Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a Turkish photographer and film director. Born in Bakırköy, Istanbul on 26 January 1959, Nuri Bilge Ceylan spent his childhood in Yenice, his father’s hometown in the North Aegean province of Çanakkale. His interest in the art of photography, kindled during his time at high school, blossomed at the Boğaziçi University photography club, where he also took passport-style photos to earn some pocket money. As well as photography, he also became involved with the mountaineering and chess clubs. The university’s extensive library and music archive played a significant role in fuelling his passion for the visual arts and classical music in particular. Meanwhile, the elective film studies course he took with Üstün Barışta and the film club’s special screenings did much to reinforce his love of cinema, which had taken root earlier during showings at the Cinémathèque in Istanbul’s Taksim. These were the years before DVD and video when films had to be watched at the cinema.
After graduating from university with a BSC degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering,he went to London and Kathmandu to decide what he should do in life. Then he went to Ankara back to do military service. When he was in the army, he found out how to give shape to the rest of his life ‘cinema’.
He began by acting in a short film directed by his friend Mehmet Eryılmaz, but at the same time participating in the entire technical process from beginning to end, thus building on the knowledge he already had. He later bought the Arriflex 2B camera that had been used to shoot that film in order to make his own short film. In those days, video cameras were not yet an option.
Towards the end of 1993, he began shooting the short film KOZA (Cocoon), using a combination of negative he brought back in a suitcase from Russia and some stock long past its expiry date that he was given by the state broadcaster TRT. The film was screened at Cannes in May 1995 and became the first Turkish short to be selected for competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Three full-length feature films followed that could be cast in terms of a sequel to KOZA; they have also been described by some as his ‘provincial trilogy’: KASABA (The Small Town, 1997), MAYIS SIKINTISI (Clouds of May, 1999) and UZAK (Distant, 2002). In all of these films, Ceylan enlisted his close friends, relatives and family as actors and took on just about every technical role himself: the cinematography, sound design, production, editing, writing and direction…
When UZAK, the final film of the trilogy, won the Grand Prix at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, Ceylan suddenly became an internationally recognized name. Continuing on the festival circuit after Cannes, UZAK scooped a total of 47 awards, 23 of them international, and so became the most award-winning film in the history of Turkish cinema.
Next to follow in 2006 was İKLİMLER (Climates), which again premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, this time scooping the FIPRESCI Prize. The lead roles in this film were shared by Nuri Bilge and his wife Ebru Ceylan.
Competing at the 61st Cannes Film Festival with his 2008 film ÜÇ MAYMUN (Three Monkeys), Nuri Bilge won the Best Director award. ÜÇ MAYMUN later went on to become the first Turkish film to make the Oscar shortlist in the Academy Awards Foreign Language Film category.
In 2009, the director returned to Cannes, this time as a member of the main competition jury.
At the end of 2003, in the course of location scouting for ‘Climates’, Nuri Bilge returned to photography for the first time since military service. From this point on, he began devoting his time to both cinema and photography.
Official site: www.nuribilgeceylan.com