‘About Dry Grasses’: Is 6th Time the Charm for Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Oscar Chances?

TheWrap magazine: “Sometimes very good movies can be neglected in this system, but this is the way it is,” the acclaimed Turkish director says

"About Dry Grasses"
"About Dry Grasses"

The sensitive, serene film “About Dry Grasses” is the sixth submission from Nuri Bilge Ceylan to compete for the Best International Feature Oscar, and the 30th from Turkey, which has never received a nomination.

The topical drama tells a few parallel stories concerning a rural schoolteacher who becomes embroiled in a school scandal that also involves his fellow teacher and roommate. Both are entranced by an educator and activist who has become an amputee after a terrorist invasion. TheWrap spoke to Ceylan about his latest epic.

“About Dry Grasses” contains many of your strongest concerns: environment, politics and the depiction of complex relationships punctuated by key silences.
What people don’t say is more important most of the time, right? I mean, we should be able to get used to that. Even in the movies, you shouldn’t believe what a character says all the time, just like in life. Because the reality is from every detail—a smile, what people hide, what they prefer to say.

You’re notable for working with new actors and letting them luxuriate in a setting. This movie notably has a 30-minute dinner date scene with actors Merve Dizdar and Deniz Celiloğlu essentially in real time.
I like to push the borders of cinema. I wanted to keep it quite long since the beginning of the script stage. I put such a scene in my movies, as it forces the audience to go to the limit. Some of them it bores, some hate it, some really like it. So, the challenge motivates me a lot. In the editing, I had the possibility to cut it shorter, but just the opposite, I wanted to push it more.

Have you ever been offered major films from Hollywood studios?
Oh yeah. I might [do that] one day, but I do whatever I like. I didn’t ask for any money from anywhere on my early films. But if I can’t find some money, I can easily go back to my low budget. I think a good film doesn’t need the luxury.

Despite the long run time (“Grasses” runs 197 minutes), your movies are always critically acclaimed. So why do you think Turkey has never been nominated for an Oscar?
I’m an Academy member and there are a lot of movies, and it’s hard to watch them, you know? I couldn’t vote last year because I couldn’t watch enough movies, for instance. And this year, I think if you don’t watch 12 movies, at least in the screening room, you cannot vote. And people who watch 12 movies sometimes just look at the countries and may watch the French movie, or “I hear this movie is in a competing festival, let me watch this.” It’s not completely fair, but it’s still fair as much as possible. But often people don’t have an opportunity to watch all the movies. And still they vote, so advertising becomes more important. I mean, sometimes very good movies can be neglected in this system. But this is the way it is.

This story first appeared in the International issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

Read more from the International issue here.

Juliette Binoche (Photographed by Jeff Vespa)

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