An animated man stands on the side of a road. A car drives past him and a balled-up piece of paper is thrown at him. He picks it up and untwists the paper, which reveals an arrow pointing to his right. He follows the arrow's direction, walking through the countryside, which eventually turns into a city, the visual effects jarring the viewer. He reaches an airport and climbs into a plane, which takes off and drops him, and with the use of a parachute, he returns to the spot on the side of the road that he was in. Once he lands, a heavy metal object promptly squashes him. Bordering on dark humor, this is how the Ankara 27th Film Festival begins, with an animated short.
The rest of the opening night, in contrast to the short, flamboyantly played up to its theme "Sight and Sound" with a violet-hued Ayhan Sicimoğlu and Latin All Stars rocking an audience which included such big names of Turkish cinema as Türkan Şoray and Tomris Giritlioğlu. The poster for this year's festival, which is designed by Selçuk Demirel, also plays heavily on the theme with an apt illustration portraying the significance of sight.
This year's film festival celebrates the two main components to film viewing with a theme of "Sight and Sound." "When sight transforms into a show of power and domination, it becomes stronger taking the sound with it. Sometimes the visual world can be wider than the seen sight," says İpek Günver, the program assistant for the film festival. The process of choosing the films for this year's film festival was done in conjunction with the theme, with Ipek explaining that during the search process, the theme was found to be a larger concept than previously imagined. "There are a number of films, especially in the shorts section at the festival, in which sight and sound play a significant role. This is not only in the plot of the movie, but also in the way that they represent what they intend to do."
Although sight and sound are the premise for this year's festival, there are a number of other themes that come into play. One key event is called "There are Rotten Things in the Earth," which is a showing of five different versions of Hamlet in order to commemorate the 400th death anniversary of Shakespeare. The original phrase is taken from Hamlet and is called "There is something rotten in Denmark," but as İpek explained, "We figured it actually described the world, not only Denmark."
"There are Rotten Things in the Earth" commemorates Shakespeare through the screening of five versions of Hamlet, each during a different period originating from five countries including Yugoslavia, France, Finland, Germany and the U.K. The U.K version is the latest and features Benedict Cumberbatch in last year's production at the London Barbican Center. "With the new Cumberbatch stage adaptation, revisiting older Hamlets was inevitable," İpek says.
This year's festival has an additional number of key events, one of them being a question and answer session with Zelimir Zilnik, the Serbian film maker who was a key figure in the Yugoslav Black Wave, a period which saw the development of the film movement in the 1960s and 1970s. This year's festival will also play host to The Cube, which is a Multi-Sensory Virtual Reality performance by Simon Wilkinson. The Cube makes use of Oculus Rift technology as a form of storytelling. İpek explains, "The performance puts the viewer in the middle of the performance, making them a part of it."
The festival is not just a nod to the established figures in cinema but it also lends an encouraging hand to those climbing their way up the shaky creative ladder. As the chairman of the film festival, İrfan Demirkol noted during the opening ceremony. "It is not just the screening that is important to this festival but also that it supports the youth with opportunity and skills." This is shown in the festival chiefly through the workshops that are due to take place over the course of the festival. "The festival offers workshops aimed directly at future filmmakers such as an adaptation workshop with Tomris Giritlioğlu, focusing on the adaptation techniques on film and TV screenplays; a production workshop explaining what a producer really does and every single step of a feature film production technically, artistically, administratively; a workshop on the recently popular long take and camera movement; and an interactive workshop on the new form of documentary," says İpek. The question and answer sessions with filmmakers will also prove to be useful along with a walking tour of real historic Turkish films.
A number of features from previous years will be retained for this year's festival with a few of them being included in sections such as Short Without Limits, Masters and In Memoriam. Efforts in Turkish cinema are appreciated through the competitions, which are for Best Short Film, Second Best Short Film and Third Best Short Film. This is a change from previous festivals, which had films being rewarded based on genre. The prize winner for the Best Short Film will receive TL 5000, while the prize winner for the Best Documentary will receive TL 10,000 with the winners to be announced on the last day of the festival (May 8th). With a number of genres spanning the unconventional, from experimental films to children's films with an additional range of films on offer in the World Cinema section, this year's film festival covers over 100 films and artists from 47 countries with the majority of the works being the crème de la crème of 2015 and 2016. The pictures that are prized the most are documentaries, with the Ankara Film Festival being the first to provide a separate section to documentary filmmakers. The Ankara Film Festival takes place over the course of 11 days from April 28th to May 8th, and is taking place at the Goethe Institut and Büyülü Fener Sinemaları.