The Festival on Wheels, an event organized by the Ankara Cinema Association with the support of the Turkish Ministry of Culture & Tourism, is gearing up to celebrate its 21st anniversary this year. Scheduled to run from 26 November – 10 December 2015, the Festival will start out as always from Ankara. Screenings in the capital will be held from 26 November – 02 December. The Festival will then begin its travels, stopping first in Bursa from 04 – 07 December. This leg of the journey is made possible with the support of the Nilüfer Municipality. For its next port of call, the Festival on Wheels will head Kastamonu from 09 – 10 December. Events here will be hosted once more by Kastamonu University.
These days, when the threat of economic crisis is ever present, job security has become a thing of the past. Economic instability and job insecurity affect almost every sector of society today from unskilled workers and academics to migrants and senior executives.
Precarious Lives, the theme of this year’s Festival on Wheels, zeros in on the human condition in a world where hopes of a better life have all but evaporated. The spotlight is on individuals who have lost their social status or are struggling to adjust to the status quo against a background of precarious and unstable conditions.
Stéphane Brizé’s The Measure of a Man (La Loi du Marché), which won the lead, Vincent Lindon, Best Actor award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is a story of man forced to become wolf to man in the precarious work environment. As a piece of social realism, the film delivers a powerful criticism of capitalism. More specifically, it unmasks the ugly face of the system confronting a long unemployed man when he starts his new job and is left with some tough decisions to make.
After premiering at the Berlin Film Festival, Emine Emel Balcı’s debut feature, Until I Lose My Breath (Nefesim Kesilene Kadar), examines similar issues, but this time from the perspective of a young woman in Turkey. The film tells the tale of Serap, a garment factory worker who puts everything into extricating herself from her current predicament. But it is, in fact, the story of countless workers in Turkey as they battle to survive in the employment market. As a postscript, the performance of lead actress Esme Madra is also a treat worth seeing.
Problems brought about by neoliberal change in the labour market occupy the agenda of the section’s documentary films. The two hard-hitting titles in the line-up will have their Turkish premieres at the Festival on Wheels. The first, Requiem for the American Dream (Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, Jared P. Scott), addresses the issue under the guidance of Noam Chomsky, one of the leading thinkers of the age. In interviews spread over a four-year period, Chomsky focuses on the distribution wealth and power in the world today. In so doing, he also examines his own political past and the specific example of the United States.
Second up is The Emperor’s New Clothes, which sees Michael Winterbottom take to the streets of the United Kingdom with actor Russell Brand. The acclaimed director explored neoliberal policies previously in his 2009 documentary, The Shock Doctrine, but is accompanied this time by the provocative showman-activist, Brand, who lays bare the country’s ever growing class inequalities with characteristically acerbic wit.
As one of the staple strands of the Festival on Wheels, World Cinema continues this year to bring audiences a pick of the newest and most remarkable films to come out of countries across the world. One of several pieces due to premiere in Turkey at the Festival on Wheels is Extraordinary Tales, which promises to appeal as much to cinephiles as to fans of Edgar Allen Poe. With award-winning Spanish animator Raul Garcia in the director’s chair, the film revisits five of Poe’s best-known stories, giving each one a different style to uniquely match its mood. In so doing, he effectively captures the über horror for newbies, in particular the young adult audiences the film is aimed at.
Our Everyday Life (Nasa Svakodnevna Prica) comes from the Bosnian woman director, Ines Tanovic. Exploring the struggles of the post-war country through its focus on a typical middle-class family, the drama has been selected to represent Bosnia-Herzegovina in the foreign language film category at the Academy Awards early next year.
Directed by Slovak filmmaker, Ivan Ostrochovsky, Goat (Koza) tells the poignant story of a retired Roma boxer who returns to the ring in the hope of keeping his family together. With its amateur cast of professional sportsmen, among them Peter Baláž, who competed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and Olympic medallist Ján Franek, Goat came away from the Vilnius Film Festival with the CICAE Art Cinema and Best Film awards, from the goEast Film Festival with the FIPRESCI Prize and Best Director award, and from the IndieLisboa Independent Film Festival with a Special Mention. The film has also been selected as Slovakia’s submission for the Foreign Language Film category at the upcoming Academy Awards.
As Brazil’s Academy Award entry this year, The Second Mother (Que Horas Ela Volta?) picked up the Special Jury Prize for Acting at Sundance, followed by the C.I.C.A.E. and Panorama Audience Awards at the Berlinale. With Anna Muylaert at the helm, the film recounts the events that unfold when Val, the live-in housekeeper for a wealthy family, is faced with the sudden appearance of her estranged daughter who is preparing to take university entrance exams. Compared with similar fare from the last year or so, The Second Mother stands out as one of the starkest and most striking portrayals of class conflict.
Also featured in this year’s World Cinema line-up is Santiago Mitre’s Argentine production, Paulina (La Patota), which took the Critics’ Week Grand Prize and FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The drama focuses on the story of the title character, Paulina, who ditches a promising career to teach in one of Argentina’s poorer regions and struggles to adapt to and understand the local dynamics.
Another of this year’s standout films is Tikkun (Avishai Sivan), which will also premiere in Turkey at the Festival. Picking up awards at the Locarno and Jerusalem Film Festivals, the story centres on Haim, an Orthodox Jew from Jerusalem who begins to question his faith after collapsing and passing out in the bathroom.
Jazz Goes to the Movies
Cinema and jazz represent two distinct art forms that developed and came of age in the 20th century. The relationship between them has its origins in the live music accompanists of the silent era. That the very first talkie was The Jazz Singer (Alan Crosland, 1927) is no coincidence. After all, it was only natural for the most popular music genre of the day to make its mark on cinema.
Jazz Goes to the Movies focuses on the cultural and aesthetic relationship between the image and this genre of music during different periods. Be prepared for an adventurous journey that will take you from the black musicians who had a hard time keeping themselves behind the movie screen to the white actors who blackened their faces.
As well as shorts showcasing live performances and tour footage, the section features two important fiction films, each built around a musician character.
Made possible with the support of the US Embassy, Jazz Goes to the Movies is curated by Jonathan Rosenbaum, formerly head film critic of the Chicago Reader, and the critic, film historian, jazz scholar and architect, Ehsan Khoshbakht. No admission will be charged for the screenings in this section.
Intended for film and music fans alike, the line-up includes: Too Late Blues (John Cassavates, 1961), Pete Kelly’s Blues (Jack Webb, 1955), Cab Calloway’s Hi-De-Ho (Fred Waller, 1934), Black and Tan Fantasy (Dudley Murphy, 1929), Big Ben: Ben Webster in Europe (Johan van der Keuken, 1966), Begone Dull Care (Norman McLaren, 1949), When It Rains (Charles Burnett, 1995) and Jammin’ the Blues (Gjon Mili, 1944). Rosenbaum and Khoshbakht will be on hand to present the section.
The Turkey 2015 section again offers the chance to watch some exciting new local output. Emin Alper’s Frenzy (Abluka) premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it picked up a Special Jury Prize, and then went on to win five more awards, including Best Film, at the Adana Golden Boll Festival. The film portrays the environment of political violence that confronts two brothers in a shanty neighbourhood of suburban Istanbul besieged by police.
Yearning (Hasret), the latest offering from Ben Hopkins, will be premiering in Turkey at the Festival and is billed as one of the finest examples of recent Turkish cinema. This is the story of a young director from Germany who arrives in Istanbul on a commission from a TV network to make a film about the city. Spooling through footage in the cutting room one day, he makes out various shapes and figures that escaped his notice during the shoot, but have apparently been picked up by the camera. The director becomes obsessed by the experience and finds himself on a journey from the present day into the city’s past. It is a journey that touches on many aspects of Istanbul life from the razing and regeneration of old neighbourhoods, immigrant workers and government opposition, to the diversity of faiths and communities that coexist and the peculiarly melancholic soul of the city…
After premiering at Sundance, Tolga Karaçelik’s second feature, Ivy (Sarmaşık), picked up Best Film award at the East End Film Festival, one of Britain’s largest film events. The film follows the sea-bound, six-man crew of a cargo ship who become marooned off the coast of Egypt when their paymasters go bankrupt. As cabin fever sets in during the increasingly strained wait for a resolution, we watch the ship’s hierarchy dissolve and a new struggle for power take hold among the exasperated seamen.
Nausea (Bulantı), another of this year’s Festival titles, sees Zeki Demirkubuz not only writing and directing, but also starring in the lead role. The film focuses on the aftermath for Ahmet of a night when he loses his wife and young daughter in a car accident while he is out with a lover. Şebnem Hassanisoughi, Öykü Karayel, Çağlar Çorumlu, Cemre Ebuzziya and Ercan Kesal star alongside the distinguished director.
Having enjoyed a world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Senem Tüzen’s debut feature, Motherland (Anayurdu), returned from the Adana Golden Boll and Warsaw Film Festivals with multiple awards. The film, which is structured around a mother-daughter relationship, highlights the tension that builds when Nesrin, a city woman who escapes to the village house left by her grandmother to finish writing her novel, is suddenly faced with an unannounced visit by her mother, Halise. Esra Bezen Bilgin and Nihal Koldaş co-star.
As is the case every year, Festival audiences will have the chance to meet directors attached to the films in Turkey 2015 during screenings.
Art of Disagreement: Işıl Eğrikavuk
The Festival of Wheels aims, among other things, to build a bridge between cinema and contemporary art in Turkey. And as this year’s guest artist, the Festival will be hosting Işık Eğrikavuk.
In her videos and performance art Eğrikavuk foregrounds the contradictions between the realities of everyday life and the society of the spectacle that the media seek to create. Her work has been shown at numerous international exhibitions to date. For its programme this year the Festival on Wheels has picked five pieces by the artist best described as variations on the mockumentary form: Infamous Library (Karanlık Kütüphane) (2006), Gül (2007), The Interview (Röportaj) (2008), Memory Museum (Anı Müzesi) (2010) and Reverse Corner (Ters Köşe) (2013). Guaranteed to wrong-foot the viewer, the videos use the language of the absurd to explore societal problems.
Işıl Eğrikavuk will give two performances based around the participation of Ankara audiences on 28 November and 5 December respectively. The event is a collaboration between the Festival on Wheels and Salt Ulus.
A woman whose husband and children ‘went missing’ during the military dictatorship in Argentina has battled tirelessly against historical amnesia for 35 years as a member of the Plaza de Mayo mothers. Now that she has developed Alzheimer’s disease and gradually begun to lose her memory, time is ‘suspended’. And forgetting means liberation from the pain she has suffered all these years. Thankfully, with this documentary, the woman’s granddaughter not only keeps the pain alive, but also prevents the already damaged collective memory from being extinguished altogether. Time Suspended (Tiempo Suspendido) is a rare piece of cinema and highly recommended viewing.
Special Screening: Varieté
The Festival on Wheels will this year feature a special screening with the collaboration of the Goethe Institut Ankara. Varieté (aka Jealousy), the 1925 silent film directed by German filmmaker Ewald André Dupont, has been newly restored this year and will be shown with live music accompaniment from the British pianist, Stephen Horne, and German percussionist, Frank Bockius, both professional accompanists in their own right.
Short is Good and Children’s Films
The line-up of shorts selected from festival entries from around the world promises to introduce audiences to the innovative cinema of many different countries. Short is Good screenings will, as every year, be free of charge.
This year’s Children’s Films come from Norway. In addition to these screenings, which come free of charge, young Festival goers can look forward to the Animation Workshop. The event is supported by the Austrian Embassy and gives participating kids the chance to make their first films. Scheduled to take place from 28 November-2 December, the workshop will be led by Roland Schütz and involves no charge. Parents of 8-12 year olds who wish to take part should contact the Festival direct.
Behiç Ak has been a stalwart supporter of the Festival on Wheels since its inaugural edition, designing original posters for the Festival year after year. In 2015 he continues the tradition with yet another unique creation.