Bloodshed at border chills Turk film fest


Rising tensions on its Iraq border is sending shock waves throughout Turkey, including the country's usually austere film world, where organizers of the International Eurasia Film Festival here have canceled all parties associated with the event.

The decision was made in the wake of cross-border fighting Sunday between the Turkish military and rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in which 50 people were killed.

Festival organizers, however, failed to inform international guests of their decision, leaving rumors to run rampant.

Sources said the Turkish government threatened to shut down the Antalya event and that festival brass implemented the party ban to appease them. Festival organizers deny this, saying they simply wanted to pay respect to those killed Sunday.

"There were two boys from nearby towns killed. Last night, we also canceled our affairs because it was not tasteful," said Deniz Temeltas, director of the Eurasian Film Market, the industry section of the Antalya fest.

The party ban is emblematic of one of the main challenges facing Antalya as it tries to position itself as a serious market and international festival. While the event presents a smiling cosmopolitan face to its international guests, the realities of Turkish politics are never far away. The honorary president of the festival, Menderes Turel, also is the mayor of Antalya and a member of Turkey's ruling party the AKP.

Even market director Temeltas, while emphasizing that 90% of the festival's funding comes from the private sector, couldn't resist pointing out that the PKK is a "Marxist-Leninist organization" — the government's official line.

So far, security at the festival hasn't changed in the wake of the border clashes, but that's largely because it was extremely high to begin with. All of the venues — cinemas, hotels, shopping malls — are equipped with metal detectors, and the underside of cars entering festival grounds routinely are checked for bombs.

Meanwhile, the Antalya festival wasn't the only event affected by the clashes. Events across the country, including a high-profile Beyonce concert in Istanbul scheduled for Wednesday, were put off.