Turkish movie industry, particularly the Istanbul International Film Festival, though small by
international standards, is exploring new directions and tackling new and more diverse themes, often in
co-productions with other countries.
The Istanbul International Film Festival was first organized in 1982, within the frame of the International
Istanbul Festival as a “Film Week” consisting of six films. The theme of the films participating in the
Festival was limited to “Arts and Cinema”, to keep the event within the context of the International
Istanbul Festival. In 1983 the event was realized under the title of “Istanbul Filmdays”, taking place
throughout the Festival within a span of a month.
Beginning from 1984, the event gained an identity as a separate activity; it was shifted to the month of
April. In 1985, two competitive sections, one being national and the other international, were included
in the festival program. From 1987 on, “Cinema Honorary Awards” began to be presented. In the
following years, The Istanbul International Filmdays firmly established its position and took its place among the major film festivals of the world with the large number of films shown and the quality and
versatility of its program.
In 1988, government inspectors forced the withdrawal of 5 of 160 films that are to be screened at the
festival. Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Betty Blue and Vedreba (The Supplication) by Tengiz Abuladze were
among these five works. Vedreba was being blocked on the grounds that it was “anti-Islamic” and
cuts from the other four films were demanded because of erotic scenes. Upon the notification by the
censorship board that certain films on the program were to be banned, the then president of the Golden
Tulip Jury, Elia Kazan, organized a protest march with the participation of Turkish filmmakers. The
Turkish Ministry of Culture subsequently issued a decree holding all international film festivals exempt
At the beginning of 1989 the event was recognized as “a competitive specialized festival” by
International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF) and was accredited. Parallel to this
development, “Istanbul Filmdays” was renamed as “Istanbul International Film Festival”.
Beginning from 1996, “Lifetime Achievement Awards” along with “Cinema Honorary Awards” began to
be presented to international cineastes, actors and actresses.
In 2006, celebrating its 25th year, the festival created a meeting platform for Turkish and European
film professionals under the title “Meetings on the Bridge”, aiming to bring European film institutions
with Turkish directors and producers to discuss funding possibilities. Also in 2006, Azize Tan, the then
Assistant Director of the festival replaced Hülya Uçansu as director.
In 2007, the Council of Europe, in collaboration with Eurimages, started to present the Film Award of
the Council of Europe (FACE) to a film selected from the entries in the Human Rights and Cinema section
of the festival. With its 28th edition in 2009, the festival began to give its Golden Tulip Award also as a
result of its National Competition.
Since the beginning of the Festival, a total of 2,065,000 spectators have attended the screenings of
2,330 films from 72 different countries (2005 figures). The festival boasted an audience of 170,000 in
2007, breaking its own record.