Film producer Çiğdem Mater, head of the Armenia -Turkey Cinema Platform (ATCP), yesterday expressed her solidarity with the authors of the two LGBT-themed films that were removed from the program of the 14th Golden Apricot international film festival. Mater also conveyed the message of solidarity of the anti-censorship initiative of Turkish filmmakers.
“A film dealing with the the theme of the Kurdish issue was removed from the program of the [latest] Istanbul Film Festival by the Turkish authorities. In protest, we withdrew all of our films from the festival. It had nothing to do with the festival itself; the censorship had been carried out by forces beyond the festival. And what I have been told here in Armenia sounds very similar to [our experience],” Mater said in an interview with Epress.am.
In countries such as Armenia and Turkey, where there are prevalent cases of human rights ciolations, the producer went on, films have not only artistic but also political significance: “In our countries, these these film festivals are not just film festivals; we use them to exercise and secure our right to freedom of expression. Our films are tools through which we convey our messages to the world. Therefore, the community of filmmakers should be vigilant and must speak out about the issue, so that the freedom of speech of all films is respected. I believe that we should not abandon the film festimal, because we know that the pressure came from outside. We should therefore not boycott the festival but stand by it and create an opportunity for these films to be shown.”
Recall, two LGBT-themed features, Listen To Me: Untold Stories Beyond Hatred and Apricot Groves, were scheduled to be screened out of competitive during the week-long film festival under the rubric Armenians: Internal And External Views. Festival organizers, however, subsequently removed the entire out-of-competition section from the festival program, sparking outrage among local rights activists and organizations, who took the decision as a “plain censorship.”