Turkish film festival canceled after censorship controversy
Turkish film festival canceled after censorship controversy

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One of Turkey’s most prestigious film festivals was canceled Friday after a political documentary provoked the ire of the government.

The Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, in its 60th year, was due to be held in Antalya, on the Turkish riviera, from October 7 to 14.

The documentary film “Kanun Hukmu” (or “The Decree”) was first removed from its schedule last week. The film is about a doctor and a teacher who are dismissed from their jobs following an attempted coup in Turkey in 2016.

“If our documentary is first accepted to the competition and then removed as a result of pressure, this is called censorship,” the film’s director, Nejla Demirci, said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

A screening of the documentary film

Festival director Ahmet Boyacıoglu was cited by Hurriyet Daily News as saying the film had been removed because of ongoing legal proceedings against one of the people featured in it.

“For this reason, it has been decided to exclude the film from this year’s selection in order not to affect the judicial process and impartiality,” he said.

After many directors — and the festival jury — protested the removal and withdrew their own films, the festival on Thursday reinstated “Kanun Hukmu” to its lineup, according to the paper.

The Culture and Tourism Ministry of Turkey then pulled its support that same day, according to Hurriyet. After this, the festival removed the film once again and then finally canceled the entire event.

“I regret to inform filmgoers that we canceled this year’s Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival… due to events beyond our control,” Muhittin Bocek, Antalya’s mayor, said in a post on X.

This is the third time that the festival has been canceled. It was called off in 1979 after the banning of the movie “Yolcular” and two others, and in 1980 due to a military coup.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended the removal of the documentary in a statement on Monday, local media reported.

“We cannot accept the promotion of propaganda that undermines our national sovereignty, especially under the guise of art,” he said.

In the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt, Erdogan dismissed more than 125,000 state employees and arrested more than 110,000 people, a purge which many in the international community called a “witch hunt.”

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