The very first Golden Island International Film Festival (GIIFF) started last night with the Cyprus premiere of Fish (Balık) by renowned Turkish Cypriot director Derviş Zaim. Supported by main sponsor Creditwest Bank, the Festival runs until 13 November.
The Festival’s Opening Gala took place at Girne American University’s Spectrum International Congress Centre. A cocktail reception was held in the foyer before guests took their seats in the main hall for speeches and the presentation of GIIFF Honorary Awards to stars of Turkish film and theatre, actors Erdal Özyağcılar and Demet Akbağ, and to director Derviş Zaim.
Festival director Yeşim Güzelpınar said she was, “delighted that an international film festival was taking place in North Cyprus” and thanked all who had supported the event. Along with bringing movies and movie lovers together, she spoke of how GIIFF will also help the country’s cinema sector to grow, which in turn will nurture future generations of talented filmmakers. She added it was for this reason that cash prizes were being offered in the Cypriot film strand only and that the winners from this year’s entries will be announced at the Closing Gala.
Süleyman Erol, CEO of Creditwest Bank, also gave a speech. He stated that the Festival was one of two major projects the bank was supporting during its 20th anniversary year; alongside planting 20,000 saplings in Memory (Anı) Forest as part of its commitment to the environment, Creditwest was sponsoring GIIFF because “arts and culture are also critical to the wellbeing of society”.
Erol added that, “In both Turkey and the rest of the world, cinema is not just a leisure activity, it also brings important economic benefits. I hope that the film world will also contribute to our beautiful country and that we will create a strong platform and centre for it right here.”
Dr Sibel Siber, the Speaker of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Parliament, also said a few words. She expressed her pleasure in seeing 20-odd films by Cypriots included in this year’s Festival programme of global cinema, paying tribute to award-winning Cypriot director Derviş Zaim who she said was “an important role model for the younger generation“.
After receiving his GIIFF Honorary Award from Oscar award-winning director, producer and writer Peter Fudakowski, Derviş Zaim told the audience that as someone born and raised in Cyprus he was elated to be receiving the award and that, “I look forward to a long career in film as I still have much to accomplish.”
Erdal Özyağcılar was presented his award by Creditwest Bank’s chairman Nusret Altınbaş. He separately also accepted an award on behalf of fellow actor Demet Akbağ, who was unable to attend last night. The veteran star, who has played lead roles in major film and theatre productions, along with hit TV series such as Elveda Rumerli and Yabancı Damat, told the audience he was “deeply honoured” to be a recipient of such an award in the Festival’s first year.
Following the speeches and awards, the Opening Gala night film Fish started. It is one of 50 films being screened during the next seven days, with many of the directors, producers and actors from the featured films also taking part in Q&As.
Eight separate venues across Cyprus are designated Festival venues. They include: Lemar Girne, Lemar Kaymaklı, Lemar Mağusa, East Mediterranean University, Goethe Institute, Home for Cooperation, Le Chateau Lambousa and Girne American University. Tickets are 10 TL for (5 TL concessions). Short documentary and short fiction films within the Cyprus Cinema strand, as well as the international short film screenings are free to attend. Tickets can be bought at any of the Lemar cinema venues.