Talking Turkey

Fest is interesting mix of East, West

While the 44th Golden Orange Film Festival — a showcase of Turkish films that ended Sunday — is considered a national institution, its sibling, the third Eurasia International Film Festival, is still taking its first steps.

Having these two events — one a big Turks-only party and the other an industry-oriented international showcase — run side-by-side can lead to culture clash: such as coming home from a party to see a Turkish filmmaker chase the festival shuttle driver out of the vehicle, only to have a (surely drunk) passenger get behind the wheel and continue toward your hotel. (After police stopped the bus, the three foreigners on board were quickly put in a prepaid cab and whisked away.)

Isolated situations like this aside, the international side of the festival is growing up fast. At a time when Rome and Pusan are competing for famous feet to walk their red carpets, Antalya provided an impressive lineup: Francis Ford Coppola screened his "Youth Without Youth"; Sophie Marceau brought her second directorial effort, "Trivial"; Turkish-German director Fatih Akin played deejay at a hotel nightclub; and Bollywood legend Shekhar Kapur picked up a special award for his semi-sequel "Elizabeth: The Golden Age."

Eurasia's main attraction may be the festival's location: The city of Antalya, located on the Mediterranean coast of southwestern Turkey, offers beautiful beaches, a picturesque Old City and, as Eurasian film market director Deniz Temeltas points out, "lots of beautiful girls and boys."

The latter could be verified at the many parties, which came to an abrupt stop during the opening weekend when the real world — in the form of cross-border fighting between the Turkish military and rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party — intervened. The country entered into a national period of mourning and the festival followed suit.

The festival, however, quickly bounced back, and the celebrations returned. Guests at the Hillside Su hotel — including jury members John Landis, Martha Coolidge and Oscar-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo — were forced to either accept the pounding disco beat filling the lobby or get out of bed and join the party.

The only bone of contention was organization: While the jury and other VIPs — including buyers and sellers — had access to a bilingual staff, regular guests and international journalists had to rely on sign language, the daily rumor mill and a shuttle system that could take 20 minutes to get you to the place next door.

But Turkish hospitality and the gorgeous setting made up for a lot. Being lost and disoriented in Antalya is still a better time than an efficient, rain-soaked afternoon in Berlin.

And even if the festival organization might be running behind its own momentum, the star power at this year's fest — which was forced into its Oct. 19-28 slot by the late onset of the holy month of Ramadan — shows that Eurasia can stand up to heavy competition. With Ramadan starting a full 12 days earlier next year and some ample time to prepare, the fourth Eurasia International festival might become a force to reckon with.
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