Filmmakers pull out of Istanbul festival over censorship row

Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:07pm EDT
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By Can Sezer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Nearly two dozen filmmakers and a group of international critics have pulled out of the Istanbul Film Festival after the government prevented the screening of a film about Kurdish militants, in the latest outcry over censorship in Turkey.

At least 22 films from the roughly 200 submitted were withdrawn this week and the festival competition canceled, according to organizers, over "Kuzey/Bakur" (the Turkish and Kurdish words for "North") which documents the lives of militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The Ministry of Culture said in a statement on Monday the film could not be shown because the producers had failed to obtain the necessary paperwork, adding that 'PKK propaganda' had no place in a democratic society.

"It is clear that both the festival organizers and film producers did not initiate the legal process required to screen the film," the ministry said.

Festival director Azize Tan said the government rarely asked for such paperwork and did not require it from foreign film filmmakers. "What we are faced with here is an arbitrarily enforced regulation being used to prevent the screening of 'undesired' films," she said.

The International Federation of Film Critics said its members would not participate in the festival's jury.

"The Ministry of Culture's censorship harms Turkish filmmakers and the festival alike," it said in a statement.

Turkey's frequent crackdowns on political expression critical of the government's position -- including on social media -- have alarmed activists.   Continued...

A woman walks past by a banner of Istanbul Film Festival at Atlas movie theatre in Istanbul April 14, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer