Film Festivals and Social Movements Intertwined: The Spatial Activism of the Istanbul Film Festival Audience during the Gezi Protests


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


"This thesis focuses on the relationship between film festivals and political
activism by taking the International Istanbul Film Festival (IIFF) audience as a
case study during the Gezi uprising. It is a study of a community's political
action hand in hand with their cosmopolitan imagination and nostalgic feelings
in their engagement with the IIFF, when Turkey increasingly lurched towards
authoritarianism in the 2010s. Through the increasing number of festival films
and events that went against the dominant ideology in Turkey, this audience
community embraced an activist cosmopolitanism which set the ground for
political action. It scrutinises their formation of nostalgic feelings for the
historical spaces in BeyoÄŸlu, developed jointly by their anti-neoliberal
discourses while also displaying their political action against the top-down
urban regeneration programmes. In order to account for their political activism,
revolving initially around festival spaces and then occupied parks, I conducted
an ethnographic research at the festival and the Gezi uprising from 2013 to
2014. Employing participant observation, life histories and in-depth interviews,
this research examines the intricacies of human relations with spaces, social
movements and cultural events at an increasingly authoritarian regime. The
rise of authoritarianism also implied a transformation in my methodology.
This thesis offers a timely contribution to the relationship between neoliberalism
and Islamic fundamentalism while pointing to people's political use
of cultural spaces. It also offers new insights on the phenomenon of film
festivals by relating them to urban cultures and social movements in their
hosting cities. It expands our knowledge on non-Western audiences'
engagement with a film festival, whilst providing an interpretation of social
movement development attached to cultural spaces such as film festivals.
More broadly, it gives new insights on the film and protest culture of a secular
group within a predominantly Muslim culture in showing the ways in which they
oppose Islamic fundamentalism and neoliberalism. It situates the Emek
movement and the Gezi uprising, not only in their close affinity with Istanbul's
cityscape and Turkey's political situation but also in their organic relationship
with global social movements particularly the Occupy movements and the
Arab Spring. Thus, this thesis makes a unique interdisciplinary contribution to the existing literature on film festivals as well as urban research and social
Date of Award17 Oct 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorRUXANDRA TRANDAFOIU (Director of Studies) & ELKE WEISSMANN (Supervisor)


  • social movements
  • audience research
  • the Gezi
  • film festivals

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