Balik Arts and the Taste of Anatolia Film Festival

Having graduated, I spent July and early August looking for a foot in the door to paid work in the Arts and Heritage sector. Countless museum job applications were rejected, with few comments besides “your application was strong, but we had a lot of strong applicants who had more experience” as feedback. Fortunately, my first ‘break’ came in August when a small arts charity, Balik Arts, reached out to those who had been involved in the Watersprite Film Festival in search of assistance in the run up to their own festival.

Balik Arts was set up in 1999 to work primarily with young people in the UK and Turkey through the arts and film. Nearly 20 years on, the charity’s first festival in 2018 prioritised films made by younger generations – or where the main cast is young – in a section called ‘Young Blood’. The charity’s dedication to supporting young people is reflected in its mission, and in the words of its Director, Yesim:

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This year’s festival maintained its ‘Young Blood’ category and also explored pertinent issues such as migration, gender issues and the treatment of Turkey’s Kurdish population. All of the above, as well as the freelance nature of the role, drew me in. Over a two-month period, I acted as an Assistant to the Director whilst simultaneously taking responsibility for tasks such as liaising with high-profile attendees, sourcing printers, administrating, distributing posters, managing hospitality, managing volunteers, providing technical direction, and running a social media campaign. The result was the charity’s 2nd Taste of Anatolia Film Festival, whose opening gala I both curated and hosted.

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I have never been averse to public speaking, but until this point I had never *hosted* an event before. It was a daunting prospect, but thankfully the opening gala ran smoothly. The two days of screenings that followed also went well, with only a handful of minor hiccups along the way. I was particularly pleased at the number of people that showed up for our opening film, which was in fact a Kurdish film – a very smart, poignant move by the charity’s Director, I must say!

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The films we screened were coupled thematically – one short film with one feature-length film. I would encourage anyone even remotely interested in Turkish and Kurdish culture to watch the films we screened at the end of September, listed below:

In Between / Arada, by Kadir Eman
Pigeon Thieves / Güvercin Hırsızları, by Osman Nail Doğan
Parting Shot / Giderayak, by Özgür Cem Aksoy
Kazım, by Dilek Kaya
The Pit / Çukur, by Tilbe Cana İnan
Element of Crime / Suç Unsuru, by Süleyman Arda Eminçe
Two Days / İki Gün, by Nurdan Tümbek Tekeoğlu
Time to Leave / Vargit Zamanı, by Orhan Tekeoğlu
Crack in the Wall / Duvardaki Çatlak, by Hakan Ünal
SIREN’S CALL / Son Çıkış, by Ramin Matin
Ad Infinitum / Sonsuz, by Murat Çetinkaya
İçerdekiler / Insiders, by Hüseyin Karabey

Most of these films are rarely screened outside of Turkey, making the festival that Balik Arts runs even more significant. Some films, however, have been particularly well received and are given one-off screenings in London. ‘Insiders’, an award-winner directed by Hüseyin Karabey, is returning to screens by popular demand and will be shown at London’s Rio Cinema on Sunday 2nd February 2020. You can purchase tickets here.

Since the festival, I have continued to work with Balik Arts on an ad-hoc basis. Working with them has allowed me to visit Georgia and learn about the Caucasus region, make new friends and above all, feel valued. The work they do is truly inspired, and I wish that more British charities like this existed, encouraging an appreciation for other cultures. I hope to continue to work with Yesim for as long as possible, and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with Balik Arts in the coming year!

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