The non-Turkish jury members weren't aware that Sivas Kangal is a dog-breed specific to this village, which only enhanced our appreciation of Kaan Mujdeci's urgent and uncompromising drama in terms of its particular vision. There were concerns about the ferocious realism of the dogfight sequences, allayed for us by the filmmakers' reassurance that no animals were harmed: these scenes, graphic and intensely realised as they are, plunge us into the culture of male-dominated spectatorship in a brutal and unforgiving sport. Thanks in part to its wonderful, bristling lead performance by Dogan Izci, the film also manages to invest its boy-dog relationship with compassion but none of the sentimentality usually endemic to such stories. And in stylistic terms it was the boldest piece of work we looked at, combining a visceral handheld intimacy with expansive use of landscape that was never merely pictorial. For these reasons Sivas was the jury's unanimous choice.
Helen De Witt is Head of Cinemas at the BFI, leading programme development for BFI Southbank. She also programmes the Experimenta strand of the BFI London Film Festival. Prior to this, she was festivals producer at the BFI, delivering the London Film Festival and the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (no BFI Flare). She has teaches Film Studies for Birkbeck College, University of London and has published articles on independent cinema, artists’ film and video, and football.
Ryan Gilbey is film critic of the New Statesman and was named Reviewer of the Year in the 2007 Press Gazette magazine awards. He also writes for the Guardian on film, theatre and comedy. He is the author of It Don’t Worry Me, a book about 1970s US cinema, as well as a study of Groundhog Day in the BFI Modern Classics series.
Mehmet Ergen has been Artistic Director of Arcola Theatre since founding it in 2000. Previously he was Artistic Director of the Southwark Playhouse, which he co-founded, from 1993 to 1999, and Associate Producer at BAC. Mehmet is also Artistic Director of Arcola Istanbul (Talimhane Theatre), which he founded in 2008. He has won a variety of awards for his work including: the Time Out Award for Outstanding Achievement, a Time Out Award for Best Fringe Production, the Angela Carter Award, and the WhatsOnStage Award for Best New Musical. His recent productions at the Arcola include Don Gil of the Green Breeches, Mare Rider, Sweet Smell of Success and The Painter.
Tim Robey has written on film, and occasionally books, for the Daily Telegraph since 2000. He is co-editor of The DVD Stack (Canongate), a guide to the best versions of movies available globally, and turns up on Radio 4’s Front Row, the Film Programme, Monocle FM Radio and BBC Film 2015.