Greetings from Istanbul

Greetings from Istanbul! It is our last day here and we wanted to send you a little tidbit of news: the program has been wonderfully successful and hugely appreciated.

The day of panels was wonderful. The morning began with a discussion about the creative process - where ideas come from and how they take form, and what the challenges are in the life of a writer. The panel included Wesley Strick, Bill Wheeler, Cherien Dabıs, and Israeli fiction writer/screenwriter/director Etgar Keret. It was an insightful, thoughtful, and hilarious panel. Etgar is one of the funniest voices out there and has something of a cult followıng in Turkey. By complete coincidence, the film Wristcutters (an FFP Lab project, was based on one of his pieces which premiered some years ago at the Sundance Film Festival) was voted one of the top five films over this festival's 10 years, and screened here again by popular demand. So, in addition to being a panelist and advisor for the Lab meetings, he was able to attend the screening and do book signings during his two days here.

Sundance Institute Feature Film Program Director Michelle Satter and I followed up the morning panel on screenwriting with more discussions about the Institute and the FFP, and Cherien followed with a case study of Amreeka: From Script to Screen. Most, if not all, of the audience came to spend the whole day with us (on a Saturday no less) and we finished with a reception for everyone, which gave us the chance to meet emerging filmmakers and hear from them about their work. Though this was primarily a dialogue amongst artists, it was a great group of young people curious about film and generally trying to find their way into some kind of career possibly in the arts, possibly into something else. There was a lively conversation about the duality of cultures represented in Amreeka which resonated for audience members with mixed backgrounds. There is such a richness and profusion of heritages in this place and whenever you ask someone where they are from, they begin by telling you where their parents originated and the combinations seem endless, even if the country is 90 percent + Muslim : Bosnian/Turkish, Greek/Turkish, Kurdish-Iranian.

Hearing from Cherien about what it was like growing up in the U.S. as alternately exotic, foreign, unknown, or suspect in the States (given that she seems so American) was a real eye opener and surprising connector.

Stacey Marbrey and Michelle did a great job of presenting the program at the Embassy Reception and in general, it feels as though Sundance´s presence has been a meaningful highlight at the festival. !F is a fantastic event, born originally from underground gatherings organized by Pelin and Serra 10 years ago that showcased independent and risqué work. From their first year of 20 films, it has grown a great deal but it still feels like it’s only barely above ground: it pulses so vibrantly, and gives the city's youth access to ideas and artists they may not otherwise discover. That it has sprouted up in the midst of this city, which is so full of tradition and historical richness leftover from Ottoman Empires, civil wars, and artistry of such detail and scale, it’s hard to believe how it seems both incongruous and like kismet. The Mosques, the palaces, the Galata Tower, a cavernous underground water cistern, the seagull filled Bosphorous Sea, and a bridge that can take you to the Asian side of the country for breakfast all infuse the city with both a gift and burden of its history. Hence, the festival is a wonderful juxtaposition between all the worlds it bridges - East and West, Europe and Asia, the religious and secular, traditional and modern.

It was wonderful to have the program presented under one umbrella and the name Film Forward by the way, is a real hit. In the meantime, we send you hellos from the road and much gratitude from those here who appreciate Sundance's presence in Istanbul.

Until very soon -

Gule Gule - 'goodbye' ın Turkısh, whıch literally means "go with laughter"

Lead photo: