March 25, 2023


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The Turkish film community, devastated by the earthquake, said it needed support

4 min read

The powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake that recently struck the Turkish-Syrian border, the deadliest disaster in the region’s modern history, is not echoing much at the Berlin film festival.

At least not according to the co-chairs of Turkey’s Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival.

“The opening ceremony of the festival started with Ukraine, ended with Ukraine and touched Iran. But I don’t think they ever mentioned Turkey,” said Ahmet Boasioglu, president of the fest that has historically always been the country’s main local cinema catalyst.

Berlinale noted that his invitation to the opening ceremony included a written appeal for donations to the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders for the Turkish earthquake relief efforts.

“When I’m here, if a meeting doesn’t start with a reference to the earthquake, I feel particularly depressed. And unfortunately this is happening,” noted Basak Emre, Artistic Director of Antalya. “And we’re not feeling the support on social media either.”

Not that they mind that the Turkish film community was getting a lot of love from Berlinale and other European film festivals, even before the earthquake that at last count killed more than 43,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

“To be honest, Europe is not very interested in Turkey at the moment. We’re kind of outsiders,” says Buyacioglu. He noted that Berlin’s selection included only one Turkish film, ironically titled “Forms of Forgetting,” by experimental director Burak Sevic. He also noted that there was “not a single Turkish jury member” at the Berlinale.

Meanwhile, production in Turkey has virtually ground to a halt as top firms have sent all their caravans and light equipment to the quake site, a vast area comprising 10 cities in the southeast. And government funding “was already practically non-existent, now it will be even worse. So there will be practically no opportunity for co-production going forward,” Boasiolu noted.

Not that Turkish people are worried about movies at the moment. Boyacioğlu, who is a film journalist for the Turkish newspaper Gazet Duvar, said his editor told him he would not take anything from Berlin.

“They say films, festivals, parties are not the right time to write about. Newspapers don’t even have a culture page now,” he noted. “Everything is focused on earthquakes. What is going to happen now? who survived, and more. And it will last a while.”

Still, Boyacıoğlu and Emre have high hopes that they can organize Antalya Fest in October and donate money from ticket sales to earthquake relief.

On the Syrian side of the border, exiled Syrian filmmakers Talal Derki (“Of Fathers and Sons”) and Heba Khaled, who are premiering their new documentary “Under the Sky of Damascus” in Berlin, recall how they were on the phone with them. Co-director Ali Wajih when the tremors shook his home in the Syrian capital — more than 250 miles from the epicenter in Turkey.

The pair have sought to raise relief funds and awareness of the devastating toll of the earthquake where, after more than a decade of civil war, images of death and destruction have sadly become normalized.

But among Syrians who remain deeply divided after that brutal conflict, “something has united them — even if it’s a catastrophe,” Derky said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a positive thing, but it’s something that reminds us that we’re all Syrians.”

This was a plea that was read aloud at The Equity and Inclusion Pathways seminar held at the European Film Market. It is also doing rounds on social media.

As you already know, on February 6, there was a devastating earthquake that was felt across southeastern Turkey and Syria. In Turkey alone, 10 cities with more than 14 million people were affected by it. Thousands of buildings have been destroyed, and thousands of people are still waiting for help. There are still problems in reaching victims and sending aid to rescuers in affected areas.

To the international community of filmmakers and film companies:

We are in a situation of massive mobilization of financial and in-kind support. We are helping our international community a lot in this process. Apart from financial donations, we know from experience that the healing process will take a very long time. We kindly ask you to be aware and keep in touch with your fellow filmmakers from Turkey. Your cooperation and collaboration will be important. Filmmaking never happens alone, we are used to collective thinking. We are stronger as long as we are together.

Support us, and keep in touch with filmmakers in the region to do what you can.

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