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Istanbul International Film Festival 25th anniversary wrap

The 25th Istanbul International Film Festival celebrated its Silver Anniversary by hosting a bevy of French Stars (Jeanne Moreau, Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve) and presenting a marathon review of world and, especially, Turkish cinema during the two and a half week run from April 1 to April 17. The fest opened on a slightly sour note when French superstar Alain Delon, invited to receive a life time award on opening night, pulled a No-Show for "very personal reasons". Actress Isabelle Huppert, being honored with a ten film retrospective, was also unable to attend because of a current shoot going on in Belgium. There was, nevertheless, a strong French presence to add spice to the special festival section entitled "French Spring in Istanbul". In the first week a true "monstre sacre" of the French cinema -- one whom Orson Welles called "the greatest actress in the world" --Jeanne Moreau (78!), showed up to host her
latest film, "Le temps qui reste" (dir. Francois Ozon) while the closing night ceremony was attended, a last minute surprise, by both Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu. In addition veteran French director Bernard Blier ("Buffet Froid", etc.) gave a master class and hosted three of his own films. French director Jean-Paul Rappeneau was head of the international jury and warmly greeted his old friends Deneuve and Depardieu from the stage at the awards closer. The entrance of the two French stars to the auditorium was greeted with a feeding frenzy of Turkish photogs -- only to be expected. Depardieu, true to his image of wild man from the country, was appareled under a baggy black suit, in a crumpled white shirt open at the neck and hanging out over the sides of his pants -- as if he had just thrown it on five minutes before in a rush to get there on time. No matter. As he took the stage to receive his life achievement award he was all grace and elegance. Starting out in English he quickly switched to French stating that this was his very first time in Istanbul, that he was pleased to see that the cinema is so much alive in this city, and that he considered his prize here as a 'grand honneur'. His final words, "Hope to see you soon in Paris, or in France" were greeted with a stormy ovation and another photog attack as he descended the stage. Catherine Deneuve has been to Turkey before and was more restrained in her acceptance. An interesting selection of clips from the films of the two stars were shown and then the pair were hustled off to a private reception at the French consulate as the gala Turkish crowd adjourned to the Hotel Marmara for their own closing party.

In all the festival presented 219 films at five tightly spaced venues along the main walking street, Istiklal, just off Taksim Square which is basically the city center -- at least of the entertainment district. The main
festival sections were; International Competition, 11 films/ New Turkish films in competition, 9 films/GALA screenings of recent international favorites, 10 films/ Outstandin films from other leading festivals in 2005,
26 films/Masters of the Future, 10 fils/ "Mined Zone", Groundbreaking films outside of the mainstream, 10 films/ "Freedom to women", 7 films/ Human Rights in Cinema, 11 titles/ Documentary Time with NTV, 9 films/ FRENCH SPRING, 12 films/Isabelle Huppert Retrospective, 10 films/ Golden films from the 25 years of the festrival, 25 films/ Turkish festival prize winners of past years, 24 films/ plus various other sidebars -- animation from Australia, two silent films with orchestral accompaniment, Rosselini tribute, Roeg tribute, etc.
During my 12 days in Istanbul I managed to see a grand total of 42 films, concentrating as much as possible on the Turkish cinema -- new and old -- 17 films seen, on the French titles offered, ans "playing catchup" with other major festival films I somehow managed to miss last year. To say the least it was a cornucopia, with the main discovery being the Turkish films of the eighties which was apparently a minor golden age for the then emerging cinema of this country. Reviews of films ogled at Istanmbul 2006 will
follow in subsequent reports.

Alex, Seattle
18 April, 2006

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