Multidisciplinary artist Ali Emir Tapan explores the dominant-submissive dynamics of an unnamed couple with his first short film Delikler. Having received a bachelor’s degree in Intellectual History and Photography, a master’s degree in Fine Arts, the artist has held many solo and group exhibitions so far and continues to work on new works. The movie asks the question, “How can we feel free in a relationship if we can’t choose in which situations we feel closest to the other person?”, questioning what freedom means and allowing us to translate the characters’ journeys through nothingness into ourselves.

How did your first directorial experience “Delikler” begin? Can you take us to the beginning of the project?

It was during a trip to Kars that I realized how easily this climate can kill me, and the incredible emancipation of that feeling.  Shuzo Oshimi’s Aku no Hana manga. Ann Antidote and Lun Ario’s shibari workshop on Çıplak Ayaklar. 

Our characters take a freezing journey through the snow from the first minute to the last minute of the movie. And what about the journey of the film? How was the production process? In which ways it was difficult? 

We shot the film with a very small team and budget, almost in a co-op way, in -8C weather conditions.  It was a project we have been talking about since Müge (Büyüktalaş) and I met in Tokyo in 2019 January. Later, Yaya S. joined the team as a cinematographer. He joined and supported me in polishing the script, assembling and many other things.  My wife, Letisya, participated in the production of the project and did the costume and art department. The project is basically the result of the collaborative work and dedication of everyone involved. 

We have two characters in Delikler. To what extent do these characters embody their gender definitions? Were they created as a woman and a man in your universe, or as just two human beings?

I think that both characters carry the cis male and female codes. Of course, this does not make them representative objects of a certain gender. If we were to ask the characters themselves, I think they would also define themselves as men and women within social norms.

Nothingness extends to nothing, and even more nothing. They don’t have a course or destination. Because they are already where they should be, next to each other.

-Ali Emir Tapan

How do cultural values and identity codes exist in Delikler?

The breaking point in the characters’ relationship is triggered by a very oedipal reproach of the man and again happens in a very oedipal act of verbal violence. I can’t think of an element that belongs to cultural values as much as this “motherization”, not being aware of being born. Not being able to be independent, constantly needing parenting from everyone around you is clearly a cultural deformation. 

In terms of locations… we see a combination of absence and worldliness. In this unknown but familiar place, our characters are walking in nature. But to where? Where does all this nothingness extend?

It’s just that people are walking in the opposite direction of their world. Perhaps a metaphorical reading can also be made, internalizing the film is equality the viewer’s right. After all, the work has its own existence and resonance, regardless of the creator.  But I think that eventually, these characters will not be able to withstand these climates and conditions. Continuing to exist together until they cannot anymore is the only choice for them. Because going back is hell.  Nothingness extends to nothing, and then even more nothing. They don’t have a course or destination. Because they are already where they should be, next to each other.

The expressions of violence and sexuality are very prominent in the film.  As the creator, what do you feel about these two concepts being very dominant?

Violence does not have to be linked to hatred, it can also be a form of communication on its own. Sometimes even a much deeper expression of love than the usual one. Of course, we are talking about a situation that develops with the consent of both sides. It is so natural for me to not believe in a commercial romance.  It is a product that has no originality. How can we feel free in a relationship if we can’t choose in which situations we feel closest to the other person? It’s just a matter of whether he finds the courage to be honest, and free.  No one owes anything to any reality. It’s about realizing that you’re free.

It’s been 2.5 years since the movie wrapped up.  What has changed in you and the film since the first day you started writing? Is there anything you would change? 

The film wrapped up in March 2020. Actually, it’s been 2.5 years since I had the idea to write the movie. Of course, I have other sensitivities right now. I’m a dynamic person and I like it.  I made the movie I wanted then, and I will make the movie I want now.  Maybe someday, I will make a new montage.   But right now, this movie reminds me of a part of myself, and I’m glad to remember it. 

What’s next for Ali Emir Tapan?

Nirvana. I’m thinking about getting out of this circle of death and rebirth. Other than that, we have made another short film this year, with Dilek Aydın as a producer and Çiğdem Onat and Aytaç Uşun on the cast.  I’m looking forward to seeing where the film will find its medium.  I am currently in the process of writing two more projects that I don’t want to go into detail about yet. In a nutshell, I plan to fall in love as I live.