YEFA Awards: a Yeşilçam-flavored, poignant comedy

June 06, 2012, Wednesday/ 17:12:00

The fact that Turkish cinema has still not turned into an institutionalized industry was highlighted once again in Monday night’s First Yeşilçam Film Academy (YEFA) Awards.

The fact that the awards ceremony at the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall (CRRKS) included even more comedic elements than the popular TRT comedy “Leyla ile Mecnun” (Leyla and Mecnun), which was being aired the same night, should be blamed on this un-institutionalized structure.

The ceremony had an atmosphere only a tad better than a reunion of people from the same town. Arguably, even in those kinds of reunions it would be difficult to find this many flaws in the event, however hard you try.

The YEFA Awards were such a big disappointment that they might even alienate the very members of cinema labor unions that organized the awards ceremony who went to the CRRKS on Monday night with high hopes from the concept of “movie awards.”

Public relations is a key element in these kinds of events and there was no PR involved in the event, so there was no press release or any kind of material for the press whatsoever. Journalists who came to cover the ceremony searched in vain for a contact who could hand them a piece of paper on which the award categories were written.

Even the catering ahead of the ceremony, which could at least gain the organizers some points, turned the pre-awards atmosphere at the CRRKS into one akin to a countryside wedding.

Add to this an old man from one of the cinema labor unions trying to announce to the guests at the foyer from the stairs -- albeit unsuccessfully -- that the ceremony was about to start, and the picture of a disastrous awards ceremony is complete.

The most striking scenes of this poignant comedy, however, took place during the ceremony itself. The first big surprise was a previously unheard-of award category titled “Gişe Kıran” (Box Office Smasher), which was given to the comedy “Eyyvah Eyvah 2.”

In the meantime, it should be noted that the awards have one of the worst logo and trophy designs ever, which is the outcome of a simple idea that the word Yeşilçam (literally “green pine”) evokes the image of, well, a pinecone.

Here in Turkey we are not unaccustomed to flaws in all kinds of events -- from the most high profile to the smallest -- but the flaws in the First YEFA Awards all came bundled up together. Onscreen footage mix-ups, troubles with sound, a mix-up of cards prepared for the show’s hosts, the hosts not knowing what to do… And finally, well into the 25th minute of the ceremony, everything fell apart. Engin Altan Düzyatan (the actor who co-hosted the show with Şebnem Dönmez), one of the onstage “victims” of the ceremony, declaring, “It has all turned into a mess now,” was living proof that the entire event had become one big burlesque. The show’s hosts finally gave up on trying to cover up the troubles with jokes. In the meantime, Ayce Kartal, a 35-year-old male short film maker whose “Magnus Nottingham” won the best short film award, was mistakenly announced during all this mess as “Miss Ayçe” -- which was one of the more innocent mistakes of the night.

After that, it was the turn of Memet Ali Alabora, the president of the Actors’ Union, to take up the duty of dealing with the mess with his usual witty style: “We chose this year’s theme to be ‘Disorganization in Turkey’ and so we prepared a show in line with that theme. Next year’s theme will be ‘[event] Organization in Turkey’.” Yet even this self-mocking confidence was not enough to save them.

Only one thing could make people forget about the huge mess: calls for secularism, Atatürkism and singing the “10th Year March” altogether! No kidding, except for the march, the others really did take place when actress Rüçhan Çalışkur took to the stage to accept her best actress trophy for her role in the biopic “Türkan,” in which she plays the late Türkan Saylan. “My heart has been hurting for a while. Thank you for taking away this hurt and replacing it with joy,” said Çalışkur, adding: “I dedicate this award to Türkan Saylan and those who think like her, to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, to independent art and artists.”

Yet at the end of the day, neither the “Academy” nor the labor unions who organized the awards should be seen as the only ones to blame for what happened. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Beyoğlu Municipality, which withdrew almost all of its support for the awards, are equally responsible. If only the dispute between the unions and the Yeşilçam Awards’ previous organizers hadn’t taken place at all. But after the rightful requests from the labor unions were disregarded and the disagreement between the involved parties turned into a showdown, this result was inevitable.

What we witnessed on Monday night was not a picture of how “disorganized” a group of labor unions can be but rather a Yeşilçam-style comedy that poignantly portrayed how Turkish cinema has succeeded in not being able to develop into an industry to date.

To those who still argue that the “awarding process was fair,” the answer comes from Ömer Faruk Sorak, the director of the romantic comedy “Aşk Tesadüfleri Sever” (Love Likes Coincidences), which won the award for Best Digital Effect, despite the film not involving any digital effects, via Twitter: “Thanks to the YEFA Awards, who didn’t invite us to the awards ceremony and awarded our film a prize in an [irrelevant] category.”

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