February 25, 2024

Turkey’s Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, the country’s top international film event, has been canceled due political pressure following a storm of controversy prompted by the presence of an explosive documentary in the lineup.

The doc, titled “Decree” and directed by Nejla Demirci, is about the plight of a doctor and a teacher who were fired from their government jobs under a state of emergency declared after a failed attempted coup on July 15, 2016, in Turkey. On that day a group of Turkish soldiers using tanks, warplanes and helicopters launched a plot to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan immediately blamed his former ally, U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is in exile in the U.S. and has denied these allegations. Subsequently more than 130,000 alleged Gulen supporters in Turkey were fired from their jobs under an emergency purge following the military uprising.

Antalya Mayor Muhittin Bocek (pictured above) announced the fest’s cancellation on Friday evening, after the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry withdrew its support for the event, saying that it would “not be part of the effort to discredit the epic struggle of our beloved nation on July 15 and to use art as an element of provocation.”

The Antalya fest’s artistic director Başak Emre confirmed to Variety in a text message that the event – scheduled to run Oct. 7-14 – has been scrapped after lots of back and forth about the inclusion of “Decree” in the selection.

Festival organizers a few days ago had agreed to pull the “Decree” doc following claims that there were pending legal issues. This, in turn, sparked a fusillade of fire within Turkey’s film community with several jury members stepping down and many local directors pulling their titles from the lineup in protest.

“Decree” was then re-included in the selection, at which point the government withdrew its financial support. Then on Friday, the mayor, who is a member of the opposition, decided to cancel the 60th edition and fire festival president Ahmet Boyacioglu and artistic director Emre, blaming them of mishandling this highly sensitive situation.

Political turbulence and boycotts by Turkish filmmakers over hot potato issues are nothing new at the Antalya fest, but this is the first time that politics have caused the prestigious fest to be canceled outright.

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