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NYC Film Festivals

One Size Fits All at Eighth Annual NY Turkish Film Festival

There's little doubt that Turkish film's profile has increased in recent years with the emergence of Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Fatih Akin as major international filmmakers. But the organizers of the eighth annual New York Turkish Film Festival, running Oct. 21-28 at the Village East, hope to show audiences there's more to Turkish cinema than just those two names.

"There is a lot of interesting work coming out of Turkey right now – not just from the big auteurs, but also from documentary filmmakers and those working with extremely low budgets," said Mevlut Akkaya, the festival's director. That said, Akkaya wouldn't mind capitalizing on those big directors' mojo: Akin's Istanbul music documentary Crossing the Bridge (Istanbul Hatirasi) will close out the festival, and Ceylan's latest Cannes-approved title, Climates (Iklimler), while not screening at the fest, opens at Film Forum on Oct. 27. Alongside Akin and Ceylan, the best-known working Turkish director today is probably Ferzan Ozpetek, whose work in Italy has resulted in the multiple award winner Facing Windows, also screening here. But the festival's most notable titles are those relatively unknown to US moviegoers: True, Pelin Esmer's magnificent documentary The Play, about the a group of peasant women in an Anatolian village who write and perform a satirical play based on their grueling lives, won an award at Tribeca earlier this year, but it also got a bit lost amid that festival juggernaut's mad shuffle.

Turkish cinema has been undergoing a domestic resurgence as well, increasing its market share against Hollywood competitors and yielding directors confidently expanding in new directions. One of the fest's most acclaimed films, Kutlug Ataman's Two Girls (Iki Genc Kiz), the story of two rebellious young women attempting to escape their stifling lives, plays out with a tough, verite immediacy; it was among a handful of low-budget DV productions that shook up the industry last year. And the aforementioned The Play is itself a perfect example of a documentary revolution occurring presently in Turkey. (It's worth noting that Esmer was introduced to New York audiences by this very same festival several years ago with her short documentary The Collector.)

Other notable works on the schedule include Erden Kiral's beautifully understated Venice title On the Road (Yolda), a reimagining of an event in the life of the legendary imprisoned Turkish filmmaker Yilmaz Guney (whose Cannes Palme D'Or in 1982 for Yol is still the highest film world accolade Turkish cinema has ever received), as well as local hits such as Cagan Irmak's sentimental intergenerational fable My Father and My Son (Babam ve Oglum) and producer Erol Avci's Istanbul Tales (Anlat Istanbul), an omnibus film which updates a number of well-known fairy tales into an Istanbul setting.

Perhaps the title most representative of the intersection between art and commerce in Turkey is The Agha (Zugurt Aga), Nesli Colgecen's 1986 hit (screening as a tribute) that tells the story of a rural big-shot whose traditional ways prevent him from embracing and accepting modernity and social change. A landmark in Turkish cinema, it was a massive popular phenomenon as well as an enduring critical success -- a magic combination that still eludes most of today's Turkish filmmakers. -- Bilge Ebiri

The New York Turkish Film Festival runs Oct. 21-28; visit the event's Web site for schedule and ticket information.

Posted at October 20, 2006 11:31 AM

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