Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue To Be Presented In Turkey February/March 2011

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ISTANBUL, TURKEY — Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue, a Sundance Institute initiative created in partnership with U.S. federal cultural agencies, will be presented in The Republic of Turkey in conjunction with the !F Istanbul International Independent Film Festival and the Embassy of the United States, Ankara, Turkey, it was announced today by Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute.

Film Forward, a joint venture of Sundance Institute and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) in cooperation with USA federal cultural partners, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), works to engage new audiences in cultural dialogue, using film as a vehicle.

The Republic of Turkey is among the 14 Film Forward stops on its tour around the world. Film Forward connects contemporary U.S. and international films and filmmakers with diverse global audiences and features 10 films traveling to 14 locations around the globe. A curated selection of these films will be presented in Istanbul, Eskişehir and Ankara, Turkey from February 26 through March 5, 2011.

“Film Forward brings diverse cinematic voices to world wide audiences; it celebrates the unique facets of individual cultures, and the power of art and story to transcend social, religious, geographic and cultural boundaries” said Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute Executive Director. “It is a natural extension of Sundance Institute’s core commitment to diverse independent storytellers in the Feature Film Program, which is working directly with artists in the region.”

Seven films from the Film Forward slate will be presented in Turkey including: Afghan Star (UK), Amreeka (USA), Boy (New Zealand), Last Train Home (China), Son of Babylon (Iraq), Udaan (India) and Winter’s Bone (USA). Two Film Forward directors; Cherien Dabis, Amreeka from the US, and Havana Marking, Afghan Star from the UK, will travel to Turkey to represent the initiative.

Building on Film Forward’s ambitious Turkish program — which promotes cultural diplomacy through its collaboration with the U.S. Embassy and the Turkish community at large through the !F Film Festival — Film Forward will also embrace local artists with the Sundance Institute’s “Spotlight on Screenwriting” workshop. The two day program will include: a panel on screenwriting; and a series of creative meetings between selected Turkish filmmakers, screenwriters and creative advisors including: Bill Wheeler, Wesley Strick, Reha Erdem and Etgar Keret; and a conversation about Sundance Institute programs with Feature Film Program’s Director Michelle Satter and Associate Director, International, Alesia Weston. It will also feature a “From Script to Screen” case study of Amreeka, a comedy about a Palestinian mother and son who immigrate to the US post 9/11.

The case study on Amreeka, featuring writer and director Cherien Dabis represents the full circle of support that Sundance Institute offers: the script was developed at Sundance’s RAWI Lab in Jordan in 2005; the film is a featured selection in the Film Forward touring program and the artist is in turn giving back by sharing her experiences with other artists in the region.

“It is always inspiring to see artists develop their work from script to screen and the cultural conflict explored in this deeply personal story feels particularly relevant to many stories emerging from this region,” said Institute’s Weston. “We are especially excited to engage in this dialogue and exchange with Turkey’s rising talent and the local community.”

Extended Q&A’s and panels hosted by local Turkish presenters, and other engagements between filmmaker and audience will be programmed around the Film Forward screenings to build communities through film. The filmmakers serve as cultural ambassadors, who use their work to interact, challenge and inspire audiences to foster a recognition of shared values that transcend barriers of language and other differences.

The films to be screened in Turkey represent fresh explorations of universal themes, and the evolving nature of drama in our global community. Boy, Udaan and Winter’s Bone navigate the transition to adulthood and re-define family in broadly different circumstances; Amreeka and Last Train Home depict contemporary challenges of immigration for those seeking work and a better life; Afghan Star explores the story of youthful dreams and the clash of global pop culture in a traditional Muslim society; Son of Babylon focuses on the enduring nature of family love in a society decimated by war.

By pairing up U.S. and iinternational filmmakers in the program, Film Forward mirrors the diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints it promotes, underscoring the importance of mutual understanding and respect for other cultures and traditions that is at the heart of cultural exchange.

U.S.A. Arts Organizations
The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) bridges the interests of American federal agencies and the private sector, supports special projects that increase participation and excellence in the arts and humanities, and helps incorporate these disciplines into White House objectives. First Lady Michelle Obama is the Honorary Chairman of the PCAH.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) serves and strengthens our Republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The NEH is the nation’s leading supporter of research education, preservation and public programs in the humanities.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is an independent federal grant making agency dedicated to creating strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The IMLS works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development.

Sundance Institute
Founded by Robert Redford in 1981, Sundance Institute is a global, nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to nurturing artistic expression in film and theater, and to supporting intercultural dialogue between artists and audiences. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to unite, inform and inspire, regardless of geo-political, social, religious or cultural differences. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival and its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, film composers, playwrights and theatre artists, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Born into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Son of Babylon, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth, Spring Awakening, Light in the Piazza and Angels in America.

U.S. Embassy in Turkey
U.S. Embassy in Turkey is committed to promoting academic and professional exchanges and supporting various educational and arts programs in Turkey. The embassy works closely with Turkish institutions in organizing exchanges, lectures, seminars, workshops and presentations by U.S. academics, specialists, writers and artists.

!F Film Festival
Dedicated to exploring new directions in cinema, !F Istanbul is a thematically organized festival attended by some 70,000 people and filmmakers from around the world. Open to emerging directors from around the world, !F aims to highlight films which show technical innovation, bold narrative and courageous storytelling. The Festival runs February 17 – March 6, 2011.

Film Forward Films

Afghan Star / Afghanistan/UK (Director: Havana Marking)—After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan: millions are watching and voting for their favorite singer. This film follows the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk their lives to sing.

Amreeka / USA (Director and Screenwriter: Cherien Dabis)—When a divorced Palestinian woman and her teenage son move to rural Illinois, they find their new lives replete with challenges. Cast: Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Yussuf Abu-Warda, Alia Shawkat, Joseph Ziegler.

Boy / New Zealand (Director and screenwriter: Taika Waititi)—When his father returns home after many years away, 11-year-old Boy and his little brother Rocky must reconcile reality with the fantasy dad they created in their imagination. Cast: Taika Waititi, James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone.

Last Train Home / Canada (Director: Lixin Fan)—Getting a train ticket in China proves a towering ordeal as a migrant worker family embarks on a journey, along with 200 million other peasants to reunite with their distant family.

Son of Babylon / Iraq (Director: Mohamed Al Daradji; Screenwriters: Mohamed Al-Daradji, Jennifer Norridge, Mithal Ghazi) In the days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a young Kurdish boy and his grandmother venture through Iraq on a quest to find their missing father/son. Cast: Yasser Talib, Shazda Hussein, Bashir Al-Majid.

Udaan / India (Director Vikramaditya Motwane; Screenwriter: Motwane)—Following his expulsion from boarding school, Rohan returns to the small industrial town of Jamshedpur. After 8 years away, he finds himself closeted with an authoritarian father and a younger half brother whom he didn’t even know existed. Udaan explores deep-rooted family dynamics and a triumph of the human spirit. Cast: Rajat Barmecha, Ronit Roy, Aayan Boradia, Ram Kapoor.

Winter’s Bone / USA (Director: Debra Granik; Screenwriters: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini)—An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her missing father while trying to keep her family intact. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Kevin Breznahan.

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