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Film critic Berke Göl arrested, Silver Bear director Erden Kiral injured in cinema protest


- Filmmakers - including Mike Newell and Costa-Gavras - and film critics faced water cannons and a barrage of tear gas in Istanbul after protesting the closure of the Emek Theatre

Film critic Berke Göl arrested, Silver Bear director Erden Kiral injured in cinema protest

Berke Göl, a Turkish film critic serving on the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Jury at the currently running Istanbul Film Festival, was arrested last night after taking part in a protest against the threatened closure of the Emek Theatre, one of Istanbul’s most historic movie theatres.

Many of the guests of the Istanbul Film Festival were on hand to take part in the protest including Costa-Gavras, who was on hand to receive the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, British director Mike Newell, Chilean screenwriter and director Marco Bechis and German director Jan Ole Gerster. There were also many prominent Turkish filmmakers and actors present including Ahmet Mümtaz Taylan, Serra Yılmaz,  Cem Davran and Ezel Aka.

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The peaceful protest turned violent after protesters were refused entry into the public building and were subjected to a bombardment by tear gas and water cannons from police. The above picture, taken from Turkish TV channel Kanal 9, shows Göl being grabbed around the throat by a member of the Turkish police.

The protests centre around the Emek Theatre, part of a historical area known as the Cercle D’Orient which is undergoing renovation and it is feared that current plans will turn the area into a shopping mall. While the Turkish Government are at pains to point out that they are protecting the theatre, many remain unconvinced.

“They say they are protecting Emek Theater. But [Culture and Tourism] Minister Ömer Çelik, have you seen the renovation plans?” Turkish actress Serra Yılmaz was quoted as saying in the Hurriyet Daily News. “Emek Theater will only be protected if its doors are open to the streets,” she added.

Condemnation of the police actions were swift: “We condemn the intervention against cinephiles who had in mind nothing but to embrace Istanbul’s cultural memory,” said the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts on the Istanbul Film Festival website.

“We demand from the authorities the immediate release of Berke Göl and to punish the responsibles of this violent attack against the Turkish film industry and cinephiles,” FIPRESCI announced on its website.

Actor and director Yılmaz Erdoğan wrote on his Twitter account: “In this period in which it 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.”

In the intervening hours since the protest, a group of filmmakers and film critics continued protesting outside Beyoglu Police Station supported by the Deputy of Parliament Levent Tuzel. Göl, and others detained during the violence, have since been released. He is due to testify in front of an attorney to discover whether the case will be taken further. It has also been reported that Erden Kiral, who won a Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1983 for his film A Season in Hakkari, was injured in the protest.

SiYAD (Film Critics Association of Turkey) has called for the resignation of the Minister of Culture and Tourism while veteran critic Atilla Dorsay (one of Turkey’s most respected and venerable critics) resigned from daily Newspaper Sabah in protest against the plans surrounding the Emek Theatre.

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