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Low budget comedy is the toast of Istanbul

A tiny coming-of-age comedy,bearing the unlikely title of Boats Out Of Watermelon Rinds, shot on ashoestring budget with a cast of unknowns in a remote corner of Anatolia,turned out to be the real discovery of this year's Istanbul Film Festival.

Ahmet Ulucay'sautobiographical first film, shot on digital video, surprisingly stole theshow from better known directors such as Yesim Ustaoglu and Zeki Demirkubuz andgrabbed top honours in the national competition.

Simple and unpretentious, Boats Out Of Watermelon Rinds deftly highlights smallvisual details to breathe life into a charmingly naïve story about a couple ofapprentices who dream of putting together a movie projector out of cartons andwood, and the innocent infatuation one of them has for a girl at least fiveyears older than himself.<'P>

It is just the kind of enticing little picture that festivals the world over are looking for. Indeed, by now, at leasthalf a dozen festivals on both sides of the Atlantic, drawn to Istanbul by morefamous talent, are queuing to pick it up for the coming season. They include Montreal, Toronto, San Sebastian and Hamburg.

Demirkubuz, whose WaitingRoom wraps up his Trilogy of Darkness (the first two parts Fate and Confessionunspooled in Cannes' Un Certain Regard three years ago), may be well deservingof the Best Director's award but his film, an intentionally understated studyin extreme minimalism may be fascinating to watch, but doesn't have much todeliver.

The handsomely elegiac butnarratively flawed Waiting For The Clouds by Yesim Ustaoglu (BerlinSilver Bear 1999 for Journey To The Sun) with practically every EuropeanFund listed as a partner, who must have expected more than the National SpecialJury Prize and the Best Actress Award, is said to have rejected a slot in theUn Certain Regard sidebar, hoping for a more prestigious launching pad inLocarno or Venice.

The international jury,headed by British director Hugh Hudson, played safe in its choice of Tsai MingLiang's celebrated Goodbye Dragon Inn by for the Golden Tulip, butsurprised by splitting the Special Jury Prize between Dusan Kovacevic's TheProfessional and Abdellatif Kechiche's intriguing L'esquive - bothfilms insufficiently noticed in earlier festivals.

Life Achievement awards thisyear honoured not only well-known film celebrities such as Ken Russell andChristopher Doyle, but also reclusiveIranian director, Bahram Bayzai, credited by the cognoscenti as the inspirationbehind much of contemporary Iranian cinema.

The most important showcasefor independent film products in the Turkish market, the festival remains oneof the city's essential cultural events. The only criticisms raised against itreferred to the excessive number of films (over 200, compared to 130-150 in thepast) and the high admission prices (Euros 6), both issues to be taken up andre-discussed before the next edition.

Attendance, over 90,000admissions for the 15 days of screenings, has again slightly dropped comparedto last year, but that seems almost inevitable in a country undergoing suchsevere economical problems as Turkey is today.

AWARDS - 23rdISTANBUL INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

International Competition

Golden Tulip
Goodbye Dragon Inn - Tsai Ming Liang (Homegreen Films)

Special Jury Prize -ex-aequo
The Professional - Dusan Kovacevic (Vans Film&TV Distributors)
L'esquive - Abdellatife Kechiche (Films Distribution)

National Competition

Best Film - Boats Out OfWatermelon Rinds - Ahmet Ulucay (IFR A.S.)
Best Director - Zeki Demirkubuz - The Waiting Room (Mavi Films)
Best Actor (ex-aequo) - Emre Kinay, Sevket Coruh - Under Construction(Filma Cass)
Best Actress - Ruchan Caliskur - Waiting For The Clouds (CelluloidDreams)
Special Jury Prize - Yesim Ustaoglu - Waiting For The Clouds (CellulloidDreams)

FIPRESCI awards

International Competition
L'esquive - Abdellatife Kechiche (FilmsDistribution)

National Competition
What's Human Anyway'- Reha Erdem (Atlantik Film)

People's Choice Awards

International Competition
Reconstruction - Christopher Boe (NordiskFilm Int.)

National Competition
A Little Bit OfFreedom -Yuksel Yavuz (Cotta Media Entertainment)

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