Sundance debuts on the Bosphorus at Istanbul film fest

Fri Feb 25, 2011 7:12am EST
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By Ayla Jean Yackley

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's biggest independent film festival !f celebrates its 10th anniversary this month by showcasing films and directors from the Sundance Film Festival, the grand dame of independent cinema.

Among the hits that premiered at Sundance now showing in Istanbul are Oscar-nominated "Winter's Bone," an Ozark Mountain girl's coming-of-age tale, and "Four Lions," British director Chris Morris' black comedy about Islamic militants.

"Amreeka," in which a Palestinian mother and son immigrate to suburban Chicago, is part of the Sundance Institute's new touring program. Film Forward aims to unite U.S. filmmakers with their international peers at workshops and screenings.

Director Cherien Dabis developed the script at a Sundance screenwriting lab in 2005 in Jordan, and is now in Istanbul at !f, one of 14 stops for Film Forward, to share her experience.

"We've been sort of flirting with Sundance for the last few years. They have wanted to do more work in this region," said Pelin Turgut, !f co-founder and co-director.

After a decade, !f is a landmark event on Istanbul's culture calendar. Ten days of film screenings are accompanied by talent camps, parties, lectures, debates and an acclaimed short film competition that has seen submissions rise 20-fold, says Turgut.

Audience numbers have nearly quadrupled to 70,000, she says.

The festival coincides with a renaissance in Turkish film. After a 1980 military coup and subsequent crackdown, the industry, which once rivaled Bollywood in the number of films it produced each year, largely stagnated, along with other forms of cultural expression.   Continued...