The removal of a documentary film about the victims of Turkey’s post-coup purge from the 60th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival has triggered widespread condemnation and protests from activists, film professionals and jury members.
The film, directed by Nejla Demirci, had been set to participate in the festival before the organizing committee decided to cut it.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government initiated a massive purge of state institutions following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Over 130,000 civil servants lost their jobs due to suspected ties to “terrorist organizations.” The dismissed individuals also faced barriers to employment in the private sector and restrictions on obtaining passports.
The documentary, titled “Kanun Hükmü” (With the Force of Law), focuses on the challenges faced by Yasemin, a doctor, and Engin, a teacher, who lost their civil service jobs under post-coup emergency decrees, known as KHKs, issued by the AKP government.
The film’s removal has ignited a storm of criticism.
In an unprecedented move, 20 jury members have resigned in protest. Jury members of the Adana Altın Koza Film Festival also showed solidarity by expressing their support for the film and its director.
Well-known actors, directors and writers have also voiced their disapproval. Actor, director and writer Orhan Alkaya stated that those responsible for the removal should “curl up and die—if they can feel shame.”
Münir Korkmaz, a reporter for KHK TV, denounced the removal, saying, “This film was about the honorable struggle of KHK victims. We demand its reinstatement among the competing films.” Turkish film director Ezel Akay echoed the sentiment, labeling the decision a “big mistake.”
The festival’s director, Dr. Ahmet Boyacıoğlu, justified the removal by claiming that an individual in the film is part of an ongoing legal process. Demirci, the film’s director, denied this claim, saying there is no such ongoing legal process and called the removal a “blow to cinema.”
Professional organizations such as the Actors Union, Cinema Workers Union (Sine-Sen) and Documentary Filmmakers Union are among those demanding the reinstatement of the film to the festival. Various jury members have indicated that they will resume their duties only if the film is reinstated.
The Altın Portakal Film Festival is organized by the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality, which is run by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and the Antalya Culture and Arts Foundation.
The documentary was already the subject of a ruling last year by the Constitutional Court, which found that the local authorities’ ban on filming violated freedom of expression and awarded Demirci 13,500 Turkish lira in compensation.