Sibel – Interview

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Sibel, a tale of female empowerment in Turkey’s Black Sea remote region

Interview by Eugénie Malinjod, for London Film Week, on 6 December 2018
with Cagla Zencirci and Guillaume Giovanetti (both directors) and Damla Sönmez (main actress)

Turkish-French directors Çağla Zencirci and Guillaume Giovanetti explore the topic of exclusion and our relationship to the “Other” in their latest collaboration Sibel, a drama starring Dalma Sönmez. Winner of the FIPRESCI International Critics’ Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival, Sibel is a tale of female empowerment that recounts the story of a 25-year-old mute woman living as an outcast in a remote mountain village near Turkey’s Black Sea, who finds her true voice when she encounters a helpless and mysterious injured fugitive. On the occasion of the film’s UK Premiere at London Film Week last night, directors Çağla Zencirci, Guillaume Giovanetti and actress Damla Sömnez shared the secrets behind the scenes of Sibel.

Where did the idea of Sibel come from?

Çağla Zencirci: We were first interested in the whistling language, which we read about in a book thirteen years ago. Therefore, we decided to go explore the Turkish Black Sea area. When we arrived there, we realised the language still existed and people were still speaking it.
Guillaume Giovanetti: At the same time, we found out that this language is endangered due to technology and the young generation who cannot speak it well. As we were sitting in a café there, we came across this woman who entered the village whistling. Whilst people were answering her in Turkish, she kept on whistling and that’s how we got the idea of making Sibel.

How did you proceed to shoot the film?

C.Z.: We spent a lot of time observing how people live in the village. We met with the women of the area, we stayed at the mayor’s house, which is actually Sibel’s house in the film.
G.G.: The idea was to get really familiar with these people, for the audience to believe Damla was one of them, that she was born and raised in this village too.

Sibel is clearly an outcast. What does she embody in this conservative village, compared to the others?

Damla Sömnez: When I first read the script, I was a bit frightened and at the same time, I felt very similar to her. She represents some parts that we all have in us: the ones that want to be ourselves even more, the ones that seek to behave according to who we truly are and not to predefined social norms. Even though she appears to be different, she is a character everyone can identify to.

Can you share a few words about your actress Damla? How did you first find her?

C.Z.: We only worked with non-professional actors in our previous films. For Sibel, we really wanted to have professional actors on board. Damla immediately came to our mind to interpret Sibel.
G.G.: My grandmother was actually a fan of Damla, she was watching her on TV and following her work. After looking at her, it quickly became obvious that she was the one we wanted to work with.

Damla, how did you prepare yourself for the role?

D.S.: I met Çağla and Guillaume two and half years before shooting the film. At that time, the script was only five sentences long. It was just about this woman who is mute and who finds her own strength, who she really is through the narrative. You don’t often come across that many strong human stories so I immediately knew I wanted to be part of the project. The only issue was that I did not know how to whistle at all. As Çağla and Guillaume were writing the script, I was working on the whistling. However, the learning process became really intense just three months before the actual shooting. I had a professional teacher helping me, I stayed in the village to get familiar with its inhabitants and I spent a lot of time working in the fields. The idea was to be immersed and to experience the daily life in the village.

Can you tell us more about Ali? What effects does he have on Sibel?

C.Z.: Ali is another type of outcast. He clearly symbolises the one we don’t know, the one we are afraid of. This fear is not only specific to Turkey; it goes beyond borders. Whenever people are afraid of something or when they don’t know about someone, they think of it as a threat. They see it as terrorists, migrants, dangerous … Ali embodies all of them just by being unknown to the village. Ali and Sibel both understand each other, without prejudice and without any means of communication, which is capital in the film.
G.G.: Ali brings a new perspective to Sibel, something that she was lacking in life. Sibel has a lot of energy but does not know how to use it and as she is looking for herself, her encounter with Ali actually helps revealing who she really is.

What’s your view on Turkish cinema?

C.Z.: Turkey is a really big country with many different layers. The things you see on TV or in the media only represent a small part of Turkey but Turkish cinema is still very active. Of course it is difficult for independent cinema, like everywhere else in the world. There is some kind of independent cinema production going on and we can only hope that more and more women characters will be created because we all need it.

2018 Awards

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LFW18 Awards

Our Jury has spoken, please discover the 2018 London Film Week Awards below

Feature Films

Best Film — Burning (Lee Chang-dong)

Jury Prize — M (Yolande Zauberman)

Best Director — Lee Chang-dong (Burning)

Best Acting — Damla Sönmez (Sibel)

Best Screenplay — Jung-Mi Oh, Lee Chang-dong (Burning)

Short Films

Best Short — Mercury (Kyla Simone Bruce)

Jury Prize — Three Centimetres (Lara Zeidan)

Virtual Reality

Best VR Project — The Green Line (Ioannis Bekiaris, Alexis Mavros)

Top 10 Film Festivals in the World

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The entire London Film Week team has been delving into international film festivals to unveil our list of the World’s Top 10 Film Festivals. With over 5,000 film festivals in existence, it wasn’t easy to only pick ten. Have a read below to see which ones made it to the selection!

  1. Festival de Cannes

Cannes Film Festival is widely considered the most prestigious film festival in the world, mainly because of its exclusivity and long history of premiering some of the greatest films of all time but also because it hosts the world’s busiest film market, the Marché du Film. With about 30,000 accredited film industry professionals, it is THE go-to film festival!

2. Toronto International Film Festival

Since it launched in 1976, TIFF has become one of the largest and most prestigious in the world, propelling emerging filmmakers onto the international scene and awards hopefuls toward the big autumn film season. It is the main entry point to the North American film market.

3. Venice Film Festival

Founded in 1932 as part of the Venice Biennale, the Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world and, in many respects, the most traditionally glamorous. The film festival is taking place in late August or early September on the island of the Lido, Venice, Italy. Screenings take place in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi and in other venues nearby.

4. Berlin International Film Festival

Considered the world’s largest public festival with approximately in excess of 400,000 tickets sold to the audience, the public programme of the Berlin International Film Festival shows about 400 films per year, mostly international or European premieres. The film industry is massively present in Berlin (20,000 professional visitors), attending the European Film Market, the Co-Production Market or Berlinale Talents, amongst other events.

5. Sundance Film Festival

Sundance is not only the largest independent film festival in the United States, it is a lot of things: an exhibition for the most exciting independently produced films from the US and around the world; an early predictor of the year’s movie trends; a networking hub for filmmakers and other talent looking to break into the movie business; a forum for discussing issues and groundbreaking technologies that affect film and media; a place to spot celebrities in puffy jackets and furry boots; and a palate cleanser after the hectic autumn movie season.

6. International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

IDFA is the world’s biggest documentary festival, held annually in Amsterdam. Its Forum is Europe’s biggest co-financing market for international documentary productions, and its popular “Docs for Sale” is an important international documentary market where buyers, sales agents and producers converge. The festival also draws large local audiences, screening more than 200 documentaries and attracting nearly 120,000 visitors.

7. Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival

The Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival has become the world’s premiere cinema event dedicated to short films. It is the second largest film festival in France after Cannes in terms of audience and professional attendance. It is at the heart of many all-year-round activities and missions conducted from La Jetée by the collective team of Sauve qui peut le court métrage.

8. International Film Festival Rotterdam

IFFR grew to become one of the largest audience and industry-driven film festivals in the world, while maintaining its focus on innovative filmmaking by talented newcomers and established auteurs as well as on presenting cutting edge media art. In 2017 the Festival counted in excess of 300,000 admissions and over 2,000 film professionals attending the event. The festival’s Official Selection includes about 250 feature films and 200 short films.

9. South by Southwest

South by Southwest is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March in Austin, Texas, United States. It began in 1987, and has continued to grow in both scope and size every year.

10. Busan International Film Festival

The Busan International Film Festival, held annually in Busan, South Korea, is one of the most significant film festivals in Asia. After its establishment in 1996, BIFF has focused on introducing and supporting new Asian directors and their films. Since 2006, it also hosts the Asian Film Market.

We Are London Film Week

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London Film Week is an annual film festival taking place in the heart of London during the first week of December.

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Submit your film to London Film Week and be part of our Gala Screenings.

Rules and Regulations

To apply, please follow the instructions below. We have created a Submissions FAQ, feel free to read all about it here.

LFW19 Submissions


London Film Week accepts following submissions:

  • Short Films: narrative, documentary, animation
  • Feature Films: narrative, documentary, animation
  • Music Videos
  • Virtual Reality Projects

Got a question?

Please find the answers to the most common questions related to the submissions process.

What is London Film Week?

London Film Week (LFW) is an annual film festival inviting the general public alongside many British and international film industry visitors to discover the best film productions from all over the world.

The aim of the Festival is to raise awareness and promote the various aspects of international cinema in all its forms.

Do you require a Premiere Status for films/projects screening at LFW?

We do not require a Premiere Status for Short Films, Music Videos and Virtual Reality projects. We require a UK Premiere status for all the Feature Films selected at LFW.

When are the submission deadlines?

Early Submissions Deadline: 02 July 2019
Regular Submission Deadline: 10 September 2019
Late Submission Deadline: 09 October 2019

Notification date: All films will be notified on 31 October 2019

What are the submission fees?

Fees depend on the submission deadline, the earlier you submit the cheaper it is:
Short films: $20 > $50
Feature Films: $40 > $80
Virtual Reality Projects: $20 > $50
Music videos: $20 > $50

Are there any Awards & Prizes?

Entry into London Film Week guaranties all the films/projects to be In Competition and therefore to be nominated for following Awards:

– Short Films: Best Short, Jury Prize, Audience Award
– Feature Films: Best Film, Jury Prize, Best Director, Best Acting (features both male and female nominees), Best Screenplay, Audience Award
– Virtual Reality Projects: Best VR Project, Audience Award

There is a £1,000 cash prize for Best Short, and £1,000 for Best Feature Film. All other prizes are in-kind (which will be announced one month prior to the event).

What is the Official Selection of LFW?

London Film Week is divided in different sections:

  • Official Competition – 7 short films + 7 feature films
  • Virtual Reality Projects Showcase – the best of VR
  • Education: a Film Forum open to anyone interested in film/VR
  • Film Professional’s Meetings: Co-Productions days
  • Carte Blanche: a carte blanche to a Guest Country

Do I have to submit via FilmFreeway?

Yes, we only accept submissions via FilmFreeway.

Once you have completed your application your submission will be assigned a unique tracking number, in order to be recognized by our system. Unregistered submissions will not be viewed. If you have any trouble registering online, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you through the process.

What are the perks for filmmakers at London Film Week?

London Film Week invites film directors and leading actors to attend the presentation of their films in London. A certain number of hotel rooms are made available during the event. All selected filmmakers will have free access to the Film Forum organised during LFW. And besides the Q&A sessions to meet the audience, we’ll be hosting daily networking lunches in order for filmmakers to meet with film industry guests.

Submit Today & Start Getting Noticed.


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