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Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da)

Modern Masters

Nuri Bilge Ceylan / Feature Narrative / Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina / 2011 / 157 min / Colour / DCP
In Turkish / Arabic, English subtitles
Interests: Drama, Crime
Rated: Parental guidance advised for viewers under the age of 15. Individuals under the age of 15 are not admitted into cinemas unless accompanied by an individual aged 18 or over.

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Late at night on the dimly lit Anatolian steppe, a group of men – among them a doctor, a prosecutor, a few village policemen, some locals armed with shovels and a murder suspect in handcuffs – drive about in several cars, searching for an elusive crime scene. In the morning, they find what they are looking for. The investigation continues on its course.

As its title suggests, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ has at its core a straightforward tale – but one that gives rise to a complex reflection on life. The film’s night-time section alternates between scenes of the bumbling and bickering of the men as they uncomfortably go about their gruesome task, and extended moments of quiet, during which the story increasingly focuses on the doctor and the prosecutor, both of whom look back on their lives with bewilderment, regret and disappointment.

From a deceptively simple premise, Ceylan mines a hypnotising medley of melancholy, mystery and the trials of life, punctuated with moments of beautiful human contact and morbid humour. Often cited as the director’s masterpiece, ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ tells a small but intricately detailed story that ultimately reminds us of our own humanity.

About the Director

Nuri Bilge Ceylan was born in Istanbul in 1959, and spent his childhood in Yenice, Çanakkale, his paternal hometown. After graduating from the Department of Electrical Engineering at Istanbul's Boğaziçi University, he studied cinema at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University for two years. After making the short film 'Cocoon' (1995), his first two feature-length films, 'Small Town' (1997) and 'Clouds of May' (1999) were screened at the Berlin International Film Festival. His subsequent films are 'Distant' (2002), which won the Grand Jury and Best Actor Prizes at the Festival de Cannes; 'Climates' (2006), which took the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes; 'Three Monkeys' (2008), for which he was named Best Director at Cannes; and 'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia' (2011), which gave him his second Cannes Grand Jury Prize. 'Winter Sleep' (2014), his most recent film, received the Palme d’Or, the most prestigious award of the Festival de Cannes.


Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Ercan Kesal, Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Zeynep Özbatur Atakan
Bora Göksingö
Gökhan Tiryaki
Muhammed Uzuner, Yılmaz Erdoğan, Taner Birsel, Ahmet Mümtaz Taylan, Fırat Tanış, Ercan Kesal, Erol Eraslan.

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