Monday, October 11, 2010

Kusturica quits Antalya saying reactions to his being in the jury "barbaric and primitive"

11 October 2010

Serbian director quits Antalya pointing out political interference by minister of culture

Serbian film director Emir Kusturica has decided to leave Antalya on Sunday. He barely stayed one day in the Turkish southern city brought to international attention by the Altın Portakal (Golden Orange) International Film Festival. Kusturica was going to serve as a member of the international feature competition jury, but controversy on his name prevailed.

The author of such masterpieces as “Underground” and “The Time of the Gypsies,” said harshly that reactions to his being a member of the jury at the festival were “barbaric and primitive”.

During a press conference on Sunday at an Antalya hotel, Kusturica said: “I don’t even want to make a plea, but … I’d like to thank Mayor [Mustafa] Akaydın and the people of Antalya for the warm reception. As for the culture minister of this country, I now see him as an enemy because he deserves this,” referring to Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay’s protest against him by not attending Saturday’s opening gala of the festival.

Dismissing accusations that he was supportive of war criminals, Kusturica added: “A person who has dedicated his life to opening new horizons to humanity cannot be supportive of any kind of crime. … I am known to be anti-imperialist. I have built my life and profession on this basis. … What I was fighting for [during the time of the Bosnian war] was a united Yugoslavia.”

Minister Günay immediately replied to Kusturica’s “unfortunate statements” on Sunday. “I suppose [interpreters] provided him with false and exaggerated translations [of what happened]. I’m guessing that’s why he made those unfortunate statements while he was leaving. I wouldn’t want to speak behind an artist’s back. I wish this debate had never taken place. I wish we only watched his films [in the festival] and a politically motivated debate had not been triggered,” the minister told the Anatolia news agency. “I hope these arguments do not overshadow the Antalya film festival,” he added.

The Antalya Foundation for Culture and Art (AKSAV), an Antalya Metropolitan Municipality-affiliated body that has been organizing the Altın Portakal for the past two years, dismissed criticisms and protests, said in statements last week that the festival is “only interested in Kusturica’s persona as an artist.”

Upon AKSAV’s reaction, Semih Kaplanoğlu, the director of the Berlin film festival Golden Bear-winning drama “Bal” (Honey), announced on Thursday that he had withdrawn his film from the festival, where it was originally scheduled for a gala screening on Monday out of competition. Kaplanoğlu and the members of “Bal’s” cast and crew, in a statement issued Thursday, said they will not be attending any of the events during this year’s festival, as AKSAV did not backtrack from its plans to have Kusturica on the jury for the international competition.

It is interesting to note that in 2007 Kusturica and his band, the No Smoking, performed a concert during the opening gala of the event’s 44th edition. That year, Kaplanoğlu ran in the national feature competition with “Yumurta” (Egg), the first installment of his “Trilogy of Yusuf,” which was completed with “Bal.” And did not withdraw his film.