ANTALYA — Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica left Antalya on Sunday, just one day after the southern city’s Golden Orange International Film Festival, where he was going to serve as a member of the international feature competition jury, opened its 47th year with a ceremony marked by controversy, reports Turkish daily Today’s Zaman.

The 47th edition of Antalya’s annual cinematic fare is now clouded with politically charged statements and protests. The festival, billed by Turkey’s movie industry as the country’s most prestigious film festival, has thus been marred by a scandal, drawing the event away from its main target of boosting Turkey’s movie industry.

The famed director of such critically acclaimed films as “Underground” and “The Time of the Gypsies,” labeling reactions to his being a member of the jury at the festival as “barbaric and primitive,” said he was withdrawing from the jury and canceling the rest of his program in Antalya, which also included workshops with film students.

Speaking in a press conference on Sunday at an Antalya hotel, Kusturica said: “I don’t even want to make a plea, but … I’d like to thank Mayor [Mustafa] Akaydin and the people of Antalya for the warm reception. As for the culture [and tourism] minister of this country, I now see him as an enemy because he deserves this,” referring to Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay’s protest against him by not attending Saturday’s opening gala of the festival.

“If you are that sensitive about genocides, why don’t you then speak about the Genocide perteptrated agaisnt Armenians during the World War I. I have always been against the crimes committed against humanity in Bosnia. And if I live thousands of years, I will again be against genocide,” said he.

On Sunday Kusturica also noted that just a few months ago he and his No Smoking Orchestra, which also performed on Saturday in Antalya, visited the northwestern city of Bursa for a live performance as part of the city’s annual festival, where they were greeted warmly and enthusiastically by the city’s officials.

Dismissing accusations that he was supportive of war criminals, Kusturica added: “A person who has dedicated his life to opening new horizons to humanity cannot be supportive of any kind of crime. … I am known to be anti-imperialist. I have built my life and profession on this basis. … What I was fighting for [during the time of the Bosnian war] was a united Yugoslavia,” the filmmaker said.

Minister Gunay was quick to reply to Kusturica’s “unfortunate statements” on Sunday. “I suppose [interpreters] provided him with false and exaggerated translations [of what happened]. I guess that’s why he made those unfortunate statements while he was leaving. I wouldn’t want to speak behind an artist’s back. I wish this debate had never taken place. I wish we only watched his films [in the festival] and a politically motivated debate had not been triggered,” the minister told the Anatolia news agency. “I hope these arguments do not overshadow the Antalya film festival,” he added.

On Saturday Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Antalya City Council member Resat Oktay protested the festival’s organizers for inviting Kusturica to the festival, shouting his objection while Akaydin was about to deliver his opening speech at the festival’s opening gala at the famous Glass Pyramid.

Oktay was immediately taken outside the hall by security personnel. Outside the hall, Oktay told reporters that he staged the protest “on behalf of the citizens of Antalya.” Claiming Kusturica was a “racist … who had no respect for Bosnian Muslims,” Oktay said: “Artists have to have universal [appeal]. An artist cannot be racist. I made this to condemn a person who supports massacre being invited to this festival. As a member of the Antalya City Council, I was elected by the citizens of this city. I condemn Akaydin for inviting this man to the festival.”

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