Resisting and challenging the status quo
Established in early 2015, the New Film Fund is the product of joint domestic and international efforts on behalf of independent filmmaking in Turkey. It financed four films from Turkey shown at this year’s DOK. Güzel, Callioglu and Yücel are all connected somehow in such efforts.
"We are trying to make it more systematic for filmmakers that there is a fund [for which] they can apply every year twice", Güzel said, adding that with the quality of the films being produced and the opportunity to screen them, "we see that there is a reason for what we do". Even if the amounts given to each film do not cover all costs, it is an important incentive also for the filmmakers to obtain further funding, she pointed out.
The New Film Fund’s supporters and partners are listed as the Turkish branch of George Soros’s Open Society Foundation (Açik Toplum Vafki); the U.S. Department of State; the Istanbul-based company Atlas Post Production; the Turkish institution Anadolu Kültür; and the !f Istanbul Independent Film Festival, in which Yücel has been involved as catalogue editor.
"Within one year, the fund really established itself, and is now one of the key resources and it has an amazing lineup of films", Calafato said, referring to it as probably "the only independent film fund in Turkey".
In London, Callioglu runs the production company ARTvoltage. It currently represents "I Remember" and "Audience Emancipated: The Struggle for the Emek Movie Theater". The latter had its world premiere at DOK and was one of the four Country Focus films featured there to receive support from the New Film Fund.
As its title suggests, "Audience Emancipated" depicts efforts to save the Emek Theatre, a key historical landmark in Istanbul, starting in 2010. Yücel, part of the team heading the project, said the film had no directors or producers, but was based on "collected footage from the activist people who were involved in this struggle".
Developers, backed by Turkish authorities, were trying to turn the 100-year-old theatre into a shopping mall, and succeeded. However, the protests snowballed into a movement involving representatives from various social groups and outlived the destruction of the theatre and of the cultural hub of which it was part in Istanbul. It fed into further protests, directed towards the demolition of Gezi Park in 2013, another casualty of present urban development policies in Turkey.
Beyond trying to save these urban landmarks is protesters' revolt against the general repression the Erdogan government has brought about. The fight for the landmarks became an emblem for growing popular awareness and unrest in Turkey, and a reminder of the violence the government is capable of in its growing attempts to crush dissent.
On 4 November, four of the panel participants joined a peaceful protest by Turkish filmmakers in front of the Museum für Bildende Kunste, the DOK Leipzig headquarters. Each forming a letter in German, they asked Chancellor Merkel to "stop support for Erdogan".