The 2013 Istanbul International Film Festival
Posted on Thursday April 11, 2013, 20:13 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
The Istanbul International Film Festival scores instant brownie points in Empire’s book for two reasons. Firstly, its press welcome pack includes a free tee shirt (far from a regular occurrence); and secondly, it takes place in Istanbul. Despite its nightmarish traffic and crowded, ramshackle suburbs, Turkey’s largest city is a magical place. Straddling Europe and Asia, facing each other across the Bosphorus, it has the raffish air of an ancient port town, the gateway to the East. Its skyline is dotted with modern skyscrapers and the slender minarets of mosques and churches. Teeming with life, it is steeped in history and tradition. It also played host to the jaw-dropping pre-title chase sequence in Skyfall, which makes it ineffably cool.
Celebrating its 32nd year, the IIFF has come on a bit since it began in 1982. Back then it was a minor appendage to the International Istanbul Festival called International Istanbul Film Days. It comprised 36 films shown over the course of a month. It might be shorter now (still, at two full weeks, it’s longer than most) but in terms of scope it has grown into a cultural behemoth with literally hundreds of films screening in and out of its various competitions. With a stared aim of showcasing local and international talent, while promoting filmmaking in Turkey and quality programming by local distributors, it has assumed tremendous importance for the region.
The most prestigious of those is the International Competition, reserved exclusively for films focusing on the arts, or on individual artists or that are adapted from noted literary works. Among the films competing for the Golden Tulip this year are Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s What Richard Did, adapted from the novel by Kevin Power; The Butterfly’s Dream, Vilmaz Urdogan’s portrait of WWII Turkish poets Rustu Onur and Muzaffer Tayyip; and Camillie Claudel 1915, Bruno Dumont’sw biopic of tragic French sculptor Claudel, consigned to a mental asylum for her unique artistic vision.
Other competitions include the National Competition for Turkish filmmakers, and the Human Right In Cinema competition which has, since 2007, awarded the prestigious Film Award Of The Council Of Europe (the FACE), an accolade exclusive to the IIFF. Added to that are a host of individually curated programs, workshops, seminars and special events.
Although it has been in full swing since 29 March, the festival kicked off for Empire last night with a highly elegant cocktail party at the city’s museum of modern art. Perched on the edge of the Golden Horn, the natural harbour that divides the city, Istanbul Modern proved the perfect venue to assuage debilitating jet-lag with a drink or two and a spectacular view, Topkapi Palace and the dome of Hagia Sophia glittering across the water. Tomorrow promises a boat trip on the Bosphorus and a master class with International jury president Peter Weir. And, hopefully, to take advantage of the 007 connection, a tour of the Grand Bazaar - on a dirt bike.