Turkey’s Best International Feature Oscar entry “About Dry Grasses” defrosts the blurred lines between teacher and student, colleague and mentor, in Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s epically ambitioned, Cannes award-winning drama.
IndieWire debuts the trailer for the film that follows an abusive teacher (Deniz Celiloğlu) as he grapples with living in icy Anatolia, including favoring one pupil (Ece Bağcı), and seeking solace with a fellow teacher (Merve Dizdar, who won Best Actress at Cannes this year).
Samet (Celiloğlu) is a young art teacher now in his fourth year of compulsory service in a remote village in Anatolia. After a turn of events he can hardly make sense of, as is the case of many a Ceylan character facing a void, he loses his hopes of escaping the grim life he seems to be stuck in. Will his encounter with Nuray (Dizdar, who goes head-to-head with Celiloğlu in powerful monologues that wowed the Cannes jury led by Ruben Östlund), also a teacher, help him overcome his angst? Musab Ekici also stars as Samet’s roommate.
The film is directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, ever a novelistic painter of moods and isolation, who co-wrote the script with Akin Aksu and Ebru Ceylan. “About Dry Grasses” is produced by Mediha Didem Türemen, with Sideshow and Janus Films distributing. The feature world-premiered at Cannes, where Dizdar won the Best Actress award; the feature went on to screen at TIFF and NYFF.
Writer-director Ceylan’s credits span the last 30 years: Past credits include the 2002 film “Uzak,” which similarly won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival, and his other Anatolia-set Palme d’Or winner, 2014’s “Winter Sleep.” Ceylan is also acclaimed for the crime drama “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2011, frequently named among that decade’s best films. Along with 2018’s “The Wild Pear Tree,” six of Ceylan’s films have repped Turkey at the Oscars, but none have received nominations so far. His socially charged dramas marry elements of Bergman, Tarkovsky, and Ozu in their sprawling approach to storytelling, submerging us in their characters’ epic and physically challenging environs.
The IndieWire Critic’s Pick review for “About Dry Grasses” deemed the film a “spiritual descendant of Nabokov’s ‘Lolita,’ at least in its use of point-of-view … Ceylan’s novelistic approach to cinema could perhaps find no more fitting a partner than Nabokov’s lyricism, the kind that is at once cinematic in spirit, and yet wholly difficult to adapt for the screen. ‘About Dry Grasses’ is among the most brilliantly off-putting works to be featured at Cannes in recent years, with so rotten a core that every hint of virtue or even normalcy in the camera’s peripheral vision becomes a tragedy unto itself, simply by way of being ignored.”
“About Dry Grasses” premieres in theaters February 23, 2024, from Sideshow and Janus Films. The film had an Oscar-qualifying run in the U.S. in November as it heads into the Oscar race. The international feature film shortlist for the Academy Awards will be announced in December.
Check out the trailer, an IndieWire exclusive, below.