Born on 26 January 1959 in Bakırköy, a district of Istanbul in the European part of the city, Nuri Bilge Ceylan spent his childhood in Yenice (in the province of Çanakkale, in Northern Aegean Sea), the hometown of his father, an agricultural engineer, who wanted to come back to the town after his working years spent in Istanbul with his family. For Nuri Bilge, who at the time was just two years old, and for his elder sister Emine, these were years of freedom in touch with nature, but this period ended in 1969, when the lack of high schools in Yenice forced the family to move back to Istanbul. Here Nuri Bilge completed his secondary studies and, in 1976, entered Istanbul Technical University to study chemistry. This was a time of great political turmoil, which a ected daily University life, making it very di cult to focus on studying. So, after two years, Nuri Bilge decided to move to Boğaziçi University, which was relatively quieter, to study electrical engineering. Here he had the opportunity to cultivate his interest in photography, blossomed during his high school days, joining the photography club of the campus. As well as photography, he also became involved with the mountaineering and chess clubs. The university’s extensive library and music archive played a signi cant role in fuelling his passion for the visual arts and classical music in particular. Meanwhile, the elective lm studies course he took with Üstün Barışta and the lm 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.
Graduated in 1985, and waiting to understand what he wanted to do in life, Nuri Bilge started to travel rst to London and then to Kathmandu. Back in his homeland, he did his military service, joining the army for 18 months in Mamak, in the province of Ankara. After military service, Nuri Bilge came back to Istanbul and decided to follow his passions: he began making a living with commercial photography and simultaneously studied cinema at the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul. But Nuri Bilge, already in his thirties, found it di cult to carry on his studies, so after two years he left University in search of a direct access to the world of cinema. He began by acting in a short lm 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 Arri ex 2B camera that had been used to shoot that lm in order to make his own short lm.
Towards the end of 1993, he began shooting the short lm 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 lm was screened at Cannes in May 1995 and became the rst Turkish short to be selected for competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Three full-length feature lms 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), Clouds of May (Mayis Sikintisi, 1999) and Uzak (Distant, 2002). In all of these lms, 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 nal lm 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 lm in the history of Turkish cinema. Next to follow in 2006 was Climates (İklİmler), which again premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, this time scooping the FIPRESCI Prize. The lead roles in this lm were shared by Nuri Bilge and his wife Ebru Ceylan. Competing at the 61st Cannes Film Festival with his 2008 lm Three Monkeys (Üç Maymun), Nuri Bilge won the Best Director award. Three Monkeys later went on to become the rst Turkish lm 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. In 2011, his lm Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da) won the Grand Prix again at Cannes Film Festival. In 2014, his following lm Winter Sleep (Kış Uykusu) won the “Palme D’or” at Cannes Film Festival. Currently, Nuri Bilge is working on his latest feature The Wild Pear Tree (Ahlat Ağacı).