Today's Zaman
July 28 2009

Despite launching a number of film festivals in the last five years,
Turkey still does not boast very many cinematic gatherings.

Moreover, most of the existing film festivals are held in
metropolises. But later this summer, a new -- albeit tiny -- event
is to be added to the country's slate of film festivals, placing the
coastal town of Hopa in Turkey's easternmost Black Sea province of
Artvin on the map for filmmakers from the Caucasus.

The first Caucasus Film Days festival is coming to Hopa, near the
Georgian border, from Aug. 9 to 13, introducing just five feature films
from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Russia and Turkey to moviegoers in
its first year. The event will also screen six Turkish documentaries
and will include a workshop on documentary making.

The Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry is one of the sponsors of the
new festival, which is a joint effort by the local BiryaÅ~_am Culture
and Ecology Association and the Ä°stanbul-based movie production
company Kuzey Film.

The Russian entry in the festival is "Alexandra" from master filmmaker
Alexander Sokurov. The film, which had its world premiere at the 2007
Cannes Film Festival, presents a different perspective on the tension
between the Russians and Chechens.

Georgian director Julie Bertucelli's 2003 film "Depuis qu'Otar est
parti..." (Since Otar Left), which won the Critics Week Grand Prize
at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival and the Best First Film Award at
the Cesar Awards, France's equivalent of the Oscars, is the second
film in the lineup.

Azerbaijani director Huseyin Mehdiyev's "Ozge Vaxt" (Strange Times),
a striking story about a father-daughter relationship, and Armenian
director Harutian Khachatrian's "Border," which questions the whole
concept of borders, are the other two films on the slate. Young
Turkish filmmaker Ozcan Alper's internationally award-winning first
feature film, "Sonbahar" (Autumn), is the festival's Turkish entrant.

Alper will also be among the lecturers at the festival's documentary
workshop, alongside such professionals as film editor Cicek Kahraman,
film critic Senem Aytac and documentary directors Ethem Ozguven and
Selcuk Erzurumlu.

The Caucasus Film Days will not only screen movies, but will also
feature musical performances. The event will open with a concert by
jazz pianist AyÅ~_e Tutuncu on Aug. 9 and singer Å~^evval Sam will
entertain festival goers with her live performance of Anatolian songs
on the festival's second day.

The films in the first Caucasus Film Days festival are to be shown
either outdoors or in the convention hall of the BiryaÅ~_am Association
as Hopa no longer has a movie theater after the recent closure of the
Kazım Koyuncu Culture Center. Named after the late singer-songwriter
Kazım Koyuncu, one of the most prolific and famous artists the town
has raised, the center used to host all sorts of cultural activities
such as theater plays, concerts and movie screenings in the town until
the municipality decided to close it following the local elections
in March.

Documentary hub for the region

Although starting off as an 11-film showcase, the Caucasus Film Days
is actually aiming to have quite an important role, hoping to become
a major film festival in its surrounding region, one which showcases
the capabilities of younger generation film directors in the region.

Director Alper, a native of Hopa, acted as a consultant for this new
film festival and notes how important this aim really is, emphasizing
that there is great demand for this kind of event in the region. "There
is a huge demand, especially from young people in the city," says
Alper, adding that the underlying aim of the festival is not only to
showcase films, but also to create a new cultural center for the city.

"We want to hold a festival on the level of those held in Yerevan and
Tbilisi. Perhaps films done by the young people in the workshop this
year will be shown at next year's festival," says Alper.

He also notes that further assistance from local and regional
administrations is a firm expectation of the festival's
organizers. Alper says that this being the first year of the event,
word did not spread very far or fast about its launch.

Among the six documentaries to be featured in the Hopa festival are
Ruya Arzu Köksal's 2007 documentary "Son Kumsal" (The Last Beach),
which depicts how the Dutluk beach in the Black Sea town of Vakfıkebir
was destroyed by the construction of the Black Sea highway, and "4857,"
co-directors Petra Holzer, Selcuk Erzurumlu and Ethem Ozguven's account
of the lives of dozens of laborers who work under unsafe conditions at
shipyards in Ä°stanbul's Tuzla district. The traditional architecture
of the eastern Black Sea region is examined in Suha Arın's "Sisler
Kovulunca" (When the Fog is Swept Away), and "Å~^airin Olumu" (Death
of a Poet) by Elif Ergezen will take a look at the life and times of
Hopa poet HelimiÅ~_i Xahasın, who spent the last days of his life
in the former Soviet Union.

Evening screenings at the festival will take place at an open-air
theater to be erected on KopmuÅ~_ Beach on the Black Sea coast in
Hopa. Daytime screenings are to be held indoors at the BiryaÅ~_am
Culture and Ecology Foundation headquarters.