with Zeki Demirkubuz**
You are usually categorized as an indie movie director
or contemporary Turkish filmmaker. Do you think these categories
describe you or do you describe your movies within a certain
category or genre?
I was the first director in Turkey to call my movies independent
and directly wrote this in the film credits. Later I had a change
of heart. I started thinking that the economic independence
of a film is not that important. When I used independent to
describe my movies I meant to refer to the interference of monetary
issues when making a movie. However, this explanation turned
into a political issue. Now I think that a good movie can come
from anywhere. What is important is to be able to produce something
from one’s core, inner world. That is my approach to an
ideal cinema today. I now define myself as someone who is trying
to make the kind of movies he wants to do.
In the late 90s, in an interview, you defined yourself as an
amateur filmmaker. Do you still believe that? Does ‘amateur’
also refer to the idea of being able to make movies that you
want to make?
Precisely. Otherwise it is obvious that my movies today are
not really amateur movies. Financially, I believe I am making
movies that require a lot of money even though the amount could
be really small for other people. When I say amateur filmmaking
I refer to my ability to make movies about issues that are important
to me, without taking on a filmmaker identity. In that sense
we can say that an amateur soul is still alive and well in my
Elsewhere you said “my thing is to tell my stories, I
could have done this through other mediums but I do it with
cinema.” Your work has been screened in many countries
and festivals and received awards. You were able to communicate
your stories to strangers through cinema. What is the advantage
of cinema for you compared to literature, music or any other
art form that you could have used?
Realism. When compared with other areas of art, I believe cinema
stands out because it has the criteria of realism. I don’t
mean documentary style. But it has a disadvantage; cinema is
an art form that doesn’t have any legroom for excuses
when it comes to being believable. This though also gives you
the power to put your story out there in a clear manner. It
is because of realism that cinema is much more limited compared
to resources available to us in literature yet it is more powerful
in being real and believable.
Continuing with the literature comparison, your characters have
these long dialogues and monologues that we usually see in novels.
Your scripts are powerful. Since you both write and direct,
what is your process for making a movie?
It is not a standard process for me. Each movie has its own
processes. In the beginning 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. In other words,
I have taken a human condition or a situation out of our lives
and written a story around it. Confession and Waiting Room are
good examples of this. However, I have also had projects where
both the story and the situation were simultaneously at the
foreground, like my movie Fate. For that film, I was influenced
by Albert Camus’ work, the Stranger. The storyline as
well as the situation presented in his book were very close
to me personally. His storyline wasn’t very detailed so
in my script for Fate, I combined Camus’ work with another
story of mine. In the interview that you referred to I explained
my profession as a result of my need to tell my stories. Now
it has progressed to a new level: As much as my stories, perhaps
more so than telling my stories, I have come to write scripts
about particular aspects of human condition. It is hard to say
something that fully explains my situation. Tomorrow I may read
a story or live through something that will push me to make
a movie about it. Or I can write a script, a story around a
situation I experienced or observed. As time passes one naturally
changes. Therefore, I think my processes for making movies may
also change in due time.
Somewhere you said that your cinema was more influenced by Dostoevski
than any other filmmaker/director. If we count Dostoevski and
Camus among existentialists, would you say you are also an existentialist
Yes I would. Existentialism is the simplest and clearest way
of expression for me. When I look at my ideas, ideologies that
I subscribe to or sociological and cultural values of humanity,
I find that existentialism can embrace all of those and it will
(The Third Page) 1999
Let’s go back to Turkish cinema for a moment. If we agree
that there is a classic/traditional Turkish cinema represented
by Yeşilçam, how would you compare it with your
generation’s cinema- contemporary Turkish cinema? Also
can you define what traditional or contemporary Turkish cinema
is for you personally?
I can understand why there would be such a comparison and separate
definitions. Though I understand the reasons I don’t agree
with it much. I am not sure that such a comparison between things
that had very different conditions, reasons and results would
serve a purpose or be useful. I am interested in both of these
categories. In addition, I am not a person who thinks of cinema
all the time and I am not so sure about the results one can
come up with in such a case. I can understand that there are
these comparisons out there and that academia as well as film
critique are meaningful professions. But I personally don’t
find these comparisons meaningful. I never approached cinema
as a stand-alone fact. For me cinema comes after life and it
is only important as long as it can create a feeling for life.
As a result I never attempted to privatize cinema. With my personal
approach to cinema nothing healthy can come out of such comparisons
even if I attempted to compare traditional and contemporary
Let’s leave Yeşilçam or contemporary Turkish
cinema labels aside then. Who do you like within Turkish cinema
among directors and screenwriters? For example, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s
name is frequently mentioned among your generation and Ömer
Kavur who is from an earlier generation…
There isn't a director that has influenced me, neither in Turkish
cinema nor in world cinema. Literature and especially writers
like Dostoyevski and Camus are the most important sources that
affect my films and create a desire in me to direct. I am not
a person who is taken by cinema. I have always had a distant
relationship with it. However, from Antonioni to Tarkovsky,
from Breson to YŚlmaz Güney I do like many directors whose
works have sparked a desire in me to make movies. Having said
that, even when occasionally tried to do so, I could never see
filmmaking as a profession or as an identity. I did not learn
cinema at school. I learned only by making movies. I think I
was lucky in this respect. Though I worked as an assistant director
for a long time I never formed a relationship with it that shaped
my movies later on. I saw directors, whom I liked, or movies
that made me want to make my own movies but this has never been
limited just to cinema. A face on the street could sometimes
spark an enthusiasm. Of course I like many directors and movies
produced by Turkish cinema and in that respect I could even
say I like Yeşilcam (traditional/classical Turkish films).
from C Blok
(Block C) 1994
Do you follow the Hollywood and American independent film scene?
What do you think of American cinema in general?
I couldn’t establish a relationship with European cinema.
I do like French cinema in general yet even there I can’t
say I have a relationship with it. But I have individual directors
that I like. For example, I don’t know Swedish cinema
much but I love Ingmar Bergman. Same thing for French cinema...
Or Polish cinema; I don’t know much about it, but Kiewslowski
is very important to me. American cinema is the only national
cinema that I follow, that interests me and that I know quite
a bit about. I like American movies made between the 40s and
the 80s, especially the 60s and the 70s. In fact, today a big
portion of movies I like come out of Hollywood. I don’t
know much about the independent cinema scene since I didn’t
have many chances to see them. There have been American directors
such as John Ford whom I liked a lot. I talked about this in
the beginning, I find the way human condition is presented by
American cinema as very close to my heart. Not as a whole, but
through some of its ideal examples, American cinema portrays
the human condition in a dramatic manner, without stylistic
affectation. In the last couple of years for example, movies
that surprised me the most, movies like Hours, came out of America,
not Europe. I am not judgmental in this matter. American cinema
produces movies that I hate as much as great movies, movies
that I love.
As you know our non-profit group Bosphorus Art Project organized
a retrospective of your works in September. Do you have a message
for our readers and for people who have attended the festival?
I know it is cliché, but couldn’t help it.
Especially in the last couple of years, thanks to certain individuals,
my movies have been—and are being- screened in America.
This really excites me. As I have said before I do not feel
like a filmmaker, or I don’t dwell on this as my identity.
I am just making movies in my own small room, in my own world
and it is strange to think that people in far away places will
see them. The word excitement doesn’t really explain it,
but it awakens a desire in me to make more movies.
Thank you for your time.
By Aydın Bal
Translated by Zeynep Kılıç
Zeki Demirkubuz was born in Isparta
in 1964, Demirkubuz is a graduate of the İstanbul University
Department of Communications. He began his career as an assistant
to director Zeki Ökten. He followed his first film, Block
C (C Blok), with Peace Express (Barış Ekspresi),
a documentary, but his later work has mainly been based on original
screenplays conceived and written by Demirkubuz himself.
first gained the notice of film critics and international audiences
with Innocence (Masumiyet), which was screened at numerous
festivals in Turkey and Europe. This was followed by the successful
reception of Fate (Yazgı) and Confession (İtiraf),
which were both screened at Un Certain Regard at Cannes, and
are the first two features in Tales About Darkness,
a trilogy that concludes with Waiting Room (Bekleme Odası)
which won FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics)
Award at the 2004 Valencia Film Festival in Spain. Demirkubuz
also won a FIPRESCI award and the Best Director prize at the
İstanbul Film Festival for Fate and Confession.
Fate also won for Best Director, Best 3rd Film, and Jury
Special Award at the 38th Golden Orange Film Festival in Antalya,