Turkish government

Turkish Government Withdraws Support for Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival Over Documentary Controversy

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In a surprising turn of events, the Turkish government has decided to withdraw its support for the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, the country’s oldest film festival. This decision comes in response to the festival organizers’ reversal of a prior decision to exclude a politically sensitive documentary titled “Kanun Hukmu,” or “The Decree.” Let’s delve into the details of this unfolding controversy.

A Sensitive Subject Matter

“The Decree” focuses on the plight of a teacher and a doctor who were dismissed from their positions during the state of emergency declared in Turkey following an attempted coup in July 2016. The film delves into the challenges faced by individuals affected by these circumstances, shedding light on their struggles and hardships.

A Controversial Reversal

The decision to remove “The Decree” from the festival’s program initially sparked controversy. This move led to a cascade of reactions, with other filmmakers pulling their entries and jury members resigning in protest against what they perceived as censorship.

Festival director Ahmet Boyacioglu explained that the documentary had initially been excluded from the national documentary film category due to ongoing legal proceedings involving one of the individuals featured in the film. However, the film’s director, Nejla Demirci, dismissed this explanation as an “excuse” and an act of “outright censorship.”

Support from the Arts Community

Nejla Demirci received widespread support from the Turkish government art community, with the Free Art Assembly condemning the exclusion of “The Decree” as “an assault on artistic expression and creativity” and a step towards normalizing censorship in the arts.

Government’s Perspective

In response to the festival’s decision to reinstate the documentary, the Culture and Tourism Ministry issued a statement expressing its concerns. The ministry decried the use of art as a tool for promoting the FETO terrorist organization’s agenda, claiming that the film conveyed a perception of victimhood that served this purpose. FETO is an acronym associated with the Gulenist movement, which the Turkish government holds responsible for the failed coup attempt in 2016.

The Turkish government’s stance reflects its ongoing efforts to address the aftermath of the attempted coup. Over 130,000 individuals who were allegedly affiliated with the Gulenist movement were dismissed from their positions through emergency decrees. Critics argue that these actions represent a broader crackdown on perceived opposition to the government.

The ministry emphasized that it would not participate in any endeavors to discredit the nation’s struggle on July 15, referring to the date of the coup attempt, and to exploit art as a provocative element.

Resolution and Reflection

In light of the evolving situation, festival director Ahmet Boyacioglu announced the reversal of the decision to exclude “The Decree” from the competition selection. This decision came as it was determined that the legal proceedings involving one of the documentary’s subjects were no longer ongoing.

Nejla Demirci welcomed this change, expressing gratitude on social media for the collective efforts that led to the film’s reinstatement. She described it as a victory for democracy, reflecting the power of cinema to shed light on important issues and inspire change.

The controversy surrounding “The Decree” serves as a reminder of the complex interplay between art, politics, and freedom of expression. It highlights the role of film festivals in providing a platform for such discussions and the resilience of artists in defending their creative voices

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