The first Ankara International Film Festival was held in 1988, under the name “Ankara Film Fair”.  40 films from 10 countries and 30 national productions was brought to the audience, between March 13-20. It was the first extensive cinema organistion carried out in Ankara. Lead by Mahmut Tali Öngören and Aziz Nesin the Capital’s first film fair was realised by the joint efforts of Science and Art, Bilar Co. and Ankara University Faculty of Political Sciences Alumni Association(Mülkiyeliler Birliği).

While it was presenting evolving programmes with rapid diversity, Ankara Film Fair was interrupted mainly by the Gulf War and other reasons. But that year the fair  was institutionalised by the establishment of the World Mass Media Research Foundation on January 11 1991, by the efforts of Mahmut Tali Öngören. The fair was included in framework of  the “4th Ankara International Film Festival” and met with the audience with a rich programme in 1992.

During the first years of the festival, cartoon competitions, among the works focusing on the art of cinema , were also held and those who contributed to cinema were recognised by the awards such as the endeavour award, the honour award and the TV award within the context of that year.

The  “Endeavour Award” is renamed as the “Aziz Nesin Endeavour Award” and became traditional, following the death of Aziz Nesin, significant Turkish humorist and one of the most important figures that founded and shaped the festival, in 1995. Giovanni Scagnamillo and Nijat Özön are first receivers of the “Aziz Nesin Endeavour Award” in 1996.

Ankara University Faculty of Communication Faculty academic staff Mahmut Tali Öngören, founder of the festival and the Foundation, passed away just before the 12th Festival, in 1999. To immortalise Öngören, who realised the founding of TRT and Turkey’s first cinema association, the jury special award in the National Feature Film Festival Competition has been granted as the ”Mahmut Tali Öngören Special Award” since 2000. Kutluğ Ataman is the first receiver of this award with his film “Lola+Bilidikid”.

Many productive and esteemed names such as Mustafa Altıoklar, Zeki Demirkubuz, Yeşim Ustaoğlu, Fatih Akın, Yüksel Aksu and Nuri Bilge Ceylan, received encouraging awards from the Ankara International Film Festival, in their very first years in the world of cinema.

Mahmut Tali Öngören defines the Ankara International Film Festival as “a tulip in the desert”. With this definition, he underlines the success of realising and extending a film festival, despite its realisation in the Capital, in difficult economical, political and cultural conditions. Despite all these difficulties, Festival has strengthened and continued for many years without interruption. Due to economical shortages and negative conditions of the Gulf War II, the festival was interrupted once more in 2004. Today it is a respected festival meeting its audience since a quarter century,.

The Ankara International Film Festival has been investing on the future generations of the National Cinema since its establishment. Its primary goal is to discover and support new names that will shape the future of the Turkish Cinema. Within this context, the Festival evalueted numerous national productions of feature, short, documentary, experimental and animation films with qualified juries. In addition to the selections from the world cinema, short films were not neglected and numerous international films and artists have been invited to meet the audiences every year. The Festival also promoted the competitions in the other categories of cartoon, poster design and Film Story, that support the art of cinema and hosted variety of exhibitions of graphic design, photography and video-art. On the other hand theoretical, academical and practical contribution was facilitated and panels, workshops and conferences were organised in the variety of fields including, history, sociology, women’s issues and sector’s issues within the framework of the Festival. Providing practical experience is not the only aim of the realised workshops. Those workshops made the art reachable for all age groups, including children, youngsters and even the retirees. Each single year of the festival created a synergy, spreading into the city, by bringing artists and public together.

The Ankara International Film Festival gathers internationally renowned guests, experienced artists who served cinema for long years, promising young talents, smart academics, passionate cinephiles, interested volunteers and residents of a collosal city in the surreal atmosphere of the cinema and promises a new voyage every year.