from European Film Festival - by Firat Yucel
Winner of nine major film festival awards, including Best Actor and Best
Director at the Istanbul International Film Festival, Destiny is a spiraling
story of unrequited love, directed with a taut, minimalist esthetic by
Turkish film maverick Zeki Demirkubuz. It's the story of a nice boy, Bekir
(Ufuk Bayraktar) the quiet, nerdy son of a carpet seller, who falls for
Ugur, a flirtatious girl from the wrong side of the tracks. While Ugur toys
with Bekir's affections, her heart belongs to a killer serving a life
sentence. Bekir's obsession with Ugur persists though he marries and fathers
a child. Meanwhile, Ugur moves across Turkey, following her lover who has
been transferred to a prison in the cold, remote north. In Screen Daily,
critic Dan Fainaru wrote that Destiny's "tale of love which draws all its
characters to perdition, grows on audiences" and called the film "moving and
- International Ankara Film Festival, 2007, Best Director
- International Antalya Film Festival, 2007, Best Film
- International Istanbul Film Festival, 2007, Best Turkish Director
- Nuremberg Film Festival, 2007, Best Film
- Nuremberg Film Festival, 2007, Audience Award
- International Istanbul Film Festival, 2007, Best Actor
- International Ankara Film Festival, 2007, Best Actress
- International Antalya Film Festival, 2006, Special Jury Award for Best Actor
Destiny is in fact a road film, in which one character trails from town to town
in order to be with another. Yet none of the stops along the way has the slightest
significance: where Bekir and Ug(ur go or what they do is utterly immaterial.
In Kader/Destiny, Zeki Demirkubuz reflects on the past lives of the characters
from his second feature Masumiyet/Innocence. And his portrayal of the undefined
relationship between these two people, of their endless drifting is extraordinarily
powerful. It is a tribute to the alternately furious and loving words of Haluk Bilginer,
who played the role of Bekir in Masumiyet/Innocence; to souls overcome by love;
to those who wake up to the eyes of the person they have fallen in love with;
and to emotive one-line love stories…
For close to a decade now, a generation of Turkish auteur filmmakers has been cultivating an increasing audience of admirers and followers, both homegrown and across the world. Their cinema is distinctly original while deeply conversant with master-filmmakers as diverse as Bresson, Bergman and Kiarostami, not claiming lineage from any school or filmmaker per se. The constellation of names that have acquired renown includes Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Zeki Demirkubuz, Reha Erdem, Dervis Zaim and Yesim Ustaoglu. Their films are almost invariably produced in Turkey by independent Turkish production outfits, which they have set up themselves. Coupled with their prolific filmographies, this fact attests to a significant turn in contemporary Turkish cinema, one that runs against the current direction of film production in the region (Eastern Europe, the Arab world and Iran), where co-productions with western European funds have often allowed the possibility for auteur, individualistic, and experimental filmmaking to challenge the dominion of commercial productions.
Amongst this group of filmmakers, Zeki Demirkubuz has been the most prolific. Kader (Destiny), his seventh feature-length fiction, premiered in September of 2006 at the Antalya Film Festival in Turkey. His filmography is versatile; he has written and directed intimiste films such as Waiting Room (Bekleme Odasi, 2004) and big productions like Innocence (Masumiyet, 1997), yet there are salient themes and motifs that permeate his body of work—the most striking of which being the literary power of his scripts, often inspired from masterpieces of modern fiction.
Born in 1964 in Isparta, Zeki Demirkubuz graduated from the Istanbul University Department of Communications. He was imprisoned for three years at the age of 17 for alleged communist activities. Upon his release, he became involved with filmmaking –more by accident than design, he claims– and began his career as an assistant to famed Turkish director Zeki Okten. He recalls, “I was imprisoned between the ages of 17 and 21. I'm a pure unbeliever now, but I'm not an atheist: I believe in doubt, and it's that feeling that makes it impossible for me to be a communist, or a follower of any other ideology. When I was in prison I read Crime and Punishment for the first time, and it really helped me understand what I had lived through. I felt [my time in prison] was going to lead into something. I thought I would become a writer, but I became a filmmaker.”*
Demirkubuz established his own production company, Mavi Film, deliberately located outside Istanbul’s mainstream Yesilcam Studios (Turkey’s homegrown Hollywood). Although he initially perceived ‘independent’ cinema as free from the financial constraints typically attached to mainstream studios, Demirkubuz revisited the notion well into his career: “What is important is to be able to produce something from one’s core, inner world.”
He wrote and directed his first feature-length fiction, Block C (C Blok) in 1994. Uncompromising and fiercely independent, Demirkubuz is known to control almost every aspect of his films, making few concessions to prevailing trends. His affinity for literature has become one of the hallmarks of his identity as a filmmaker; the screenplays he conceives and writes often feel like novels, the characters given long dialogues or monologues. “In the beginning,” he says, “I was trying to write the script by putting the story at the forefront. As time passed, I became more interested in making movies about a situation and not minding that the story is pushed to the background.”
He first gained the notice of film critics and international audiences with his second feature film, Innocence (Masumiyet), which traveled to numerous festivals in Turkey and Europe. Innocence was followed by the successful reception of Fate (Yazgi, 2001) and The Confession (Itiraf, 2002), both of which were screened at Cannes Film Festival’s ‘Un Certain Regard’. To Demirkubuz, The Confession and Waiting Room (Bekleme Odasi, 2004) exemplify works where he has “taken a human condition or situation out of our lives and written a story around it”; while in Fate—inspired by Albert Camus’ The Stranger—the situation and story are equally foregrounded.
Fate, which, along with Confession and The Waiting Room comprises a trilogy entitled Tales of Darkness, tells the story of a filmmaker who is unable to complete a film adaptation of Dostoievsky’s Crime and Punishment. Demirkubuz claims to still be eager to actually produce an adaptation of the book: “I haven't been able to come up with a Raskolnikov who would be believable.” The themes visited in the trilogy are in fact pervasive throughout his work; after seven films, he observes, “I realize that I will continue to make films about these subjects.”
Demirkubuz has earned a number of awards, including the FIPRESCI (The International Federation of Film Critics) awards several times as well as the Golden Orange at the Antalya Film Festival in Turkey. He claims to have been influenced by few filmmakers or schools, but recurring patterns of opaque characters wrought in ethical dilemmas have inspired comparisons with Bresson and Kieslowski. In reply, he opined: “My sources have really been life and literature, and my own inner darkness.”
* All quotes from Zeki Demirkubuz have been taken from an interview by Ayd?n Bal (translated by Zeynep K?l?ç), published on the website of the Bosphorus Art Project, and an interview by Jamie Bell, Sight & Sound, February 2006.
from Sight & Sound, February 2006
Interview with Zeki Demirkubuz
Director Zeki Demirkubuz talks to Jamie Bell about his 'Tales of Darkness' trilogy.
"As a film-maker, what attracts me most in human nature is its dark side," says Zeki Demirkubuz, the 41-year-old Turkish director of Fate, a film inspired by Albert Camus' classic novel The Outsider. The film is stripped to essentials, tackling the themes of the book with a rigorous seriousness only occasionally offset with moments of dry humour. It's certainly a good deal more successful than Luchino Visconti's 1967 adaptation.
Camus' novel is about an amoral young man named Meursault who commits an inexplicable murder, but whose true crime in the eyes of society is his utter indifference to conventional norms of behaviour. Demirkubuz relocates Camus' story to present-day Istanbul, casting the Meursault character as Musa, an emotionally blank office worker. "I read The Outsider in 1990 and, after Dostoevsky, it is the book that has most influenced me." Demirkubuz's initial attempts at a faithful adaptation proved unsatisfactory, so the director decided to deviate from its second half. In Camus' novel, Meursault commits the murder he is tried for. In Fate, Musa is framed by the real killer, his boss Naim - the latter is jealous of Musa because of his marriage to Sinem, with whom Naim is having an affair. Musa disdains protesting his innocence and is sent to prison. Demirkubuz explains: "I found the second half of The Outsider to be quite didactic, especially the courtroom parts. So in the film Musa had to accept a crime which he had not committed, because I thought the court scene was really impossible to film satisfactorily, and besides, I didn't like the scene in the novel".
At Fate's centre is the Turkish actor Serdar Orçin, whose impassive features and resigned movements perfectly capture Musa's emotional void. "I made the decision to cast him while we were having a regular conversation," says the director. "We were talking, and suddenly I realised that he wasn't really listening to me; or to put it more correctly, I realised that he didn't understand what I was saying, and the facial expression he had at that moment of realisation made me think of Musa."
Made in 2001, Fate is the first film in a trilogy Demirkubuz has referred to as the 'Tales of Darkness', which also includes Confession (2002) and the loosely autobiographical Bekleme Odasi (2004), in which a film director, played by Demirkubuz, struggles unsuccessfully to complete a film of Crime and Punishment. (Demirkubuz still nurtures a plan to film Dostoevsky's novel, but is in no rush, saying, "I haven't been able to come up with a Raskolnikov who would be believable.") Asked about the 'Tales of Darkness' series, he says: "I regret the decision to name it a trilogy, because now, after six or seven films, I realise that I will continue to make films about these subjects."
Demirkubuz began making movies in the early 1990s, after a period in prison for membership of a radical Maoist group. "I was imprisoned between the ages of 17 and 21. I'm a pure unbeliever now, but I'm not an atheist: I believe in doubt, and it's that feeling that makes it impossible for me to be a communist, or a follower of any other ideology. When I was in prison I read Crime and Punishment for the first time, and it really helped me understand what I had lived through. I felt [my time in prison] was going to lead into something. I thought I would become a writer, but I became a film-maker."
Another coveted project is an adaptation of J M Coetzee's Booker Prize-winning 1999 novel Disgrace. Demirkubuz says: "I feel a strong affinity with Coetzee, and I do hope to film [Disgrace]. But I know that an Italian director is also interested". With his abiding interest in austere subjects and questions of ethics, Demirkubuz's films have been compared to Bresson's and Kieslowski's. He acknowledges the comparisons, but says: "My sources have really been life and literature, and my own inner darkness."