The feeling of solidarity against all odds

Interview with Petra Holzer – founder and director of BIFED –  Bozcaada International Festival of Ecological Documentary, Turkey.

BIFED is a young festival that takes places in the beautiful island of Bozcaada (Tenedos) in Aegean Sea. The festival aims to address mainly to local communities but already its second year expects to see international guests and visitors from Istanbul.

Green Film Network  continues a series of interviews with environmental film festival directors. We talked to Petra Holtzer, who directs BIFED, about her work, her challenges and her hopes for the future.

How did it all start? How was BIFED born?

BIFED was in our minds since a long time – the need for ecological topics to be spread into smaller communities and to share the struggle for a healthier world with other audiences, documentary makers, activists, people….  However, we also saw that there are so many distractions in big cities like Istanbul – there are many groups organizing campaigns and legal fights for the environment. They share their experiences and try to support smaller groups in villages or rural communities. However, international events rarely make it to small communities. Here in Bozcaada, we found the support in the local community. Their main income is from tourism these days and it seems to get more out of hand each year. There are a lot of people sensitive to the environmental challenges the small ecosystem of the island is facing due to the -as it seems- unstoppable flood of tourism in mainly 2 months of the year. Outside of the season there is viticulture and wine production. They also face the backside of tourism. The paradox situation is that people fled to the island because of its beauty and untouched features which will now be maybe the end of this paradise.


Could you tell about the first edition? How was it? 

It was a big success with the local population – the screening venues were always full and there was very good feedback to us – and it seems they are waiting for this new edition impatiently….

What is the most difficult in your work now?

The most difficult for us is to find the funding to make it an international event. The sponsors for cultural events are sparse in Turkey – the more you get into political sensitive topics (like environment) the less there seems to be the courage to fund them. There is also less and less governmental support for events varying from the government line. As one can follow during the last years – environmental friendly and civil rights respecting behaviour is not the main agenda of the present government.

What do you like the most about your work?

What is really good about our work is to be able to watch so many good films with ideas that are really mind opening. Also to meet with many different people or at least to communicate with them is very nurturing. Watching all those films from all over the world is on one hand really depressing but on the other hand I get the impression that we are not alone. There are other people struggling for similar or same aims – the feeling of solidarity against all odds.

What can you advice to other film festival organisers? Some word of wisdom 

Well, I don’t know whether I have any wisdom to share… This is something for insane people – lots of love and passion for documentaries and the causes they present…. And looking for challenges.

P H O ve Talya Ozguven

Why did you choose films as a tool to give environmental message? Why do you think is a good media?

The world is more affected by images than by words. For years there have been written reports on the refugee crisis in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece. Only this summer, when small Ayan was washed up on the beaches of Bodrum, people started to understand the impact of the crisis on the refugees themselves. Once a picture was available the deaths were not only numbers. I think the same is true for the state of the world in green terms. How are the local people affected? What do they do about it? How are projections about the future? Many of those questions are addressed by wonderful films and will be much more successful than many conferences delivered in closed rooms for small audiences.

What are other ways that work the best in your experience?

Art in general is a good way to reach people. And I think the most important would be working with children – their mind framework and perception will determine the future of the world.

Do you believe that you partially “saving the world” with your work?

“Saving the world” is such a big word! I hope that our work will help to open minds of people and make them active at least in their own environment. That would be already a big step in the right direction.

What are your ideas about the future? How do you think is gonna look like?

Trying to be optimist and being hopeful that the generation of my daughter will be strong and active in taking decisions for their environment for their children for their future. I hope that we will all change a bit the way this crazy downward spiral is going.


By Anastasia Laukkanen