In a decision that took the Istanbul Festival by surprise, its 2010 international jury picked Felix van Groenigen’s The Misfortunates from Belgium for the Golden Tulip award as the best film of this year’s competition.

The jury, consisting of Austrian actor-director Klaus Maria Brandauer (president), Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca, Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic, producer and Telluride chief Tom Luddy and Danish editor Anders Refn, added a second prize to Sandrine Kiberlain, for her performance in Sebastian Brize’s Mademoiselle Chambon, which collected an additional honour from the International film Critics (FIPRESCI) for best film in competition.

Three domestic productions shared honours in the national competition. Vavien, a local comedy directed by Yagmur and Dulun Taylan and written by its male star, Engin Gunaydin, won Best Film, Best Script and the International Film Critics Award. Drama The Children Of Diyarbakir got a Best director Award for Miraz Bezar, Best Actress for Senay Orak who is still in her very early teens, and Best Music for Musturkish tafa Biber. Finally. Semih Kaplanoglu’s Berlin winner Honey got a Special Jury Award and a Best Cinematography for Baris Ozbicer.

Ajami, the searing, uncompromising portrait of a Jaffa slum, made jointly by an Israeli and Arab, Yaron Shani and Scander Kopti, collected the Human Rights prize contributed by the Council Of Europe. Radikal, the Turkish daily who is among the festival’s biggest supporters, awarded its readers’ awards, to I Killed My Mother by maverick Canadian director Xavier Dolan, now barely 20, whose new film is already selected for Cannes competition, and Honey by Kaplanoglu.

Among the many festival guests were Italian director Marco Bellochio who came in for the opening, Todd Solondz and Elia Souleiman who joined jury member Refn for heavily attended master classes. But the main focus of the entire event, running parallel to the festival (April 3-18) and actively supported by it, was drawn to a series of massive protests organised against the demolition of the festival’s flagship cinema, Emek, a site supposed to be preserved by the Architectural Heritage Act Of The Council of Europe, duly signed by the Turkish Government.

For the last 28 years the cinema, one of the most impressive left standing in Europe, was an integral part of the festival until the land it was standing upon was privatised and sold to a company identified by numerous websites as Turkmall - partly owned by a a Dutch developer - though no official announcements were made to support this information.

The vociferous protest against the demolition of a city heirloom whose absence has already deprived the festival this year of several thousand seats, was additionally underlined by practically every one of this year’s winners, who demanded all through the closing ceremony that the government to keep its hands off Emek and prompted jury president Brandauer to mention toward the end of the ceremony that for a change the real star of the festival was not a celebrity nor a film but a cinema.