A mosaic of great films and meaningful conversations – Vancouver Turkish Film Festival

Presenting 10 chosen films that represent different facets of Turkish culture and society, the 6th Annual Vancouver Turkish Film Festival (VTFF) will take place at SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts from Nov. 15–17.

Aside from film screenings,this year’s VTFF also includes a panel discussion on “Women in the Film Industry”, and an award ceremony for a Short Film Competition from 198 submissions.

A mosaic of films

This year’s festival features films in four broad categories: biopics such as The Eye of Istanbul and Muslum, family dramas such as A Tale of Three Sisters, Brothers and Noah Land, stories with unusual lead characters such The Plane Tree (Cinar) and Sibel, and films that deal with political and social issues such as SAF and Announcement.

Nural Sumbultepe, assistant director of VTFF. | Photo courtesy of Nural Sumbultepe

“I always say this at the opening gala that the best way to understand Turkey is through film. When it comes to film selection, we are first interested in films with universal themes, and second we are interested in films that explore social issues, and last we also try to find at least one film that the whole family can enjoy together, which is both artistic and mainstream,” says Nural Sumbultepe, assistant director, Panel Organizer and Short Film Coordinator of VTFF.

One of Sumbultepe’s personal favourites this year is the opening gala film, A Tale of Three Sisters. She says the film, made in four countries by a young emerging Turkish director Emin Alper, tells a story of three sisters who were given up as beslemes, an old and rare practice for having foster children as servants that goes back to the Ottoman days. The film deals with the theme of family hope and migration, which Sumbultepe feels we can all relate to.

Another highlight at the festival is the documentary The Eye of Istanbul, which is based on one of Turkey’s most celebrated photographer Ara Guler. The film was made by writer-director-producer Binnur Karaevli, who is also behind the popular Netflix show Protector.

“I did a trilogy of documentaries based in Istanbul. The Eye of Istanbul is the last one and it was about a great artist and his connection to Istanbul. AraGuler took a lot of photos of people in a time that is really lost now and it was such a challenge to fit his huge career into just one hour,” Karaevli says. Karaevli will also be a panelist at the VTFF this year.

Women in the industry

With a stellar lineup both in films and attendees, the festival will also host a panel discussion on Women in Film, exploring the landscapes and challenges for female makers in various capacities, for example as director, producer, writer and actress in the film industry and in different countries.

According to the panelists, there is still a long way to go for women to achieve equal footing with men in the film industry, particularly when it comes to positions of ultimate power such as directors, producers or department heads.

“I teach a class called Women and Cinema. We usually begin by talking about a report published by a scholar at University of Southern California (USC), who has been studying wozmen in the film industry for two decades now. The report showed that women made up 20 per cent of positions of power for the top 250 grossing films in the US in 2018, a one per cent increase from the figure in 2001, so we are still at the beginning of a long and difficult process,” says Justine Barda, film faculty member at Seattle University and founder of Telescope Film, a newly launched platform that aims to introduce international films to American audience. She also serves as the senior programmer for the Seattle International Film Festival with expertise in films from the Middle East, North Africa and France.

Both Barda and Karaevli mention that it often comes down to who people in power choose to work with, and they say the film industry is still predominantly male-driven.

“Of course talent should be the foremost important thing, and who is right for the job. But if you give more opportunities to women, you might find them to be more right for the job, and we would also have more different voices. When you see a film that is directed by a woman, you see there is a slightly different sensibility,” Karaevli says.

Barda says women tend to have more success in the independent realm when there is less money at stake. Karaevli hopes that the rise of streaming platforms might provide more women with outlets for their creative works.

“There is so much change that needs to happen in so many different parts of the industry. A panel like this has a role to play – having this conversation, both with one another and with the larger community does help advance the issue forward,” Barda concludes.

For more information, please visit www.sfu.ca/sfuwoodwards/events/events1/2019-Fall/VTFF2019.html