The Armenia-Turkey Cinema Platform (ATCP) is getting ready for its tenth meeting. The platform, promoting joint film production between Turkish and Armenian filmmakers, will convene on April 14-16 as part of activities on the fringes of the 33rd Istanbul International Film Festival. The ATCP this year is backed by the European Union, a unique accomplishment for which the filmmakers deserve congratulation.
The ATCP, which has ushered bilateral cultural ties into a new era, was formed in 2009 by the Yerevan Golden Apricot Film Festival and the Anatolian Culture organization. Meeting twice every year, it evaluates project applications from Turkey and Armenia and brings together filmmakers from the two countries. Over the past five years, it has brought together more than 200 filmmakers and supported 13 films. “Diyar,” which in 2012 became the eighth film to receive ATCP support, was selected for the Istanbul Film Festival. A documentary chronicling the life of director Devrim Akkaya’s grandfather, making its debut at the Istanbul Film Festival, will be quite meaningful.
Applications remain open ahead of the ATCP’s April meeting. Filmmakers from Turkey, Armenia and their diaspora can submit projects by March 28. The initiative had started with short films and documentaries, produced with amateur means and based on human stories that moved the audiences and built cultural bridges. The quality of productions, however, increased throughout the years. So did the prestige of the platform, which has offered financial support to filmmakers since 2010.
This year, the platform’s international jury will assess 10 projects and award one a $10,000 grant. ATCP officials say they received a submission even from Africa this year and regret they had to reject it on eligibility grounds.
There are remarkable examples of how the film quality has improved and the initiative moved forward. “I Left My Shoes in Istanbul” — a documentary by Lebanese director Nigol Bezjian, a friend of [Turkish filmmaker] Kutlug Ataman from the renowned UCLA film school — has received international acclaim. The film follows poet Sako Arian as he travels — both fearful and curious — to Istanbul, the city of his ancestors, which he knows almost street by street from the books of Armenian writers and his family history, and visits prominent people from both communities in the city. “I Left My Shoes in Istanbul” was selected for showing in the “Home” section of the Istanbul Film Festival, a nice gesture to both the film’s director and main hero and the ATCP.
Lusin Dink’s “Saroyan Country,” which received financial support in 2011, is another source of pride for the ATCP. It was embraced in Turkey and Armenia alike. The film competed both in the “Armenian Panorama” section of the Yerevan Golden Apricot Film Festival and the national section of the Istanbul Film Festival. Two days ago, it received the “Best Balkan Film” prize of the Film Critics Jury at the Sofia International Film Festival. In 2013, it won the 2013 Best Documentary prize of [Turkey’s] Cinema Writers Association (SIYAD).
In “Ziazan” — another ATCP-supported production, which is currently counting down to meet the audience — a surprise name is behind the camera. Derya Durmaz, the popular actress of many movies and TV series, is making her debut in the director’s chair, telling the adventures of a five-year-old girl in the name of chocolate cream her uncle brings from Turkey. The film, scheduled to make its world premiere at a European film festival soon, reflects the child’s innocent view of the world as it tells a naive story about the “losses” caused by the closure of the Turkish-Armenian border, displaying an able directing of child actors.
Let’s see what stories about friendship, peace and love — yet sad ones — will emerge from the 10th meeting of the Armenia-Turkey Cinema Platform.