Tension between acclaimed Turkish directors Ceylan, Demirkubuz heightens

The tension between two acclaimed Turkish directors, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Zeki Demirkubuz, is getting heightened as the latter heavily criticized the former in a live television broadcast. Both directors are known for having a rift for a long time as Demirkubuz accuses Ceylan of “stealing” movie plot from him.

This file photo shows Zeki Demirkubuz (L) and Nuri Bilge Ceylan (R)

Duvar English

The tension between acclaimed Turkish directors Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Zeki Demirkubuz is getting heightened as the latter heavily criticized the former in a live television broadcast.

Both directors are known for having a rift since 2006 as Demirkubuz accuses Ceylan of “stealing” the plot of his movie “Ember” for the latter’s 2008-dated “Three Monkeys.”

The heightening of the tension started with Ceylan’s recently published book “Kış Uykusu” (“Winter Sleep”), the same name with his 2014-dated award winning movie.

In the diary published within the book, Ceylan was seen saying in March 26, 2014 that he was once again bothered by the accusations that he “stole” Demirkubuz’s plot.

“I've never talked about this until now. I didn't speak because I have always found silence more convincing in general and because Ebru (Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s wife) suggested me not to speak in this case, as always, and I chose to remain silent. But on the other hand, there is a saying in this culture: 'Silence comes from confession',” he wrote.

“Now, I'm not sure if this is the right place for this, but I would like to give a brief explanation for those who are wondering: Of course, there is no such thing. In fact, Zeki knows this very well, but for some reason he prefers to create the impression that there is such a thing. So he doesn't say it openly, instead he does it from a safe distance where he can easily deny it if necessary. I think it's such a shame,” he added.

Ceylan noted that Demirkubuz had once said he never watched the movie and added that “How can someone imply such things about a movie he claims he hasn't watched? I don't know. Maybe, in his own way, he was taking revenge for the fact that in 2006 (that is, two years before Three Monkeys), I suddenly started acting cold towards him and not seeing him - albeit a little sadly - due to some not very important things.”

After the publication of the book in November 2023, these remarks went viral on social media and the discussion regarding this topic has revived.

In a live broadcast on Habertürk TV on Dec. 26, Demirkubuz said Ceylan published his diary in line with “a plan and interest behind this.”

He said they were never close friends as it was said. “At the beginning of 2006, when he was editing 'Climates', he did something wrong to me. So I kept a distance from our relationship but it did not break.”

“That year, they increased the Best Film award to 300,000 liras at the Antalya Film Festival. That year, we were both competing in the festival,” he added. 

Demirkubuz said their relationship worsened during the festival in 2006, in which his movie “Destiny” won the Best Film award. 

“This (Ceylan) came by showing off while we were sitting in the hotel lobby on the day of the awards night. He also had a friend from Cannes on the jury, a jerk. We then thought that he must have received a signal, that's why he was in a good mood. We went to the awards ceremony in the evening. We sat in our seats. Then him, his producer, his wife Ebru Ceylan, came and sat right in front of us. Neither Ebru, who watched ‘Destiny’ and talked to me two days ago, nor his producer looked at me,” Demirkubuz said.

“He received two awards. We didn’t have much expectations left anymore after ‘Climates’ and ‘Takva’ were receiving awards. This (Ceylan) fainted before the Best Film Award. Even I tried to help. They took him to the hospital. Believe me, that night after the ceremony, I called to ask, ‘Are you okay?’ His producer replied ‘He’s fine.’ I said to myself, what's going on with this guy? Two days later, he was sitting with another director friend on a street (in Istanbul).  I went up to him and asked, ‘Are you okay?’ He turned his head. We haven't talked since that day,” Demirkubuz added.

Moreover, Demirkubuz said he once talked to one of Ceylan’s friends to learn what happened. “Supposedly, I was talking back and forth about Cannes, and that's why he got offended. Are you the mayor of Cannes? What's it to you!”

“I haven't watched any of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's films after Climates. I saw the scene in Winter Sleep that he was referring to me. It was a shitty scene. He should shoot better,” he added.

Lastly, Demirkubuz criticized Ceylan for publishing his diary. “I wish he would remain silent, we have already reached a certain age, this issue would just be closed. In any case, all truths in Turkey would be forgotten over time. But he couldn't. With his hard work and intelligence, he achieved successes that no one else could achieve. If, after this program, he continues to speak (regarding this issue), I will start all over again. I will open a YouTube channel and broadcast regularly every day. What this country does best is forget.”

After the program, Ceylan tweeted that he was not going to respond to Demirkubuz under any circumstances but “unfortunately this is no longer possible in the face of this style. He'd better open a YouTube channel for himself now. Soon…”

Ceylan won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 with his movie "Winter Sleep" (“Kış Uykusu”). His latest feature “About Dry Grasses” (“Kuru Otlar Üstüne”) was released this year, and Merve Dizdar, one of the actresses of the movie, won the Best Actress award at the 76th Cannes Film Festival.

Demirkubuz won the Best Film Award at the Antalya Film Festival in 2006 with his movie “Destiny” (“Kader”). His latest feature “Life” (“Hayat”) was released recently.