Emek Theater protesters face court, cinema circles condemn police violence

Emek Theater protesters face court, cinema circles condemn police violence

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Emek Theater protesters face court, cinema circles condemn police violence

Turkish actress Serra Yılmaz makes a speech at the Emek Theater protest on April 7. AA photo

Movie critic Berke Göl and three protesters testified before court yesterday after being detained during the Emek Theater protests on April 7 as national and international cinema-circles condemned the Turkish police’s heavy-handed intervention in the peaceful protest.

Efkan Bolaç, the lawyer representing Göl and the other three protesters, said the prosecutor took the “suspects’ testimonies,” and the four were then released by the court pending a trial.

Göl was accused of holding an “unlawful meeting and protest,” Bolaç told the Hürriyet Daily News.

French-Greek director Costa-Gavras addressed the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, condemning the violence outside the theater.

“The violent incidents which followed this peaceful gathering should not make us forget its very reasons; moreover, the provokers are still unclear. The fact remains that a significant cinema, a cultural centre should not be demolished. This would be like eradicating a piece of our memory of the past, a crucial venue for the future. This would be a political, social and artistic error. With all due respect, I would like to call out to the prime minister, who is the sole guarantor of Istanbul’s cultural integrity, and plead with him to intervene in order to save this movie theatre and not allow commerce to overcome culture,” Gavras said in his letter.

Turkey’s most famous movie critic, Atilla Dorsay, announced he was retiring just a day after the police’s intervention in the group he was with.

“This theatre had a value for the cultural structure it carried and the historic reservoir and lifestyle it represented. Today there is nothing called Emek. We could not manage to explain its symbolic and real value,” Dorsay wrote in his column titled, “Time to say farewell.”

The Film Critics Association of Turkey (SiYAD) has called for the resignation of the Minister of Culture and Tourism Ömer Çelik, via a declaration published on its website.

“Turkey, which claims to be living in an ‘advanced democracy,’ has made history as the first country which committed violence against its cinema-lovers and artists,” the declaration read, adding that it called on Çelik to resign from his post for ”failing to protect Turkey’s cultural values.”

Actor and director Yılmaz Erdoğan wrote on his Twitter account: “In this period in which artists have been asked to give their contributions to peace, I condemn and protest the treatment against the artistic community who wanted to protect their movie theatre.”

The International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) issued a press release saying they were horrified by the fact that their distinguished colleague, Berke Göl, film critic and member of the FIPRESCI jury at the ongoing Istanbul Film Festival, had been taken into custody by the police during a meeting organized to protest against the demolition of the historical Emek Theatre, former main venue of the festival.

“Among the peaceful protesters unjustly attacked by the police with tear gas and water cannon, simply for insisting on entering the historical building, were Turkey’s leading filmmakers, actors and film critics. Director Costa-Gavras supported them in person right after receiving his Life Time Achievement Award. Acclaimed directors Mike Newell and Marco Bechis also sided with their Turkish colleagues,” the statement read.

Police deployed water cannon and tear gas on April 7 to disperse a group of thousands, gathered to protest the demolition of the historic building.