The Istanbul International Film Festival (Turkish: Uluslararası İstanbul Film Festivali) is the first and oldest international film festival in Turkey, organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts. It is held every year in April in movie theaters in Istanbul, Turkey. As mentioned in its regulations, the festival aims to encourage the development of cinema in Turkey and to promote films of quality in the Turkish cinema market.

The Istanbul International Film Festival was first organized in 1982, within the frame of the International Istanbul Festival as a “Film Week” consisting of six films. The theme of the films participating in the Festival was limited to “Arts and Cinema”, to keep the event within the context of the International Istanbul Festival. In 1983 the event was realized under the title of “Istanbul Filmdays”, taking place throughout the Festival within a span of a month.

Beginning from 1984, the event gained an identity as a separate activity; it was shifted to the month of April. In 1985, two competitive sections, one being national and the other international, were included in the festival program. From 1987 on, “Cinema Honorary Awards” began to be presented.

In the following years, The Istanbul International Filmdays firmly established its position and took its place among the major film festivals of the world with the large number of films shown and the quality and versatility of its program.
At the beginning of 1989 the event was recognized as “a competitive specialized festival” by International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF) and was accredited. Parallel to this development, “Istanbul Filmdays” was renamed as “Istanbul International Film Festival”.

Beginning from 1996, “Lifetime Achievement Awards” along with “Cinema Honorary Awards” began to be presented to international cineastes, actors and actresses.

In 2006, celebrating its 25th year, the festival created a meeting platform for Turkish and European film professionals under the title “Meetings on the Bridge”, aiming to bring European film institutions with Turkish directors and producers to discuss funding possibilities. Also in 2006, Azize Tan, the then Assistant Director of the festival replaced Hülya Uçansu as director.

In 2007, the Council of Europe, in collaboration with Eurimages, started to present the Film Award of the Council of Europe (FACE) to a film selected from the entries in the Human Rights and Cinema section of the festival. With its 28th edition in 2009, the festival began to give its Golden Tulip Award also as a result of its National Competition.

Numerous filmmakers, actors and actresses visited the festival at its past editions, such as, actors Claudia Cardinale, Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Harvey Keitel, John Malkovich, Charles Dance, Jeanne Moreau, Greta Scacchi, Sophia Loren, Patricia Arquette, Stephen Dorff, Barbara Sukowa, Jane Birkin, Ian McKellen, Moe Dunford, Gaspard Ulliel; filmmakers Bernardo Bertolucci, Chantal Akerman, 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, Youssef Chahine, Emir Kusturica, Elia Kazan, Nikita Mikhalkov, Ken Russell, Roger Corman, István Szabó, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Nagisa Oshima, Ettore Scola, Michelangelo Antonioni, Peter Greenaway, Stephen Frears, Gus Van Sant, Alexander Sokurov, Jerzy Skolimowski, Marco Bellocchio, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Tony Gatlif, Todd Solondz, Elia Suleiman, Béla Tarr, Claire Denis, Claude Lanzmann, Leos Carax, Terence Davies, Ann Hui, Costa-Gavras, Peter Weir, Mike Figgis, Carlos Reygadas, Bille August, Marin Karmitz, Pawel Pawlikowski, Rolf De Heer, Lone Scherfig, Raoul Peck, Asghar Farhadi, Volker Schlöndorff, Barbara Miller, Florin Şerban, Félix Maritaud, Guillaume Nicloux, Catherine Corsini, and Lynne Ramsay.

Since the beginning of the Festival, a total of 2,065,000 spectators have attended the screenings of 2,330 films from 72 different countries (2005 figures). The festival boasted an audience of 170,000 in 2007, breaking its own record.

Awards list

These awards are presented within the context of the festival:
• Golden Tulip (for the best film in the international competition)
• Best Turkish Film of the Year
• Best Turkish Director of the Year
• Special Prize of the Jury
• Special Mention
• Best Actor and Best Actress (national competition)
• Honorary Award
• Lifetime Achievement Award
• FIPRESCI Prize (national -in memory of Onat Kutlar- and international competitions)
• Film Award of the Council of Europe
• People’s Choice Award