This year, the Turkish Film Festival in Germany started without any financial support from Turkey. Ankara withdrew funding at the last minute for an event it seems to perceive as far too critical. By Jochen Kurten

The bad news came just weeks before the festival started on Friday. Without giving any reason, the Turkish Ministry of Culture abandoned its financial support, which in the past amounted to € 60,000. Turkey canceled grants retroactively last year, so news of a full withdrawal this year came as no complete surprise, festival director Adil Kaya admitted.

Financial support from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Goethe-Institut, the Robert Bosch Foundation and the State of Bavaria made it possible for the 23rd edition of the Film Festival Turkey Germany to go ahead as planned from March 9 to 18, 2018. .

No interest in intercultural dialogue

The position of the Turkish Culture Ministry is probably “too national,” Kaya said, adding that Turkey is currently not very interested in intercultural dialogue, instead focusing on national cultural content.

In times of crisis in particular, events that maintain cultural dialogue are important, says the festival director.

“At least the German side continues to see it that way.” The cancellation comes at a time of tension between Germany and Turkey, where policies have become increasingly nationalist under President Erdogan.

It’s hard for filmmakers to express themselves in Turkey these days, Kaya says, adding that many are afraid. That’s why they come to Germany. “They need these festivals to breathe.”

The festival director says Turkish directors have become more cautious, often letting deceased cultural leaders speak for them. This year the festival features documentaries on Turkish writer Yasar Kemal (1923-2015) and director Yilmaz Guney (1937-1984) – neither of whom are known to mince words.

Over the next 10 days, the festival will present 43 films – short films, documentaries, feature films. Most of them reflect the world we live in, explains Frank Becher, curator and member of the festival board. Films are political, he adds, “even if at first glance they don’t seem to be about politics.”

Becher is aware that the 2018 festival reflects the current political and social situation in Turkey, including restrictions on freedom of opinion and democracy – “a freedom which today many artists presented at the festival over the years can only dream, be for economic or political reasons.

Christian Petzold’s “Transit”, which just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, is one of 10 feature films screened at Nuremberg this year. Some films focus on refugees, escape and displacement, others on German-Turkish relations, prejudice and the life of a young girl in eastern Turkey.

Honorary award for Volker Schlondorff and Halil Ergun

The festival began with an honorary award for two champions of German and Turkish cinema: Oscar-winning director Volker Schlondorff is honored for a lifetime of cinematographic works marked by “great intercultural understanding”.

Halil Ergun is described as “one of Turkey’s most creative actors” who has reinvented himself time and time again during his 40-year career and has always been greatly admired by audiences, even when he starred in critical productions.

“He was the conscience of the public, always a critical voice with a courageous political stance based on adherence to democratic principles,” according to Kaya, who concludes that the tribute to Halil Ergun is clearly a message in the current context.

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© Deutsche Welle 2018