For the last 13 years Basak Emre and Ahmet Boyacioglu have been bringing world cinema to the farthest corners of Turkey. Their European Film Festival on Wheels, running since 1995, starts in late autumn in Ankara, then, for the following month, stages repeat performances of the programme in at least three other locations.
Emre, a management graduate, and Boyacioglu, a former physician and previously Turkey's Eurimages delegate, met while working for the Ankara Film Festival. "We realised there was much more to be done for cinema (in Turkey) which was practically non-existent outside the big cities," explains Boyacioglu.
The programme consists of new Turkish and European films, tributes and shorts. By Boyacioglu's calculations, the festival has covered some 40,000km.
"The course is determined by the invitations we get," explains Emre. "Since our budget is limited, we can provide the programme and organisation but the hosts must cover the local production costs."
One of these locations is chosen as the international focus of the festival with invited international guests and since 2006, a jury deciding the best films in competition.
"We have managed to re-open closed theatres in places where there were none left," says Emre. "We've brought films to cities that were supposedly averse to cinema; and we've even visited Turkish communities in countries like Greece, Georgia and Bosnia."
When municipalities are not forthcoming with their invitations, they look for other partners. "This year," says Boyacioglu, "we went to Samsun, a city on the Black Sea. The mayor didn't want us but the local university and the governor did."
Operating the festival since 1998 through the Ankara Cinema Association, Emre and Boyacioglu say their job has not become any easier. "We started with the help of the Ministry of Culture and the European Union," explains Emre. "But the Ministry's contribution this year was a paltry $73,000 (EUR60,000). The remaining $87,500 (EUR50,000) comes from private sponsorships - a ridiculously low budget. As for the support of the EU, it has disintegrated into thin air."
All of which may affect plans next year. Short of substantial government help, they will be forced to give up their forays abroad. The pretence of a European umbrella will likely go. "We'll be the Festival on Wheels," says Emre, "and we'll show films from all over the world." She adds: "Ankara may not be our departure point; cinemas there are asking for fees we cannot cover."
"On the other hand," says Boyacioglu, "we've already been approached by a city which we haven't reached before, Urfa, at the eastern end of the country, and we'll definitely go there next year."
The festival intends to step into production, with five shorts from episodes from Orhan Pamuk's novel Snow. They will be shot by newcomers but with the same crew, under the supervision of director Zeki Demirkubuz. All five will be eventually shown together as one feature film.