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Interview: Zeynep Güzel

We spoke with the Coordinator of the New Film Fund about the initiative to support independent docs in Turkey.

A partnership of the non-profit cultural institute Anadolu Kültür and !f Istanbul, the New Film Fund is the first fund for independent films in the industry. How did the project come to life?
“!f Istanbul and Anadolu Kültür were already lending support to independent films prior to the New Film Fund. In fact, !f Istanbul’s program has featured both local and international independent productions, particularly documentaries, since 2001, while Anadolu Kültür has helped finance filmmakers through small grants. The New Film Fund was born out of the desire to take a more systematic and permanent approach to organizing these initiatives. The fund was established as an alternative means of easing the difficulties faced by Turkish documentarists every step of the way, both in terms of making the films and in securing financial support. Another reason was to help create awareness of human rights issues in their broadest sense through the universal art of cinema. The fund also functions as a bridge connecting local filmmakers to international funds and co-productions – after all, many international funds require that films receive support from their country of origin.”

What are the themes you’re looking for in the films you fund?
“The New Film Fund aims to assess and support documentaries through a semiannual call for entries – whether they’re feature-length, medium-length or short films, and whether they’re in the development, production or post-production stage – that are innovative in terms of form and content. The qualifying films are those that pave the way for societal transformation; support the struggle for equality, freedom, intercultural tolerance and sensitivity; share a vision of a pluralistic society and gives voice to minorities; and are devoid of any prejudices or hate speech.”

The New Film Fund is a significant alternative to the ones provided by the Ministry of Culture. How do you think it’ll shape independent cinema in Turkey?
“We strive to give hope to documentarists through the existence and support of the fund. In 2015 we funded 20 films at different stages of production: five of them are now making the rounds and receiving awards at both national and international festivals. The film Attention, directed by Onur Bakır and Panagiotis Charamis, received the Best Documentary Award at the 35th Istanbul Film Festival. The most unifying aspect of the New Film Fund is that it serves as a platform to bring together independent documentarists in Turkey, as just about all of them share their work with – or are somehow connected to – the fund. Even if we can’t give financial support to every film, we’re trying to form and sustain a dialogue.”

Are there any private contributors to the fund?
“The fund’s had donors since its founding – which is very important to us, since we receive an increasing number of eligible submissions with each call and the fund is currently unable to finance them all. Naturally, the more donors there are, the more films and filmmakers we’re able to support.”

--The New Film Fund’s second application period for 2016 will be announced in September. Visit yenifilmfonu.org for more info or contact zeynep.guzel@yenifilmfonu.org to become a donor.

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