Independent film in İstanbul

!f İstanbul doesn’t just screen independent films for cinema buffs. Since last year it has also become a production venue through the feature film program conducted in conjunction with sundance institute.

Michelle Satter and Alesia Walton, directors of Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program launched by Robert Redford in 1981, talked about the past, present and future of independent film and their expectations of !f Istanbul.

What should one think of when he/she hears the term “Independent Film”?
“Independent Film” has been used to describe films in the US that are made outside the studio system. Sundance Institute is interested in the idea of defining Independent Film as films being made by artists who have significant control over the creation and final vision of the film. We support independent spirit, independent vision, and the singular, distinctive work of artists who are telling stories that offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles.

Lately there are lots of emerging Turkish film makers and directors worldwide such as Reha Erdem, Seyfi Teoman and Nuri Bilge Ceylan. What do you think is the cause of this paradigm shift in Turkish cinema? Are Turkish film makers and directors becoming more universal, or is there a tendency towards more ethnic issues on the global scene?
Indeed, Turkish films have had an expanded presence on the world stage in recent years.  In some ways, even purely in terms of scale, they have become more accessible to world audiences than the more ubiquitous traditional Turkish films, which are made for local audiences. Although the films have not compromised any of their specificity, their success is largely due to the quality of these films, which stand out as some of the best in World Cinema today. 

Feature Film Program is one of the longest-running programs of Sundance Institute. What are your expectations of the collaboration if !f İstanbul Film Festival? What do you see in the future?
We are committed to supporting the launch and development of the Screenwriters Lab with !f  and expect that the program will continue without our direct support - in subsequent years. These programs are always designed with room to adapt our model to the place, its individual culture and the specific needs of the local film world.  And of course, we hope this plays a part in creating a safe space for artists to engage in creative dialogue with others from around the world and develop their independent vision to its full potential.

Are there other international film festivals you’re collaborating with? Which ones are the most promising?
Sundance Feature Film Program has been working with The Royal Film Commission of Jordan in support of filmmakers from the Middle East for a number of years and is currently working with Mahindra Mumbai Mantra on the first Screenwriters lab in India. We have also collaborated on smaller screenwriters programs in Istanbul (with !F) and in Tel Aviv. Sundance Film Festival will also launch Sundance London, a weekend of independent films and music in April 2012.

In general what were the main reasons for your association with !f İstanbul Film Festival?
Our interest in working with !f İstanbul Film Festival is twofold. We are excited by the quality of emerging talent from the region and by content that reflects one of the most dynamic places (countries) in the world. We are also interested in supporting the capacity of an organization like !f which, like Sundance,  is committed to supporting the development of young artists.          

Some FFP alumni and their films
1992 - Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.
1998 - Walter Salles’ Central Station.
2000 - Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream.
2001 - Lucretia Marston’s La Ciénega.
2004 - Joshua Marston’s Maria Full of Grace.
2006 - Andrea Arnold’s Red Road.
2006 - Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s Half Nelson.
2009 - Cary Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre.
2009 - Cherien Dabis’s Amreeka.
2011 - Sean Durkin’s Martha Macy May Marlene.

What is the feature film program?
The Feature Film Program provides aspiring young film makers with a workshop, housing, an allowance and other support for an entire year. Working with emerging artists to develop their screenplays and connect with audiences, it has produced a model frequently emulated around the world. Besides focusing on the future of independent film, it aims to build bridges between peoples and set up dynamic partnerships between artists from different cultures in a rapidly connecting world.