— MedyaNews (@1MedyaNews) September 30, 2023
The organisers of the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, Turkey’s oldest film event, have once again removed the documentary The Decree (Kanun Hükmü) from the festival’s programme, festival director Ahmet Boyacıoğlu said on Thursday, just hours after announcing that the documentary had been reinstated in the festival’s programme.
In his statement, Boyacıoğlu said that an investigation had been launched against him after the film was reinstated and that he and his team were concerned for their safety as they had allegedly received threats.
The film centres on the plight of two civil servants, a teacher and a doctor, who were dismissed from their jobs following the state of emergency declared in Turkey after the attempted military coup in 2016.
The coup attempt prompted Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to launch a massive purge of state institutions, resulting in the dismissal of over 130,000 civil servants through emergency decrees. While the government argued that these employees were linked to “terrorist organisations”, critics alleged a broad crackdown on opponents of the government.
Earlier, on 22 September, the producers, directors and jury of the festival announced their withdrawal from the festival in protest at the organisers’ exclusion of the documentary from the national documentary category. Boyacıoğlu had defended the initial decision to remove the documentary from the national documentary category, citing ongoing legal proceedings against one of the people featured in the film. He claimed that this action was taken to avoid interfering with the judicial process and to ensure impartiality.
The festival faced a barrage of criticism, with filmmakers calling for freedom of expression to be upheld. In response to mounting pressure, the documentary was reinstated in the festival’s programme, only to be removed again.
Following the documentary’s initial reinstatement, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued a statement announcing its withdrawal from the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, saying: “It is extremely regrettable that in such an important festival, the propaganda of the FETÖ* terrorist organisation has been made through the perception of victimisation, using the power of art”.
Following the withdrawal of support from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, several festival sponsors also announced their withdrawal, stating, “We need to act in coordination with the ministry”.
The Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, a fixture on the Turkish cultural calendar since 1963, is scheduled to take place from 7 to 14 October. However, in the absence of jury members, directors and producers, it remains uncertain whether or how the festival will proceed as planned.
*The Fethullah Gülen movement, a religious group that Turkey accuses of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt and labels as a terrorist organisation.