Accessible Film Festival kicks off ‘to watch film together’

Accessible Film Festival kicks off ‘to watch film together’

Emrah Güler
Accessible Film Festival kicks off ‘to watch film together’ With the motto, “watching film together,” Turkey’s first and only “accessible” film festival is getting ready to bring together those with disabilities and the abled for six days of movie-going and cinema workshops in the capital. 

The Ankara Accessible Film Festival kicks off April 20, running until April 26, screening recent examples from world and Turkish cinemas, catered primarily for the enjoyment and accessibility of those with disabilities.

“We believe all people living together in the same city should take equal advantage of services such as education and transportation and that cultural events should be presented considering people with disabilities,” begins the manifesto of the festival, now a regular fixture in its third year. 

“We think that the awareness should have to be developed for the people with impaired hearing and vision who are having difficulties with a range of problems with daily life. The Ankara Accessible Film Festival is realized to ensure people with disabilities have equal access to cultural life, as well as raising awareness about disability in the society,” organizers have said.

How will the festival become accessible for those with disabilities? And what falls into the broad definition of the disabled? “All of the screenings, discussions and workshops are organized for the full access of those with impaired hearing and impaired vision,” said Ezgi Yalınalp, the festival’s program coordinator. “All screenings will be presented with sign language for audience with impaired hearing, and audio description for audiences with impaired vision. Discussions will also accommodate interpretation into sign language.”

Equal access to cultural life

The festival will take place in the same two venues as last year, the Contemporary Arts Center, and the renovated Ulucanlar Prison’s Theater Hall, suitable for the access of the orthopedically impaired. The festival is organized by Puruli Culture Art, under the patronage of Turkey’s Family and Social Policies Ministry and with the main sponsorship of Halkbank.

Along with Yalınalp, Festival Director Emrah Kalan and Festival General Coordinator Kıvanç Yalçıner comprise Puruli, organizing alternative projects to open channels for people to gain access to art that is out of the common circuit, and that is unable to find a viable place in the commercial cycle. 
“We wanted to provide a chance for those impaired with vision and hearing a chance to watch a selection of contemporary films from Turkish and world cinema,” said Yalçıner. 

How did the idea for an accessible festival emerge? “The idea that drove us to initiate the festival was that cultural life can only be enriched when every single member of the society is able to participate, and everyone has the right to participate in cultural life,” said Kalan. “We believe it is necessary to establish the conditions for the disabled to have equal access to social and cultural lives, that the cultural events should be organized with the disabled in mind. That was the original idea,” Kalan said.

Unique workshops in the spirit of the festival

This year, the festival has broadened its program to become even more inclusive and accessible. An autism-friendly screening will feature Dean DeBlois’ animation “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” hoping to eliminate factors that are unpleasant to individuals on the autism spectrum. In this special screening, the lights will be on low, the volume will be turned down, there will be no trailers at the beginning of the film, and the audience will be able to take their own food and drinks, as well as move around the cinema however they like.

Two workshops will inspire the participants in the unique spirit of the festival. The Screenwriting Workshop, in collaboration with the British Council, will bring together the visually impaired on April 24 to write stories for cinema. The screenwriter, film critic and an experienced trainer on film analysis and screenwriting, Ceyda Aşar, will facilitate the workshop with the motto, “everybody can write a screenplay.”

The Screenwriting Workshop will include essential knowledge about designing a story for cinema, creating characters, classical narrative structure and writing dialogues. The workshop will be a blend of theory and practice, where the participants will engage in writing exercises, and interpret audio-described scenes from films.

The Animating the Senses Workshop will bring together participants aged 9 to 12 on April 23 to discover extraordinary and fun ways of expressing feelings through art therapy and animation. Led by the experienced animation filmmaker Işık Dikmen, and psychotherapist and art therapist Ezgi İçöz, the participants will compose creative stories considering how they feel at that moment. The participants will then make short animation samples by creating characters from the emotional states, which they define with games and dance. 

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