Istanbul Art Fairs

Istanbul hosted two international art fairs this month. ArtInternational (16 – 18 September 2013) was a new event in the city featuring contemporary art. Over sixty galleries from Turkey, the Middle East, Europe and the US participated. 4 – 5,00 attended on the opening day. And at the close of the fair an estimated € 21,000,000 in sales to collectors was reported.


Challenges this year included the Gezi Park protests in June that began with opposition to construction of a mall that would eliminate one of the few public spaces in the heart of Istanbul. These soon spread to other parts of the country and broadened to include complaints about Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies that secularists claimed were limiting personal freedom and moving the country in a more religiously conservative direction.

Fulya Erdemci, curator of the 13th Istanbul Biennial (14 September – 20 October 2013), decided to embrace the controversy rather than ignore the situation. The theme for this year’s events Mom, Am I Barbarian? focuses on the place of public art in society. All exhibitions are free but the biennial will not install art in public spaces.

More information about ArtInternational and Istanbul Biennial online.

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved


The 56th annual San Francisco International Film Festival runs 25 April to 9 May 2013. Included are more than three-dozen films produced or set in Croatia, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, and Spain. Most of these are dramatic features, a few are shorts, and three are documentaries. Programs will take place at eight venues in San Francisco and one in Berkeley.


Among the ten films competing for the New Directors Prize are: Habi, the Foreigner directed by María Florencia Álvarez, Argentina/Brazil 2013; Present Tense directed by Belmin Sölyemez, Turkey 2012; La Sirga directed by William Vega, Colombia/France/Mexico 2012; and Youth directed by Justine Malle, France 2012.

Before Midnight directed by Richard Linklater, USA 2012 is set in Greece. This is a sequel to Before Sunrise, USA 1995. The new film screens Thursday 9 May 2013, 7:00 PM at the Castro Theatre followed by the closing night party 9:00 PM to 12:00 AM at Ruby Skye. Wednesday 8 May 2013 the director will take part in A Conversation With Richard Linklater 6:00 PM at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.

For more information and tickets see the San Francisco Film Society web site.

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

For Ahmet Yildiz

Zenne Dancer directed by Caner Alper and Mehmet Binay (Turkey) 2011 is based on a tragic true story.

Can evades military service by hiding at his aunt’s apartment in Istanbul, performing as a male belly dancer and barely eking a living as a fortuneteller.

Ahmet is a university student under surveillance by his tormented mother who is obsessed with cleaning.

Daniel is a German photographer attempting to escape his troubled past.

The three men become friends, helping each other to achieve their full potential. But the stakes are high and the consequences serious.

The film screens Saturday afternoon 23 June 2012 at the Victoria Theater during Frameline 36. Tickets and information available at Frameline.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Hot Kebab

Mixed Kebab directed by Guy Lee Thys (Belgium/Turkey) 2012 is a fast-paced drama set in Antwerp. Bram, a handsome, young, gay Belgium man of Turkish descent faces numerous challenges in his pursuit of a love relationship with Kevin. His young brother Furkan, however, is becoming a thug.

Traditional family expectations clash with modern mores. Many of the issues currently dividing Europeans play out in the course of the narrative. Despite the obstacles faced, the future remains hopeful.

It screens Thursday night 14 June 2012 at the Castro Theatre during Frameline 36. Tickets and information available at Frameline.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Frameline 36

The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival runs from 14 – 24 June 2012 at the Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater, and Victoria Theatre in San Francisco as well as the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley. It is the oldest running LGBT film festival in the world.

One of the eight showcase films this year is Bye Bye Blondie directed by Virgina Despentes  (France) 2011. World features include: Let My People Go (France) 2011, Mixed Kebab (Turkey) 2012, Unforgivable (France) 2011, and Zenne Dancer (Turkey) 2012. Also a documentary, The Invisible Men (Israel) 2012.

More information is available at Frameline.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

The Great Disaster

Paradise Lost by Giles Milton, Basic Books, 2008 begins with a list of characters divided into six categories: British, Levantine, American, Greek, Turkish, Armenian. It recounts the tragic story leading up to and following the destruction of Smyrna and the deaths of thousands in 1922. Milton takes an unbiased, balanced approach as he chronicles the horrific events, relying on the personal diaries of survivors for an eyewitness account of the final days.

Neither the Greeks nor the Turks, the principal players involved, can claim innocence in the matter. And both the British and Americans failed to intervene with the exception of one man whose actions saved countless lives among the myriads of desperate people attempting to escape the final conflagration.

At the end of World War I, Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, was occupied by British forces because the Port was on the losing side. The major European powers were eager to seize control of major parts of the empire. The Treaty of Sèvres promised the Greek Kingdom Smyrna and a considerable portion of land surrounding the port city in Asia Minor.

However, the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos and his followers, along with British Prime Minister David Lloyd George promoted the Great Idea: the conquest of Constantinople. The Greek Army seemed to be succeeding until Mustafa Kemal rallied an affective fighting force to repel the invaders and drive them back to the sea.

Twice A Stranger by Bruce Clark, Harvard University Press, 2006 presents the personal stories of some of the survivors and their descendents were uprooted from their homes and the lands where generations of their family lived during the population exchange in 1923. About 400,000 Muslims were forcibly moved from Greece to Turkey and 1.2 million Greeks from Turkey were resettled in Greece.

After peace between the two nations was restored, a few of the exiles and/or their children managed to visit the places where they once lived and still longed for but none were allowed to remain there permanently. They talk about the initial hardships they faced as refugees among their coreligionists and recount tearful reunions with their former neighbors years and decades later. The book humanizes and gives witness to a sad episode of nearly forgotten Mediterranean history.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Call For Young Media Artists

Istanbul Digital is looking for young Greek and Turkish media artists in their twenties to early thirties to produce short films that explore what unites and divides the two neighbor countries. The deadline to register online is Sunday 12 February 2012. The main project partner is the Center For Research And Action On Peace, based in Athens.

Associate partners include European Cultural Foundation, Aeolis, The University Of The Aegean, Centre Of Education and Intercultural Communication, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Yildiz Technical University, and Anadolu University.

The overall theme of the North Aegean Narratives project is Rethinking Closeness and Apartness– Reconnecting with the Other Side. The ultimate goal is to foster mutual cultural understanding through open dialogue between Greeks and Turks. The project is co-funded by the European Union and the Government of the Republic of Turkey.

The eight Turkish and eight Greek filmmakers chosen to participate will first attend a documentary workshop before teaming up to work collaboratively on 16 short films that will later be screened in Adatepe, Athens, Çanakkale, Anadolu University in Eskişehir, Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, and Mytilene. Finally a closing conference will be held in Istanbul to evaluate the project and share the results with a wider audience.

For more information click on one of the red words above.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved


For many people the Mediterranean lies at the center of imagination. In previous centuries it was a port of embarkation for adventurers seeking treasure abroad. My own ancestors were among those who abandoned poverty and turmoil in their homeland hoping to make a better life for themselves and their children in a foreign land.

Today it offers bright, warm days for the travelers of Northern Europe. And economic opportunity for refugees from Africa, the Balkans or the Middle East. It remains a vibrant crossroad for numerous cultures and peoples. Constantly transformed.

Mediterranean Focus will primarily cover art, books, cinema, food, and music not only within or from the region but will also trace the area’s influence in other parts of the world.

I am most familiar with Greece, Italy, France and Turkey but will make a conscious effort to broaden the scope of reporting. Also I welcome comments, suggestions and other input from readers.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved