Emre said.
One of the sections of the festival is called Spring is Revolutionary, and it shows that the political nature of the Festival on Wheels is not confined only to Turkey. Inspired by the title of one of the books by late Turkish poet and writer Onat Kutlar, the section will “screen films that will show first account stories of the transition in the Arab world that took off last year. There will be four shorts and three feature films from Egypt, France, Italy, Qatar and Tunisia in this section,” Emre said. The political and social events that led to the global transition that is the Arab Spring will also be discussed in a panel during the festival.
At one point during its course called the Festival of European Films, Festival on Wheels has always prided itself in showcasing a selection of recent examples and classics from European cinema. This year will be no exception. The festival will honor the Belgian sibling filmmakers the Dardenne Brothers, famed for directing their camera over the “other Europe,” the immigrants and the working class, with their documentary-style realism, with a retrospective, including “Le gamin au vélo” (The Kid with a Bike), the movie that shared this year’s Jury Grand Prize in Cannes with Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da” (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia).
Going back home to İzmir
An entertaining selection of shorts from the Finnish master Aki Kaurismaki, including music videos to the inspiring band Leningrad Cowboys started by Kaurismaki himself, as well as his latest feature “Le havre,” will be in this year’s lineup. “Not all European cinema will be among this year’s highlights,” Emre said. “There is going to be a section of American films acclaimed Turkish filmmaker Zeki Demirkubuz calls ‘films I envy,’ and it will feature such classics like Sam Peckinpah’s haunting take on violence ‘Straw Dogs,’ John Schlesinger’s Oscar-winning ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ Sydney Pollack’s ‘The Yakuza’ and ‘The Misfits.’”
How are the cities selected? “Ankara is our hometown,” Emre said. “We always take off from Ankara. We assess offers from various cities throughout Turkey. This year, we are excited to visit Sinop, a beautiful city that will be hosting the festival for the first time, and İzmir, one of our old favorites.” The films in Sinop will be screened in the city’s only movie theater. In İzmir, the historical Konak Theater will open after two years, thanks to the festival.
In fact, there was a campaign last spring by cinephiles in İzmir to bring back the Festival on Wheels to their city after an absence of six years. The campaign must have worked, and the festival is ready to visit the city they had visited in its first 11 years.
Any recommendations from the festival director? “The festival will screen a selection of recent award-winners from the world and Turkish cinema,” Emre said. “But there are also some lesser-known examples from masters that we have included into our program, such as ‘La Rabbia,’ the 1963 film by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, and the award-winning 1979 film by acclaimed Turkish actor Tuncel Kurtiz, ‘Hasan the Rose,’ an against-the-grain look at migration and racism in Europe.”
For a more detailed look at Festival on Wheels, check out www.festivalonwheels.org.