Turkish Dramas Win at Oldenburg Festival

The Apprentice Turkish Film
Courtesy of the Oldenburg Film Festival

Emre Konuk’s 'The Apprentice' and Ruken Tekes' 'The Circle' earn honors at Germany's leading indie film fest.

At a time when their home country is descending further into political turmoil, two Turkish filmmakers received major awards at the Oldenburg International Film Festival, which concluded Sunday.

Emre Konuk’s drama The Apprentice, about a modern-day Bartleby who descends into paranoia when he’s forced to make changes to his daily routine, won Oldenburg’s German Independent Award, the festival's top honor, while first-time director Ruken Tekes scored with The Circle, an intimate portrait of social and racial oppression of Kurds in Turkey, which won the prize for best short film.

Oldenburg's Seymour Cassel Award, which honors outstanding achievements in acting, was split, with French actress Nomie Merlant sharing the honor with German veteran Andre Hennicke. Merlant won for her turn as a freshly orphaned teenager on an odyssey through South Africa in Christophe Lioud's Twisting Fate, while Hennicke got the nod for his performance as a former porn actor confronted with unknown progeny in Strawberry Bubblegums, from director Benjamin Teske, which was the fest's opening-night film.

Oldenburg's closing night also included the announcement of the nominees for this year's European Discovery – Prix FIPRESCI, the honor presented by both the European Film Academy and the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) to the best first feature from a European director.

This year's nominees include Bogdan Mirica’s Dogs from Romania, Jules Herrmann’s Liebmann from Germany, Elite Zexer’s Israeli drama Sandstorm, the black-and-white Finnish feature The Happiest Day in the Life of Ollie Maki by Juho Kuosmanen and Svetla Tsotsorkova’s Thirst from Bulgaria.

The European Discovery winner will be announced Dec. 10 at the European Film Awards in Wroclaw, Poland.

The Oldenburg awards ceremony was followed by a screening of Joachim Lafosse's marriage drama After Love, which stars Berenice Bejo and Cedric Kahn as an alienated couple trying to find out how they can financially justify their long-overdue separation.

Oldenburg, lovingly described as the biggest little festival in Europe, has markedly perked up in its 23rd edition, due in no small part to the star wattage of Nicolas Cage, who visited the event for the first time and caused quite a frenzy in the usually quiet town.

Other notable guests included actress Amanda Plummer, French director Christophe Honore and actress Sonja Kinski, granddaughter of the late legendary actor/enfant terrible Klaus Kinski.