Hülya Avşar, the actress/singer and talk show host who created a buzz in Turkish cinema circles when it was first announced that she would preside over this year’s jury, spoke to members of the press at a packed news conference on Tuesday afternoon in İstanbul to address the controversy surrounding her role as head of the jury.
Following the festival’s appointment of Avşar in mid-July, some people in Turkey’s film circles argued that her celebrity status would overshadow her duties as a judge, while others criticized the festival committee’s selection on the grounds that the panel lacked an established filmmaker. The debate over the jury peaked when video artist/filmmaker Kutluğ Ataman and comedian Levent Kırca announced they were withdrawing from the jury, with Kırca citing Avşar’s “lack of cinema and world knowledge” as his reason.
Tuesday’s press conference was Avşar’s first public appearance following her appointment as head of the 13-member panel. Avşar began her eagerly anticipated statement by saying how honored she was to be selected for the jury.
She later went on to explain the jury’s criteria in choosing the winners from among the 11 titles in the national competition. During her detailed account, Avşar also noted that she would work to avoid the kinds of controversies that had surrounded the award-winning titles in the festival’s previous years, adding that this year’s jury would formally cite their reasons for each award category.
“Citing the reason for an award is not a first [in Altın Portakal’s history], but a lot of people were uncomfortable with the [previous] juries’ decisions because of a lack of adequate [explanation]. This brought with it countless debates in past festivals. This year we will not allow such debates,” she added.
The members of the jury drew these conclusions in a two-hour meeting ahead of Tuesday’s news conference, Avşar said, adding, “I realize I’m facing a really tough jury,” referring to the diversity of the panel’s members. “Frankly, even I am already curious about the results [of the competition]. This is something that both pleases and scares me,” she said.
Asked how she would respond to the controversy over her presidency, Avşar said, “What I’m doing right now already serves as an answer to those debates.”
The 48-year-old Avşar, in an onscreen career that began in 1983, has played leading roles 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.
Other members of the 49th Altın Portakal’s national feature competition jury are Turkish film director/scriptwriter Barış Pirhasan, US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences member Barbara Boyle, Turkish 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.
The panel will decide on the winners of Golden Orange statuettes from among 11 shortlisted titles, nine of which are debut features. This year marks a record number of first films in the festival’s national competition.
The Altın Portakal International Film Festival will mark its 49th edition from Oct. 6-12 in the Mediterranean province of Antalya with “Humor, Opposition and Democracy” as its main theme.