ISTANBUL: The 34th Istanbul Film Festival closed last night without any closing ceremony or awards as the festival and Turkish film industry professionals protested against government censorship. After the festival was forced to pull a controversial documentary from its programme, Turkish filmmakers have issued an open letter calling on the Turkish government to change government regulations that they see as a weapon that can be used by the authorities to censor films.
Turkish filmmakers pulled their films out of all of the festival’s competitive sections in protest after the Turkish Ministry of Culture used regulations on film classification and certification to stop the screening of the controversial Kurdish documentary North. The festival juries also resigned and the festival cancelled all its competitions in solidarity with the Turkish filmmakers. The festival which ran from 4 to 19 April closed last night without any closing ceremony or awards. The Ankara Film Festival due to start 23 April has also announced it will cancel its competitions.
The Turkish filmmakers have issued an open letter to the Turkish Ministry of Culture read out at the Istanbul Film Festival’s main venue signed by over 300 filmmakers and 30 film institutions including the Istanbul Film Festival demanding that the government change the regulations on the classification and evaluation of films. As one Turkish filmmaker said, the law at present gives the government a weapon that it can use to censor films when it suits them.
Officially, films in Turkey cannot be shown at festivals without a registration certificate. Bakur / North a controversial documentary about Kurdish fighters directed by Çayan Demirel and Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, was pulled from the festival programme after government objections that it did not have a certificate. Seen as an act of government censorship by the Turkish film industry, it caused the Turkish filmmakers to pull their films from competition in the festival in protest.
A delegation of Turkish film professionals representing professional bodies plans to meet with Ömer Çelik, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, in Ankara to demand changes to the present system of regulations to ensure they cannot be used as a form of censorship.