INTERVIEW BY ENGIN TATLIBAL
Izmir is known to be the most liberal and European city of Turkey. “Europe has no city which is more European than Izmir” even says Alphonse de Lamartine. However, with the capital hegemony of Istanbul, Izmir stayed dwarf in terms of culture and arts. But it’s a great dwarf as Thyrion Lannister, because Izmir has no name heroes like Nesim Bencoya. Mr. Bencoya, -a real son of Izmir having Sephardic roots- is the flag carrier of cinema lovers. He’s a member of International Antalya Film Festival Committee and organizing movie screening events under Hezarfen Film Gallery, making Izmirian cinephiles meet Turkish and European independent films. Bencoya tells about his character as a traveller and latest initiative, ‘Shorts From Turkey’, an agency to promote Turkish short films.
I always say “Work first…” Hezarfen Film Gallery did a wonderful thing in Izmir. You brought a fresh breath for picturegoers. What was the thing you did?
Hezarfen Film Galeri has been founded in Izmir 3 years ago by an experienced team in national and international cinema. You know that I have been Haifa Cinematheque director in the past, and I am presently the programme director of International Antalya Film Festival. Possessing this rich experience, together with some other colleagues who have similar experiences we thought that Izmir cinema scene was not sufficiently satisfying for film lovers or culture consumers in large. This thought led us to establish “Hezarfen Film Galeri” through which we offer quite a number of cinematic activities to cinema lovers. “Independent Cinema of Turkey encounters”, “Films from the Festivals around The World”, “European Film Programmes” are some of these activities. We always bear in mind to give the best experience and intellectually satisfying activity to the audience and the audience responds to this. Eventually, our quite City of Izmir is turning into a more culturally intense city.
You just initialized a “short film agency” which is really an enthusiastic project. Would you tell a bit about that?
Yes, we really are enthousiastic about this one. The short film category and the short film makers are somehow under estimated in our country. Therefore they are almost never paid copyrights and there is not a real encouragement within the festivals.
In a way, unlike the feature films, they are orphans in both international cinema market and in Turkey. During the last year we were consulted continuously by short film makers about how to promote short films. We think that the international cinema market has a larger respect for short films, therefore we should start promoting our short film makers and their achievements abroad. We have established our “Shorts From Turkey Agency” that is a branch of Hezarfen Film Galeri and started to promote them through our solid international connections. For example, within a period of 5 months we held a special “Shorts From Turkey” programme in Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner; We have concluded to do the same in Clermont Ferrand International Shoert Film festival which is considered to be the best and most respectable in the world; a selection of “Shorts from Turkey” was screened in Israel’s Arava Film festivals and we have been able to send the film makers to this festival; other selections of “Shorts from Turkey” are being screened right now in Bogota International Film Festival and soon in Sofia’s Palace film festival.
This has already created a demand for more Shorts from Turkey and soon we will operate in USA and Canada. We hope that the meeting between our shorts, their directors and foreign cinema professionals will contribute both professionally and economically to our cinema and its makers.
You travel a lot due to your business. What kind of a traveller Nesim Bencoya is?
Well, I am really a festival traveller actually. Most of my travels are to various festivals. It is about meeting professionals, enlarging the network and watching, choosing films for the festivals and various activities. From now on, since we have added the “Shorts from Turkey” to our agenda, there will be much more sale meetings.
What I really like when I am in a foreign country is to discover the back streets and corners of the cities and chat with people. I find this very exciting.
Boutique hotels or traditional hotels… Which one fits the best for you?
Definitely boutique hotels that give you usually a taste of the place you are visiting, with local people, local breakfast etc.!