The !f Istanbul International Independent Film Festival was founded in 2001 and every February and March it hosts some 70,000 film buffs and celebrated filmmakers from around the world. Dedicated to showcasing the best in contemporary film, !f believes that the shared experience of cinema is a form of activism that has the power to connect people across borders and boundaries of all description. The festival is curated and based on thematic sections, some of which change every year to reflect issues that are gripping the world's - and filmmakers'- imagination.With each such event, I am becoming more and more convinced that Istanbul (its European part) is perhaps the most vibrant city in the region, and I have to visit it as soon as possible.
Here is a selection of films from US to Iran to Turkey.
The Pink Report
"Homosexuality is a disease and needs to be treated!" stated Selma Aliye Kavaf, ex-Minister of Family Affairs. The Turkish military considers homosexuality to be a 'psychosexual disorder' that could exempt one from mandatory service, and therefore needs to be diagnosed by military physicians. If a psychological examination is inconclusive, doctors are required to use other methods - either an anal examination is called for or the applicant must submit pornographic images of himself engaged in a homosexual act. The Pink Report is an intimate encounter with four men and their moving stories of institutional violence, tremendous fear and the longing for acceptance within a society that considers them to be ill, rotten, disabled.
"In Iran we have the public face and we have the private face." Circumstance is a sensuous melodrama of forbidden love in modern Tehran. Teenagers Atafeh and her best friend, Shireen, are experimenting with their burgeoning sexuality amidst the subculture of Tehran's underground art scene when Atafeh's brother, Mehran, returns home from drug rehab as the prodigal son. Battling his demons, Mehran joins the morality police. As Atafeh falls deeper in love with her best friend, Mehran's disapproval grows. Suddenly, the two siblings are entangled in a triangle of suspense, surveillance, and betrayal. Though Circumstance is an unrelenting look into how religious authoritarianism forces its way into people's intimate lives, it also has an underlying beat that reminds the viewer of that unconquerable desire for personal freedom, and its will to life.
A story of love, courage and being what you need to be. Intimate and nakedly honest, Becoming Chaz follows Chaz Bono's transition from female to male. Growing up as Sonny and Cher's daughter Chastity in a body he felt wasn't his own, Chaz decides to undertake gender transition. As hormone shots give way to top surgery, we follow Chaz and girlfriend Jenny's lives as they watch, question, adapt to, and sometimes rejoice about the changes. For Chaz, this is first and foremost a story of liberation. For Jenny, who fell in love with a woman but is now living with a man, there are questions about the nature of enduring love. For Cher, one can see the struggle, but also the strength involved in accepting life decisions made by loved ones. Told up close and with stunning simplicity, Becoming Chaz is first and foremost a film about courage and open minds.