The show goes on for the Vancouver Turkish Film Festival

Following in the footsteps of other film festivals that have moved online, the seventh annual Vancouver Turkish Film festival (VTFF) will run virtually this year from Dec. 16 to 21. It will showcase four award-winning features and ten shorts alongside some insightful Q&A sessions with directors and actors.

Credit VTFF

Copresenting the festival with SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs and Turkish Canadian Society, VTFF has also recently partnered up with the Northwest Film Forum and online streaming platform Eventive to ensure a smooth operation and the best audience experience in a challenging year.

The ten featured short films were selected from 350 submissions at the Seattle Turkish Film Festival, a partner to VTFF, where VTFF’s assistant Director Nural Sumbultepe also serves as part of the jury. In Vancouver, the audience will choose the best short film, where it will receive the Vancouver Audience Award.

The four features – Hive, La Belle Indifférence, Love, Spells and All That, and Not Knowing – have all garnered multiple awards in Turkey and internationally since their debut.

As a window to contemporary Turkish society and culture, two films – Love, Spells and All That, and Not Knowing – both explore the social issue of homophobia and the questioning of one’s identity and desires.

La belle indifférence | Credit VTFF

“Love unites people, but society tears them apart,” says Ayşe Acar, media coordinator at VTFF. “Turkish culture is a bit masculine though homophobia is not unique to Turkey. We learn about problems through films and it is a good way to educate people.”

La Belle Indifférence also delves deeply into Turkish social issues, though in a different way. It is the second installment of a trilogy by Turkish Director Kıvanç Sezer that examines how the housing industry affects the lives of different social classes in Turkey, including the lower working class, middle-class consumers, and upper-class construction bosses.

“It is a dark comedy and a psychological film, talking about people who are not aware of their own situations. In this second part, a couple buys a condo and the husband loses his job so they can no longer afford the mortgage so everything unravels,” Acar explains. “The trilogy touches me a lot as it is real, the housing industry has been the driving force of the Turkish economy for the last decade. In the first film workers also suffer a lot as they work in very tough conditions; it exposes the inequality issue in society.”

Bear, bees and a tribute to nature
Hive, in turn, examines one’s psychological blind spot, though not in relation to our capitalistic system but with mother nature.

The story follows a female protagonist’s journey from Germany back to a rural Turkish village to inherit her family beekeeping business and the drama that ensues: she kills a bear, unaware that it is protected and loved by the locals.

Hive | Credit VTFF

Written and directed by Turkish Canadian Eylem Kaftan, Hive is her directorial debut for a feature film and has earned many international accolades including six awards at the U.S. Chelsea Film Festival this year. Kaftan has been an award-winning documentary maker for years and the film was inspired by her real-life encounter with a female beekeeper whose hive was attacked by bears.

The film meditates on our relationship with nature through different viewpoints, including the urban outcast who learns she can only survive in nature if she is willing to listen and surrender, as well as the bear’s experience through the critter cam that captures the killer who is the main character.

“For me, this film is sociological, philosophical, and metaphysical. It is about human vs. nature. We try to redesign and control nature, but it has harsh responses for us,” Kaftan says. “In terms of the metaphysical message, nature beautifully shows us the cycle of life. Spiritually, what we can learn is we have to surrender to the cycle of nature. It can be creative but also destructive, and we should be humbled.”

A great deal of research and preparation went into making the film since it deals with unpredictable animal behaviors and difficult weather conditions. Kaftan says she got stung by bees herself in the process of learning beekeeping.

Kaftan thinks the film captures the zeitgeist of today, in terms of the loss of biodiversity and the fatal consequence we might face. “I am trying to remind people of the urgency and necessity to go back to nature, to be one with nature, and to learn the essence of it, because humans are part of nature,” she says.

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Not Knowing | Credit VTFF

Love, Spells, and All That | Credit VTFF