Film on PKK fighters pulled from Istanbul festival

Twitter users expressed outrage over the ‘censorship’ in the blocking of the film

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A documentary film on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters has been pulled from the Istanbul Film Festival at the last minute following an intervention by the Turkish culture ministry, organizers and producers said Sunday.

The documentary film “Bakur” (“North”) was to have been shown Sunday afternoon in Istanbul but the screening would no longer go ahead, the organizers of the film festival said in a statement.

The festival organizers said they had received an official letter from the Turkish ministry of culture “reminding” that films produced in Turkey needed an official registration certificate in order to be screened at festivals.

The rule does not apply to films made outside of Turkey.

Twitter users expressed outrage over the “censorship” in the blocking of the film but the festival said it was obliged to implement the rules.

“Screening of films produced in Turkey without this certificate results in legal sanctions, therefore Istanbul Film Festival will not be able to screen films that don’t have the aforementioned certificate,” the organizers said.

The documentary, directed by Cayan Demirel and Ertugrul Mavioglu, shows the daily life of male and female PKK fighters and includes interviews with senior figures including the PKK’s Iraq-based operational commander Cemil Bayik.

The government is in talks to end the PKK’s decades-long rebellion for self-rule that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. But the scrapping of the screening comes a day after deadly clashes in the southeast that threaten the peace process.

The film’s producers Surela Film Yapim said in a statement that the procedures required to have a film screened were themselves “open censorship.”

“We do not accept these prohibitive practices that violate the rights and freedoms of filmmakers and continue despite our objections,” the producers said in a statement on their website.