Ankara Film Festival was held for the first time in 1988. In the festival held between 13-20 March, around 40 works from 10 countries and 30 local productions met with the audiences. Until then, no such large-scale organization for cinema had been organized in Ankara. The first film festival of the capital, took placeunder the leadership of Mahmut Tali Öngören and Aziz Nesin. and was implemented in partnership with the Mulkiyeliler Union and Science and Art, Bilar A.Ş.
While the Ankara Film Festival offered programs that diversified and developed rapidly, it was interrupted in 1991 primarily due to the Gulf War and other reasons. However, this year resulted in the laying of the institutional foundations of the festival; With the efforts of Mahmut Tali Öngören, the World Mass Communication Research Foundation was established on January 11, 1991. The festival, which was included in the activities of the foundation, was presented to the audience in 1992 as the 4th Ankara International Film Festival with its rich program.
In the first years of the festival, a cartoon competition was also organized within the scope of works dealing with the art of cinema as a subject, and those who put their effort into cinema were honored with titles such as labor award, honor award, TV award in line with the understanding of that year.
After the death of Turkey's great humorist Aziz Nesin in 1995, one of the most important names in the establishment and shaping of the festival, the "Emek Award" became a tradition, taking the name "Aziz Nesin Emek Award". Giovanni Scagnamillo and Nijat Özön were the first winners of the "Aziz Nesin Labor Award" in 1996.
Since the year 2000 the establishment of TRT Television, in order to declare Öngören unforgettable, who has created Turkey’s first Cinematheque, decided to rename the Special Jury Award in the National Feature Film Competition as ‘Mahmut Tali Öngören Special Award’. Kutluğ Ataman with his film Lola+Bilidikid was the first person to receive this award.
Mustafa Altıoklar, Zeki Demirkubuz, Yeşim Ustaoğlu, Fatih Akın, Yüksel Aksu, Nuri Bilge Ceylan are among many productive and important names who have won presticious awards that kick started their careers in the film industry.
Mahmut Tali Öngören defines the Ankara Film Festival as "a tulip in the desert". With this definition, he mentions the difficulty of creating and growing a film festival due to economic, political and cultural difficulties despite being held in the Capital. Despite all these difficulties, the festival gained strength and continued uninterruptedly for many years. Although it was interrupted once again in 2004 due to the negative effects of the 2. Gulf War and the economic difficulties, today it welcomes its audience as a prestigious festival that has turned over a quarter of a century.
Ankara Film Festival has invested in the future generations of National Cinema since the beginning. Its primary goal is to discover and support new names who will shape the future of Turkish Cinema. In this context, long, short, documentary films with qualified juries; evaluated numerous domestic productions ranging from experimental to animation. In addition to the World Cinema Selection, it did not neglect short films and brought its audience together with countless international films and artists every year. It has also been an encouragement in other fields that support the art of cinema, such as Caricature, Poster Design, Film Story competition. It has also hosted a variety of exhibitions ranging from illustration and photography to 'video-art'. On the other hand, within the framework of the festival, panels, workshops, conferences were organized in various fields ranging from history to sociology, from women's issues to sectoral issues, and contributed theoretically, academically and practically. The aim of the different workshops carried out is not only to provide practical experience. It has made art accessible to different age groups ranging from children to young people and even retirees. The festival brought together artists and the public every year, creating a synergy that spreads across the city.
Ankara Film Festival welcomes internationally renowned guests, experienced artists who have worked in cinema for many years, promising young talents, wise academics, passionate cinephiles; It brings together curious volunteers and residents of a huge city in the dreamy language of cinema and promises a brand new journey every year.