Commentary: Turkish fests make use of regional beauty

Stars enjoy the scene at the Eurasia and Golden Orange fests

ANTALYA, Turkey -- The headquarters of last week's 45th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival and fourth International Eurasia Film Festival could easily have been mistaken for the space station in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." Think whitewashed everything -- right down to the uniforms of the ubiquitous staff at the five-star Hillside Su hotel.

It was enough to put Adrien Brody in mind of a different venue entirely.

"I want to thank the festival for putting me up in a sanitarium," he joked while presenting the closing-night film, "The Brothers Bloom."

Running parallel, the Eurasia and Golden Orange fests made the most of the new- and old-world delights of this seaside resort, with galas playing in a theater with a red, fortress-like facade and spectacular ceremonies held in historic amphitheaters. This included the closing-night festivities, the equivalent of Oscar night for the Turkish industry.

Enjoying the exotic scene were Kevin Spacey, Mickey Rourke, Danny Glover, Michael York, Marisa Tomei and Matthew Modine. Add in jury members Joan Chen, Cameron Bailey and Paul Verhoeven, and there might have been more celebs here than in Venice back in September.

The stars' presence -- many took home awards -- is part of a drive to up the international profile of an event that began four years ago when Turkish media body TURSAK launched the internationally flavored Eurasia fest and its market. Meanwhile, the focus of the Golden Orange, Turkey's oldest film festival, remains on local fare.

Several of the Hollywood players led master classes, including Spacey, who on closing night urged the Turkish government to give all the support necessary to make sure "Hollywood comes to Turkey" and not vice versa.

Taking that as his cue, Minister of Culture and Tourism Ertugrul Gunay said that Turkey will have 35 Turkish film weeks around the globe next year and be present for the first time next month at AFM.

In his class, Maximilian Schell regaled audiences with tales of old Hollywood, old Russia and the rooftops of Istanbul, where he had his own Turkish adventure filming "Topkapi." The Swiss actor took the opportunity to lambast the U.S. government, saying he refused to live in the U.S. as long as George W. Bush was president.

Turkish politics also were in the spotlight as the NETPAC award for best Asian film went to Ozcan Alper's feature debut, "Autumn," about life in a Turkish prison. The prize resounded strongly with local audiences after a killing here two weeks ago.

Sixteen Turkish titles competed for the Golden Orange awards, Turkey's top film prize. Brit helmer Ben Hopkins' "The Market -- A Tale of the Trade" took the best film prize.

Turkish director Dervis Zaim won multiple prizes, including best director for "Dot," which follows a man's quest for redemption. Other Turkish talent competing included Cemal San with "Dilber's Eight Days," Semih Kaplanoglu with "Milk," Mehmet Gureli with the drama "Shadow" and Erden Kiral with "Conscience."

The Eurasia festival featured 12 competition entries, with the best film prize going to Karim Dridi's French entry "Khamsa." Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda won best director for "Still Walking."

Earlier in the week, the third edition of the Eurasia Film Market attracted players from Kimmel Entertainment to Kinowelt and featured the second Eurasian Production Platform, which chose 26 projects to present. Veteran Asian marketer Michael Werner was honored with a Contribution to Cinema and Art Award.

"Since the studios moved into Europe and the advent of local production, it is no longer a third-world destination but a honeymoon location," Eurasian Production Platform director Denis Ziya Temeltas said. "The one-way production process is becoming two-way."

In all, 72 Turkish films were produced last year, with the Turkish boxoffice raking in about $210 million. Recent success stories include Omer Vargi's tale of a reformed bully, "Kabadayi" ($15 million gross); Turkish-German helmer Fatih Akin's drama "Yasamin Kiyisinda" ($5 million); and Mahsun Kirmizigul's drama "Beyaz Melek," which brought in $16 million locally.

Beyond such festival favorites as Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Huseyin Karabey, hot properties in Turkey include actor Cem Yilmaz, whose last film, "G.O.R.A.," grossed $30 million; director Cagan Irmak, whose "My Father My Son" clocked $20 million; and the franchise "Valley of the Wolves," a controversial, anti-American spinoff of a popular television series.

The latest installment, "Valley of the Wolves: Iraq," was the No. 1 film at the Turkish boxoffice last year.