Organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), the Istanbul Film Festival aims to encourage the development and the promotion of quality films in Turkey. Offerings for 2015 include International Competition, Human Rights in Cinema Competition, Out of Competition, Turkish Cinema 2014-2015, Turkish Classics Revisited, Cinema Honorary Awards, Akbank Galas, Masters, From the World of Festivals, New Visions, Documentary Time with NTV, Mined Zone, Antidepressant, Kids' Menu, Midnight Madness, Family Ties, Balkans: Cinema of Flames, New German Animation, No Man's Land: Lisandro Alonso, Hundred Years of Pain, The 50th Anniversary of the Foundation of the Cinematheque, In memoriam, and Films About Conscience.
The Istanbul Film Festival was first presented as a film week in the summer of 1982, within the framework of the Istanbul Festival. In 1983 under the title “International Istanbul Film Days”, 36 films were shown in one month.
Beginning in 1984, the event became a separate activity and was shifted to April. In 1985, with the incentive of Sakir Eczacibasi, two competitive sections, one national and the other international, were included in the Festival program. The grand prize of the festival, the Golden Tulip, was first given this year to Michael Radford for his film 1984. Accredited by FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations) since 1989 as a “specialised competitive festival”, the “film week” thus was renamed the Istanbul Film Festival. Only films on arts or artists or literary adaptations can participate to the International Golden Tulip Competition.
In 2006, celebrating its 25th year, the Istanbul Film Festival launched the Meetings on the Bridge program, which aims at bringing together representatives of European film institutions with Turkish producers and directors to discuss funding possibilities for filming projects. Another objective of this two-day conference series is to create a meeting platform where European producers seeking collaboration opportunities with Turkey can meet their Turkish counterparts to discuss the co-production potentials and the difficulties encountered so far on the projects they wanted to realize. Within the frame of the Meetings on the Bridge program, a Feature Film Project Development Workshop was initiated in 2008. With these activities, the Festival provides a meeting platform for film professionals (directors, producers, scriptwriters and reps from institutions) from Europe and Turkey.
In 2007, the Human Rights in Cinema section of the festival program became competitive and started giving the FACE (Film Award of the Council of Europe) in collaboration with the Council of Europe and Eurimages. This award is given only at the Istanbul Film Festival.
The Festival features a thematically specialized international competition, provides a showcase for recent Turkish film productions, and thus represents a rewarding medium where Turkish and foreign filmmakers get together. The Festival draws a special interest to world classics, presenting retrospective sections within its programs particularly attended by young audiences. For the first time in 2005, special thematic curated sections were included in the program which comprises approximately 200 titles, making the Festival the comprehensive film festival in Turkey. With an audience of 170,000 in 2007, it is also considered the biggest film festival.
A member of the advisory board and program advisor since 1983, Vecdi Sayar quit his post in 1995. In 1995, co-founder of the festival and ?KSV executive Onat Kutlar was killed in a terrorist bombing. Festival director since 1983, Hülya Uçansu handed her post over to Assistant Director Azize Tan in 2006.
In January 2010, ?KSV chairman and co-founder of the festival ?akir Eczac?ba?? died. The International Golden Tulip Award, with the support of the Eczacibasi Group, strated to be given in memory of ?akir Eczacibasi?.
The Festival, whose aim is “to encourage the development of cinema in Turkey, to help Turkish cinema attain international recognition and to promote films of quality in the Turkish market”, has also introduced international institutions and organizations like EURIMAGES to the Turkish market.
Numerous filmmakers, actors and actresses visited the festival in its 30 film like years, such as, Claudia Cardinale, Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Harvey Keitel, John Malkovich, Jeanne Moreau, Greta Scacchi, Sophia Loren, Bernardo Bertolucci, François Ozon, Paul Schrader, Tsai Ming-liang, Park Chan-wook, Neil Jordan, Jane Campion, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Bertrand Tavernier, Carlos Saura, Nanni Moretti, Theo Angelopoulos, Paul Cox, Abbas Kiarostami, Jerry Schatzberg, Yusuf ?ahin, Emir Kusturica, Elia Kazan, Nikita Mikhalkov, Ken Russell, Roger Corman, István Szabó, Krzysztof Kie?lowski, Nagisa Oshima, Ettore Scola, Michelangelo Antonioni, Peter Greenaway, Stephen Frears, Gus Van Sant, Alexander Sokurov, Jerzy Skolimowski, Mark Caro, Marco Bellocchio, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Tony Gatlif, Todd Solondz, Elia Suleiman, and Jane Birkin.