The Altın Portakal (Golden Orange) International Film Festival in Antalya was the top topic of debate among Turkey’s cinema circles late on Monday and on Tuesday morning as two of this year’s national feature competition jury members withdrew shortly after the jury was announced Monday afternoon.
The judging panel, to be headed by actress-singer and talk show host Hülya Avşar (whose presidency was announced last week), will include screenwriter Levent Kazak, director of photography Uğur İçbak, Professor Gülseren Güçhan, an academic in the field of cinema, actors Selçuk Yöntem and Sümer Tilmaç, singer-actress Ayşegül Aldinç, actress Pelinsu Pir, Tunca Arslan, the president of the Turkish Film Critics Association (SİYAD), journalist-author Mine Kırıkkanat and cartoonist Erdil Yaşaroğlu.
Contemporary artist Kutluğ Ataman, best known for his video art work, and actor Levent Kırca, best recognized for his political satire shows on Turkish television, both withdrew within hours of the announcement, although both cited different reasons.
Kırca said on Monday he was opting out because he didn’t believe “Hülya Avşar has enough cinema and world knowledge” to chair a film festival jury. Kırca continued: “Hers should have been the last name to come to [the organizers’] minds for such a duty. So I’m opting out.”
Kırca’s explanation caused outrage among those who are supportive of Avşar, as well as irking Ataman, who also opted out, but for an entirely different reason -- because of his work schedule.
Ataman tweeted on Tuesday morning that rumors he was withdrawing from the Antalya jury because of Avşar’s presidency had nothing to do with the real reason, adding in another tweet minutes later: “Criticizing Hülya Avşar’s jury presidency is nothing but the snobbery of an ignorant intellectual of a backward country. Go get them girl! We love you!”
Discussions first sparked on Monday afternoon on social media -- mainly on Twitter -- when movie professionals and film critics got the curious news that this year’s jury was made up of some 13 members, to be headed by Avşar.
The Radikal daily’s film critic, Şenay Aydemir, tweeted on Monday, “We cannot call the Altın Portakal jury ‘consistent’ but I assume we could call it ‘balanced’.”
Avşar’s presiding over the national feature competition jury was announced last Friday, also causing reaction from film circles. Avşar, in an onscreen career that began in 1983, has been the lead actress in dozens of titles. “Salkım Hanım’ın Taneleri” (Mrs. Salkım’s Diamonds), a 1999 drama directed by Tomris Giritlioğlu, remains Avşar’s most critically acclaimed onscreen work.
Film critic Ömür Gedik told the Hürriyet daily on Friday that she believed “Avşar’s cinematic [persona] will be in the forefront throughout the Altın Portakal film festival.” “I’m guessing that Avşar will surprise those who will be expecting sensational statements from her during the festival,” she added.
Veteran critic Atilla Dorsay, who writes for the Sabah daily, was also supportive of Avşar on Friday. “Avşar is an actress who has been in countless movies and has made history with some of her film roles. I cannot see any reason why she shouldn’t be the president or a member of the jury,” Dorsay told Hürriyet.
Serdar Akbıyık of the Star daily seemed more uncomfortable with Avşar’s celebrity status: “Avşar ... is an actress who has shown great success in her film roles. Her performances in the films ‘Berlin Berlin’ and ‘72. Koğuş’ [72nd Ward] shouldn’t be overlooked. But there’s one problem: Her celebrity persona outweighs her cinematic persona. ... Couldn’t Altın Portakal find someone else [to head the jury]?”
Organized by the Greater Antalya Municipality and the Antalya Foundation for Culture and Art (AKSAV), the 49th Altın Portakal International Film Festival will run from Oct. 6-12 in the Mediterranean province with “Humor, Opposition and Democracy” as its main theme. Hungarian auteur István Szabó will head the international competition jury at the festival.