8th Documentarist - Istanbul Documentary Days

Turkey, June 13 - June 18 2015

The jury

Bojidar Manov (Bulgaria), Arabia Lotfy (Egypt), Cagdas Günerbüyük (Turkey)

Awarded films

DOCUMENTARIST – Istanbul Documentary Days is a young film festival featuring a most ambitious program. This year its eighth edition (June 13 – 18, 2015) offered a good selection of 74 films altogether, grouped in several categories. The Turkish national selection stands out clearly as far as quantity is concerned – 29 films, quite different in form and thematic focus. However, the international participation also leaves a very good impression with the range of choice as well as the virtues of the individual films. The main selection highlights 9 titles from 14 countries (there are many co-productions), but in the other sections as well (Music and Dance Documentaries = 10 films, Women with No Name = 6 films, Country in Focus: Austria = 5 films, Tribute to Stefan Jarl = 8 films) every professional or fan of documentaries will find something special and will be able to discover modern creative documentaries.

The festival pays particular attention to young documentary makers and their films are appraised by a special five-member jury for the “Johan Van Der Keuken New Talent Award”. A three-member FIPRESCI jury awards the International Critics Prize to a film from a pre-selection made by the hosts (8 films this year to be increased to10-12 in future).

The six-day festival program featured a number of parallel events: a masterclass with Swedish director Stefan Jarl, “A General Look at Post-Yugoslavian Cinema” panel discussion, work-in-progress with Karin Ekberg, etc.

Most of the festival screenings attracted a large enough audience, predominantly of young people. The festival is essentially a showcase of films for local audiences, which is why the hall of the Shishli City Cultural Center was virtually jammed. However, a real champion for the viewers was the groundbreaking Turkish documentary North (Bakur) directed by Cayan Demirel and Ertugrul Mavioglu. Two months ago it created an uproar at the “Golden Tulip”, a big international festival in Istanbul, having been denied participation for administrative reasons. In response, the producers and directors of all officially selected films in the international and national competition refused to participate and the festival was left without an official closing ceremony and awards. The film tells at length the story of the lives of guerillas in three different camps in the Kurdish region (North) that lies within Turkish borders. Let us remind ourselves that in the present political situation (in the last parliamentary elections the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, not only made it into Parliament, but became the third political force), the film is accepted as part of this success story and a sign of strong hope for the future. The screening was incredibly successful, and after the film the director and the producer Aishe Chetinbash took the time to talk to the viewers who were enthusiastic about what they had seen.

With its sound professional background and organization (the founder and mastermind of the festival is the director Necati Sonmez), with its ambitious selection and productive work environment, DOCUMENTARIST – Istanbul Documentary Days has turned into another attractive centre not only for documentary makers, but for viewers who obviously need these ‘documentary days’ in their otherwise exhausting daily lives. (Bojidar Manov)

Documentarist – Istanbul Documentary Days: www.documentarist.org