On Thursday, 2 September, the third edition of Taste of Anatolia – Films from Turkey gets underway. This year, the festival is screening 38 movies, the vast majority of them making their UK premiere.
As Britain’s only independent Turkish film festival, this four day event offers Turkish cinema lovers the chance to see a highly diverse selection of movies from both established and emerging directors.
The festival programme, announced at the weekend, includes short and full length feature films, fiction and documentaries, which between them address a myriad of themes.
There are hard-hitting social issues, such as life as a refugee in Turkey, a queer romance between two women that tears down a Turkish taboo (topical given the recent abuse Turkish volleyball star Ebrar Karakurt had to endure over her sexuality).
One film puts the spotlight on unusual traditions involving sacred fish, while another is a throwback to Turkey’s erotic film industry through the eyes of a retired actress. Hollywood actor Numan Acar, and Netflix favourites Birkan Sokullu and Alican Yücesoy are among those starring.
“Thanks to streaming during this long lockdown, our consumption of Turkish films in Britain has grown. The 3rdedition of Taste of Anatolia – Films From Turkey aims to build on this interest with an exciting programme of award-winning independent Turkish movies, many of them making their UK premiere through the festival”, said festival director Yeşim Güzelpınar.
“For four days, Taste of Anatolia puts the spotlight on life in Turkey: a selection of 38 films that span hard-hitting social issues through to romance and comedy, which viewers can watch at their leisure and for free,” Güzelpınar continued.
What’s on at this year’s Taste of Anatolia – Films from Turkey
The full Taste of Anatolia – Films from Turkey 2021 festival programme is available on the Home Page of BalıkArtsTV.com Highlights include:
- In The Shadows (dir. Erdem Tepegöz) is about a miner who begins to doubt the system he lives under and the omnipresent surveillance of ‘The Officials’ after the death of a co-worker. The lead role stars Turkish-German actor Numan Acar, who has played in numerous TV hit series, such as Homeland and Prison Break, and blockbuster movies Aladdin, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and In the Fade – Fatih Akın’s hard-hitting docudrama about neo-Nazis in Germany.
- Ali̇’s Nature (Ali̇’ni̇n Tabi̇ati, Levent Çeti̇n) takes place in an isolated Anatolian village where fish are traditionally regarded as sacred: when they die, they are buried with prayers in a special cemetery.
- Love, Spells and All That is about the love between two women, a taboo topic in Turkish society and cinema. It’s directed by legendary Yeşilçam (Turkish equivalent of Hollywood) filmmaker Ümit Ünal, and also covers class differences in Turkey. Leading actresses Selen Uçer and Ece Dizdar won the Best Actress award in several film festivals.
- Another documentary, 7 Kybeles (dir. Orhan Tekeoğlu), tells the story of seven women from seven different regions of Turkey, each looking for a way to escape poverty and live a dignified life where they can stand on their own two feet.
- Omar and Us (dir. Maryna Er Gorbach, Mehmet Bahadır Er) is a tale about a retired Turkish soldier re-examining his view of the world after becoming neighbours with two refugees.
- In the short Best Actress (dir. Umut Alaz Kökçü), British-born Turkish actress 66-year-old Suna Yıldızoğlu, who has played opposite Turkish cinema greats Cüneyt Arkın, Kemal Sunal, and Zeki Alasya, stars as a retired erotic star from 70s Turkey.
The directors of Chronology, La Belle Indifference, and Invisible to the Eye represent the talented, younger generation in Turkish cinema, who place emphasis on idiosyncratic narrative and striking cinematography.
- Chronology (dir. Ali Aydın) Hakan and Nihal have been married for several years. Shortly after discovering Nihal is unable to have children, she disappears. While frantically searching for Nihal, Hakan makes some unexpected discoveries about himself and their marriage. Stars actor Birkan Sokullu, who hit prominence in Netflix’s docudrama Rise of Empires: Ottoman.
- La Belle Indifference (dir. Kıvanç Sezer) is an absurd comedy drama (main picture, top) about an unemployed man who becomes indifferent not only to his wife’s anxieties, but also to the world around him. Another Netflix favourite, Alican Yücesoy (Ethos, Leyla Everlasting) is in the leading role.
- In Invisible to the Eye (dir. Zeynep Dadak), a hypothetical meeting between Eremya Çelebi Kömürciyan, an 18thcentury İstanbul-born Armenian intellectual, and modern-day historian Cemal Kafadar takes place. Half documentary half fiction, it invites the audience to think about Istanbul, a cultural hub for diverse civilisations for centuries, which has been vandalised in recent times.
How to watch TOA movies
Due to the pandemic, all 38 films screening at Taste of Anatolia (TOA) are being shown online this year. The good news is they are all free to watch on BalıkArtsTV.com for registered viewers in the United Kingdom. Many films will also be available to international audiences.
All movies showing at TOA 2021 will be available for viewing on BalıkArtsTV.com from the early hours of Thursday 2September until midnight on Sunday 5 September.
Bulak, a short film about Somalians who flee their country for Turkey, is also screening at this year’s festival
Taste of Anatolia – Films from Turkey was launched in Cambridge in 2018, creating a dedicated public platform in Britain to showcase films from Turkey.
Using its base in the East of England, TOA aims to reach the large British Turkish community outside of London, while also helping to diversify the scope of world cinema available to UK audiences.
TOA is an important cultural event for people in Britain whose origins are from Turkey and North Cyprus, while also giving them a platform for greater visibility and voice.
The festival not only seeks to promote a collective communal experience, but also to stimulate debate and discussion between different communities. It aims to bring real insight into the complexity of Turkey, and its diverse peoples and cultures to audiences in the East of England and beyond, and to challenge the negative misconceptions about the country.
TOA also seeks to advance employment opportunities for young people with an interest in film and film events through training and volunteering opportunities in areas such as programming, marketing, fundraising, hospitality, and screenings.
Most of those involved with this year’s TOA are young people under the age of 25, who are gaining first-hand experience of running a film festival. They’ve been involved in the film submissions process, which this year had a record 1,469 submissions from around the world. The team were at the heart of the official selection, festival marketing (from poster design to newsletters and social media) and the technical production of it.
About Balık Arts
TOA is the creation of Balık Arts, a British film charity established in 1999. Initially its work focussed on helping young people from Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot communities to integrate into Britain.
Over the past decade, its remit has expanded to incorporate transnational exchanges and cultural projects for people of all backgrounds and ages. These include Film With A View, (Datça, Turkey), Music Beyond Borders (Istanbul and Cambridge), and Back to the Roots, Back to Your Origins – a transnational film recycling project held in London, Berlin, Paris and Datça/Muğla.
Post-pandemic, Balık Arts will run youth film projects in Italy and the Caribbean.