Turkish culture ministry wants funding back from movie maker over queer film

Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry has demanded the return of its funding for Emin Alper’s new movie Burning Days (Kurak Günler), which gives place to a homosexual relationship, citing “scenario change.” The Ministry requested the funding to be paid with its interest 20 months after it was given.

Duvar English

Director Emin Alper on Dec. 8 announced that Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry has demanded return of its Cinema Support Fund for the movie Burning Days (Kurak Günler) which run under the category of Un Certain Regard in Cannes Film Festival.

The Ministry cited “scenario change” for its demand, Alper said in a tweet.

Alper’s new movie which includes a homosexual relationship between two men, became the target of anti-LGBTI+ opponents, especially pro-Islamist figures and newspapers. They demanded the Culture Ministry to implement a stricter practice of funding, claiming that Alper changed the scenario of his movie after he got the funding.

“Recently, the ministry officially asked for the funding back. First of all contrary to the false claims of some media outlets, we have complied with all formal procedures. There is no such thing as the scenario being different from the movie. It is also very difficult to do this, because these fundings are given in three installments. When you first get accepted, second after completing filming, and third after handing over the movie,” Alper said in the statement.

“Scenarios change all the time. It's impossible otherwise. It changes on set, it changes in editing. Everyone knows this. Since all funds already know this, there is no oversight mechanism anywhere in the world that seeks what changed in the scenario. Support is given to the project. It cannot be interfered with after that. We know why this regulation was introduced. This is a clause introduced so that scriptwriters and directors always keep the self-censorship mechanism active during the creation process,” Alper added.

Alper said the Ministry implemented this “threat mechanism,” wanting the money back, for the first time even though they submitted the final version of the script, including all the changes, to the Ministry before filming.

“The Ministry never gave an official response to the script. When we were accepted to Cannes, pro-government media started to report (against the movie). I guess the pressure on the Ministry must have increased because our submission was answered after 20 months. They now demand the money back by operating an indirect censorship mechanism,” Alper said.

“This is very dangerous. Unfortunately, the ministry has launched a process that is making all directors nervous. Because no reason is given in the letter sent to us. Therefore, this has now opened the door to an enormous arbitrariness. Everyone will have the following anxiety from now on: What if the changes in my script are not liked completely arbitrarily?” he further added.

The Ministry requested the funding to be paid with its interest 20 months after it was given.

Alper called people to watch Burning Days to support, which will be released in theaters on Dec. 9.

Burning Days had its Turkey premiere at the 59th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival in October 2022. The movie received nine awards at the Festival, including Best Director, SİYAD Best Movie, Best Soundtrack, Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Actor.

During his award speech in Antalya, Emin Alper supported Boğaziçi University faculties and students who resist and protest against “Trustee Rector” Naci İnci, who was appointed to his position by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan instead of being elected by faculty members.

“The university is under the attack of a tyrannical mentality that sees the country's most outstanding educational institution as a fortress to be seized. I am truly ashamed of the attack on this precious institution of this country. But Boğaziçi University is resisting. They will win. Everyone who resists despotism will win, not just Boğaziçi University. The Gezi protestors will win. The people of Ukraine, who resist the dictator right next to us, will win. Women who resist cruel mullahs (in Iran) will win,” Alper said during the ceremony.

His speech stirred a huge reaction among pro-government figures. Pro-government dailies used the headlines targeting Emin Alper, such as “The LGBT propaganda movie received support from the ministry! He (Alper) insulted Erdoğan and the government, and received 9 awards!”, “They used the support of the Ministry and insulted the government and Erdogan,” “Hypocrites who take money from the state and attack the state.”

Some of the reportings claimed that the movie’s script was changed after it got the funding.

The movie Burning Days, focuses on Emre who is a young prosecutor and who is newly appointed to a small Turkish town, finding himself being pulled into a political conflict during his first murder investigation.