Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

İstanbul has something few cities in the world have - a watermark that exists both thanks to and apart from its residents.

istanbul has something few cities in the world have -  a watermark that exists both thanks to and apart from its residents.
No matter how much old-timers may complain about Istanbul’s texture being spoiled, with its hundreds of years of history and culture the city has a spirit all its own.

Perhaps the riches we can no longer see, and think have been destroyed, are merely changing form today. The spirit of Istanbul can be heard and seen in the fine details, like a watermark created by its centuries of history. Istanbul is a city that embraces change, always adding something of itself, far beyond the reduction of history to nostalgia by many social scientists as lambasted of late in the local media. And perhaps one of the main reasons for that is that Istanbul has always been so closely entwined with art. In that sense, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) is an organization that has preserved Istanbul’s watermark over the last 40 years and perpetuated the city’s spirit through the events it sponsors. One of them, the 31st annual Istanbul Film Festival, got under way on March 31, and a new section called Film and Music has been added to the festival this year in honor of the İKSV’s first music festival, launched 40 years ago.

Sound, music and cinema
Sound and music are the key components that convey the emotions of a film to viewers. One has to listen to Istanbul, too, to understand its soul. As composer John Cage says, “When I hear what we call music, it seems to me that someone is talking. And talking about his feelings or about his ideas, of relationships. But when I hear traffic, I don’t have the feeling that anyone is talking, I have the feeling that a sound is acting, and I love the activity of sound.” Istanbul too reflects its dynamism naturally in its streets, creating a universal culture in which you can hear its multicultural structure as well as melodies from all over the world. Art critic Hasan Bülent Kahraman likens the cinema to a primitive ritual. And indeed cinema conjures up an atmosphere in which we enter a dark room in groups to watch shadows flickering on a screen. Then, escaping consciously or unconsciously from the pressures of everyday life, we see the beauty that surrounds us or confront our fears, passing in the end into a transcendental state in which we are cut off from this world. After watching a film, our perceptions can sometimes be altered in a way that briefly changes our life. This is the state of heightened awareness created by art, especially by cinema. And the International Istanbul Film Festival contributes to it by bringing the finest examples of cinema right to our feet. If we accept and embrace Istanbul just as Istanbul accepts us, warts and all, we can forge a relationship both with each other and with our city based on mutual love and respect. And the way to do this, until April 15 anyway, lies in seeing the films selected for us by the Istanbul International Film Festival.

Film and music on the 40th anniversary
It is perhaps a happy coincidence that The Artist won this year’s Oscar for Best Film. For it reminded us how powerful narrative was in a period when gestures and music were used with almost no dialogue at all during the silent film era. This year when the importance of music in film has been freshly engraved in our minds, the musical of Pink Floyd’s album, The Wall, directed by Alan Parker, is among the 5 films in the section, Film and Music.

Competitions, prizes and juries
Eleven films that are either literary adaptations or treat the theme of art and artists are being shown in the festival’s international competition this year. Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan is jury chairman for the competition, which carries a prize of 25,000 euros.
Among the films attracting attention in the international competition are director Emin Alper’s first film, Behind the Hill, which won the Caligari Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, and Zeki Demirkubuz’s most recent film, Underground. Also among the films competing are Belmin Söylemez’s Present Time, Mizgin Müjde Arslan’s I Flew, You Stayed, and Veli Kahraman’s, Where Is My Mother Tongue?, all of which will be making their world premieres.

New sections, new excitement
Besides the special Film and Music section in honor of the 40th anniversary, the Istanbul International Film Festival has also added a few other new sections this year. One of them, ‘Shooting the Film of the Revolution’, features films based on the events known as the Arab Spring that left its stamp on 2011. Some other new sections include:  A Chinese Cinema Tradition: WuXia, which brings viewers a selection of Chinese films such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in the Year of Chinese Culture in Turkey; a section called What’s Happening in Greece, featuring examples of the New Greek Cinema; and a section titled Within the Family, which offers 8 films about family relations, a category of growing interest in recent years.