ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s oldest film festival has been thrown into turmoil after jury members resigned and filmmakers withdrew their work from the competition over accusations of censorship.
The producers and directors of 27 entries at the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival on Wednesday announced they were pulling out, days after 20 members of the festival jury quit over the organizers’ removal of a documentary.
“Kanun Hukmu,” or “The Decree,” focuses on a teacher and doctor dismissed from their jobs under the state of emergency imposed in Turkey following an attempted coup in 2016.
Festival director Ahmet Boyacioglu said the documentary had been removed from the national documentary film category because of ongoing legal proceedings against one of the people featured.
“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.
However, the film’s director, Nejla Demirci, said that was an “excuse” and “outright censorship.”
The festival, which has been run since 1963 in the Mediterranean city of Antalya, is a highlight of the Turkish cultural calendar. This year it is due to run from Oct. 7-14.
Demirci has received support from across the arts world in Turkey.
The Free Art Assembly, which represents artists across many fields, described the film’s exclusion as “an assault on artistic expression and creativity and a move to normalize censorship across artistic fields.”
The filmmakers who withdrew from the festival called for respect for the freedom of expression.
“We see it as a clear threat,” they said in a statement. “We think that it is unacceptable for festivals, which essentially belong to society, to submit to censorship.”
More than 130,000 people were fired from their jobs through emergency decrees following the July 2016 coup attempt. The authorities said they were linked to the group behind the coup, but critics have alleged a general crackdown against anyone viewed as opponents by the government.