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ANTALYA 2020 Antalya Film Forum

Olena Yershova Yıldız • Head, Antalya Film Forum

“Strong stories that have an international scope, told by talented filmmakers, are still needed”


- We talked to Olena Yershova Yıldız, head of the Antalya Film Forum, to get an overview of the Turkish industry event, which kicks off imminently

Olena Yershova Yıldız • Head, Antalya Film Forum

As the 57th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival gets under way today, its industry platform, the Antalya Film Forum, plans to run a completely digital edition from 5-7 October (see the news). We talked to Olena Yershova Yıldız, head of the Antalya Film Forum, to get an overview of the event.

Cineuropa: The Antalya Film Forum is happening online this year; do think this also has its advantages?
Olena Yershova Yıldız:
Of course – this year we are reaching a global audience, even from the USA and Canada, and a total of 200 international guests will attend. Also, it will be less stressful for the pitching participants than the real, physical event, and they will be able to watch their pitch later. Although, as some filmmakers and producers stress, it is fine to introduce the project online, but in order to have a real co-production at some point, you should still meet the people in person, especially for a collaboration that may last for years.

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There are 29 projects that have been selected across various platforms. Even though this is quite a broad selection, could you offer a quick overview?
We endeavoured to present diverse projects of a high quality. We have 11 women directors and 21 women producers out of 29 projects. There is a tendency among the new generation of filmmakers to tell stories criticising the conservatism in Turkish society, like the bold documentary project Whitewash by Ahmet Necet Çupur, produced by Nadir Öperli, a factual portrayal of traditional family values and child marriages in Turkey. Bonds by award-winning short filmmaker Soner Sert explores family values, while the documentary in progress Witch Trilogy 15+ by the award-winning team of director Ceylan Özgün Özçelik and producer Armağan Lale addresses the issue of violence against women.

Furthermore, there are two very strong LGBT projects: When the Sun Comes Out, the story of two young women's journey of love and self-discovery by Zeynep Güzel, and the dark, tantalising and injurious queer world of the Istanbul-based drama series Men of Istanbul by Ali Kemal Güven. These projects obviously do not have any chance of being financed or broadcast in Turkey – their only possibility is to find sponsors and finance abroad, and I think the Antalya Film Forum is a crucially important place for such projects.

Apart from the more socially focused projects, we have two horrors: The Witch by Erman Bostan, set in Ottoman times; and the series A Slow Cooked Heart by Can Evrenol, a Giallo-themed, modern-day whodunnit story, set in an ancient pre-Byzantine monastery of culinary arts. Also, some first-time documentarians are bringing along their projects, like Duet by Ekin Ilkbağ and Idil Akkuş, which follows the challenging preparations that two young synchronised swimmers are doing for the Olympics, and Within the Shadow of Memories by Şafak Şahin, which is a journey into Hemshin cultural memory. Also, in works in progress, we have the debuts Dialog by Ali Tansu Turhan, Snow and the Bear by Selgen Ergun and Zuhal by Nazlı Elif Durlu.

Finally, there are a few projects from Eastern Turkey, including the tragicomic feature in progress Time of Impatience by Aydin Orak, the documentary in progress Life Without Borders by Haydar Demirtaş, which follows the lives of smugglers on the Iran-Iraq border, and the project in development Seven by Tayfur Aydin, a family drama about a strong woman's battle for her rights in her patriarchal family.

You have expanded your pitching platforms by adding a new one dedicated to series: why was this necessary?
We want to reflect the growing role and importance of series in the audiovisual industry. Turkey is famous for its soap operas, and it is a big industry, but the idea is to encourage the development of original and creative content, and filmmakers’ involvement in drama series. The OTT platforms are getting stronger and stronger, and they are attracting a new generation, while the TV and film industries are losing their audience. It is changing the landscape here in Turkey as well – a few years ago, we could hardly watch arthouse films, apart from in the cinemas. Now, the local platforms are buying arthouse films, still with a small amount of money, but we hope this cooperation will grow. The award in this category will be given out by growing Turkish VoD platform BluTV, which has also started to produce its own drama series.

The Forum aims to bridge the gap between Turkish independent producers and directors, and international film professionals. But is this possible in today’s world?
It is not easy at all in Turkey: a lot of productions were postponed, and co-production has become more and more difficult, also because the Turkish lira plummeted, and it is very hard to combine Turkish and European funds under equally fair-minded conditions. Also, most of the funds abroad are now more focused on local productions. Our business is a boutique business with a high degree of competition and with a harsh financial reality, and I believe that only the best projects will survive – the ones whose teams are more professional, more creative and more talented. Strong stories that have an international scope, told by talented filmmakers, are still needed.

In this, your second year as head of the Forum, what are your expectations?
Last year, some WIPs secured sales agents, while others progressed to workshops or found new partners, so we have tangible, positive results. It is important for people to meet each other, gain experience in pitching and present their projects to an international audience, which helps filmmakers understand what they want and how realistic their expectations are in the real world. Our goal is to identify new talents, to encourage them and support their producers.

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