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20th Anniversary of the Akbank Short Film Festival

Blog
20th Anniversary of the Akbank Short Film Festival

26.03.2024

Text: Eylül Ege

20th Anniversary of the Akbank Short Film Festival 

The 20th Akbank Short Film Festival will be at Akbank Sanat between 25 March - 4 April.

The Akbank Short Film Festival, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, aims to introduce filmmakers to the world of short films, which is often the first step and excitement for many filmmakers. It creates suitable conditions for screenings and encourages production, supports new filmmakers contributing to Turkish cinema, and broadens horizons with various examples from around the world. In its journey based on these goals, the festival provides a discussion platform and tradition that opens up space for the development of short films for everyone interested in cinema.

Since 2004, the Akbank Short Film Festival, which takes place at Akbank Sanat for 10 days each year, presents short films featured in leading film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, and Venice to audiences in Turkey. In addition to screenings, the festival hosts workshops, discussions, and masterclasses where experienced figures from the film industry share their knowledge and insights.

Structured around two main competitions, national and international, the latest edition of the festival includes sections titled “Festival Shorts,” “Shorts from Around the World,” “From Short to Feature,” “Experiences,” “Documentary Cinema,” “Perspective,” “Special Screenings,” and “Forum.”

New paths, inclusive purposes: How has the festival program expanded?

While Akbank Sanat remains the festival’s home and central hub, the films featured in each year's selection have reached 75,000 viewers in 67 universities across 36 cities in Turkey through 510 screenings as part of the Short Films in Universities events that started in 2005.

The “Forum” section, which will be held for the seventh time this year, is designed to support short films from the script stage onwards and provide training for writers to develop their projects. Since 2018, the Akbank Short Film Forum, which has received 4900 screenplay submissions, also includes a short film screenplay competition aimed at production support.

The global pandemic did not hinder but only forced transformations. Probably, the first awards ceremony held during the pandemic period in Turkey took place within the scope of the 16th Akbank Short Film Festival. The awards, dated March March 2020, were presented in an Instagram live broadcast hosted by Ceyda Düvenci.

During and after the pandemic, the Akbank Short Film Festival made a selection of 12 films from its program available for access through its official Youtube channel. Over a period of two years, the films were viewed by over 50,000 people.

Films selected for the festival program have also been shown on filmonline.com/akbanksanat for the past three years. Thanks to this digital platform, many domestic and foreign short films have been viewed by over 90, 000 audiences.

Young filmmakers were not forgotten as well. The “Young Perspectives” section, which is an award-winning section documenting the approach of the new generation to cinema and short films by evaluating the works of directors under the age of 20, is being held for the fourth time this year.

Over the past 19 years, the Akbank Short Film Festival, which reached 140,000 participants, has shown 1,783 films totaling 678 hours. In national and international competitions where 250 jury members served, 50 awards and 79 honorable mentions were given. 133 discussions and 71 workshops were held, with 376 guests attending the festival.

Accessible to everyone: Interviews and workshops on Youtube

Since 2017, the Akbank Short Film Festival has been publishing recordings of selected interviews and workshops from its program on Akbank Sanat’s Youtube channel. The video series began with a conversation featuring directors who have Balkanic heritage, István Kovács and Andrei Gruzsniczki during the 13th edition’s “Special Screenings” section, followed by a conversation with Tayfun Pirselimoğlu titled “From Short to Feature” after the screening of his short film My Uncle, and his first feature film At Nowhere. Pirselimoğlu says, “Cinema is a tormenting job, and short films are where this torment is consumed in a shorter period.”

In the same year, alongside Rıza Oylum’s discussion on “Abbas Kiarostami’s Cinema,” who passed away in 2016, with Seifollah Samadian and Farhad Eivazi, there were other conversations with the director of Once Upon a Time in Marrakesh, Seifollah Samadian on “Documentary Cinema;” as well as “Cinematographers who passed through the Akbank Short Film Festival'' with Mehmet Zengin, Cansu Boğuşlu and Güçlü Yaman, and in the “Experiences'' section, a discussion titled “On Cinema with Aslı Özge,” all available for viewing on Youtube. Aslı Özge shares the formula for a good short film: “The idea has to be very bright; in a very short time, you need to grab the audience’s attention and show a spark of intelligence.”

The 14th Akbank Short Film Festival featured discussions like “On Acting with Farah Zeynep Abdullah,” “On Documentary Cinema with Nebil Özgentürk,” From Short to Feature with Onur Saylak,” who garnered awards at various festivals with his feature film More, and “Experiences with Ana Katz,” an Argentine director, screenwriter, actor, and producer, all available on the same channel.

The video series continued with three events organized as part of the festival’s 15th edition in 2018. One of these events was a discussion with director Mehmet Can Mertoğlu, who received awards at the Cannes Film Festival with his first feature film Album in the “From Short to Feature” section.

Following that, writer Hakan Bıçakçı, among the most translated 15 Turkish writers, shares his experience of how cinema intervened in his life through a discussion on “The Relationship Between Literature and Cinema” saying, “I had short story drafts, novel drafts, but I didn’t know how to tell them; cinema stepped in here.”

In another conversation titled “Writing a Screenplay,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Tayfun Pirselimoğlu, along with Ercan Kesal, who has been part of many films’ cast and crew including Yozgat Blues, Nausea, Announcement, and Butterflies, talk about their personal journeys in cinema, writing books, screenplay creation process, sources of inspiration, and more. Kesal states, “Whether short or feature; actually, making a film is one of the deepest, most laborious, but happiest in the world when it’s finished.”

Recent years have seen Ekin Koç, known for his performances in quality Turkish films like Brother’s Keeper by Ferit Karahan and Burning Days by Emin Alper, expressing that his biggest reward would be acting at the age of 70, in a discussion titled “On Acting with Ekin Koç” held during the 19th Akbank Short Film Festival in 2023.

The floor is filmmakers: Short film and festival traditions through guests’ feelings

Starting his journey by gaining the trust of Turkish filmmakers, director Seyfi Teoman, who attended the 4th and 7th editions of the Akbank Short Film Festival in 2007 and 2011 respectively, expressed: “Despite being a very young festival, I believe it’s the most serious, organized, and elevated among the festivals held in Turkey. A significant gain. I take the Akbank Short Film Festival, which constantly strives to improve itself, seriously.”

Director Mehmet Bahadır Er, who won the Best Fiction Film Award at the 2nd Akbank Short Film Festival in 2005 with his film ZilZal, served on the National Competition Jury in the 16th edition in 2020 after 14 years. According to Er, a short film is “Sometimes a heart-to-heart, sometimes an experiment, sometimes a way to express an idea like a slogan, sometimes whispering to someone; it’s a method of telling a story sincerely in a short time.”

Andrei Gruzsnickzki, the Romanian director of Ouod erat demonstrandum, which was part of the 13th Akbank Short Film Festival in 2017, pointed out that making a short film is the most significant step in entering the massive film industry, saying, “Making a short film teaches you how to tell a story; most importantly, this and of course, how to communicate with actors, how to edit the film, and many more.”

In 2018, when The Wild Pear Tree, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, was included in the Cannes selection, actor Hazar Ergüçlü, who was a member of the National Competition Jury at the 14th Akbank Short Film Festival, drew attention to the possibilities and depths of impact that short films can offer to cinema audiences with her words, “For me, there are shorts that are more valuable than feature films, thousands of them …” In the pursuit of realizing this dream and producing a short film, Ahmet Uluçay addresses concerns and uncertainties about being left alone both economically and socially through a statement he made in an interview he participated in the 2nd edition in 2005, saying: “I don’t abandon myself; even if everyone else leaves, I won’t leave myself. I am my best friend.”

In the 7th edition dated back to 2011, Pelin Esmer, the director of films like The Watchtower, and Something Useful, and a jury member in the Documentary category, emphasizes the advantage of short films being an independent platform: “I think the freedom of short films lies in being a means to convey the story without worrying about success or failure.” On the other hand, Sevin Okyay, a film critic and one of the interview guests at the 4th Akbank Short Film Festival in 2007, talks about the necessity of sharing the space of freedom in short films: “A short film is not a letter you write to yourself. It should be screened.”

Özcan Alper, whose latest film Black Night won the Golden Orange for Best Film in 2022, was a jury member in the Fiction category at the 6th edition of the Akbank Film Festival in 2010. He has a quote from that time regarding festivals where short films are presented and popularized: “I remember being deeply influenced by a Hungarian film I saw at a festival. Festivals become a good nourishing ground for filmmaking. Seeing different films is very nourishing.”

Ayla Algan, the master actor who passed away last January, who conducted a workshop at the 4th edition of the Akbank Short Film Festival in 2007, expresses how important it is for her to be involved in such events: “We owe it to the children, to the youth who will become filmmakers. If we are living through this, and if the master-apprentice tradition is not disappearing, we may not hand down a school to them like Sabancı, but we can leave you with knowledge, practical skills, whatever we can.”

We should listen to Onur Saylak’s thoughts and well wishes about his experience at the 14th Akbank Short Film Festival, which took place in March 2018: “The continuity of something periodic is very important. Especially in Istanbul, during my youth, I remember that feeling; going to such events, sharing something there, meeting new people, seeing new productions, being constantly inspired by good works, and so on. That’s why I hope and believe that his festival will continue its course and move forward, I hope it expands and grows. We will do whatever we can to support it, we are right behind it.”

Let’s end this summary and celebratory note spanning 20 years to Ahu Türkpençe, a jury member in the “Forum” section of the 15th edition in 2019: “Each one’s work is very special, in my opinion, and made me say ‘I’m glad to be here!’ Akbank Short Film Festival, here’s to many more years!”

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