Four 40-something friends are haunted by the violent past of a divided Cyprus… Temel wants desperately to speak about the crimes of vengeance he committed as a teenager. He would like to confess about the bodies buried in the muddy patch of a dried-up salt lake, but fear holds him back from even going there. Halil would rather keep the past buried, so he is indifferent to Temel’s anguish. Ali participates in Temel’s UN projects aimed at defusing tension between Cyprus’ Greek and Turkish communities. He allows a life-size plaster replica of himself to travel to the island’s southern Greek side to the house he fled from decades ago. Ali would speak out, if only he had not lost his voice to a mysterious illness. Despite numerous failed attempts, Aisha still believes science will help her brother Ali. But Ali knows sometimes more than medicine is required. So he turns to the rumored healing powers of the salt lake’s mud. Working a little magic of her own, gynecologist Aisha gives her patients the feeling they can bring back those they have lost through in vitro fertilization.

When Ali stumbles on an ancient fertility statue buried in the mud, Halil sees a potential opportunity to make them lots of money. But his get-rich-quick scheme puts everyone in danger…

One Page Synopsis:
Ali is doing his compulsory national service much later than usual at a Turkish base in Northern Cyprus. Shortly before his discharge he developes a mysterious illnes, which leaves him without a voice. For health reasons Ali’s commanding officer assigns him to a remote sentry post by a large patch of mud. While standing guard by the mud patch, Ali discovers that the mud has healing properties. As the days go by, he becomes increasingly obsessed with the mud. Soon, the mud comes to symbolize a medium that is at once therapeutic and a catalyst for physical, psychological and social problems. For instance, Ali’s friend Temel, who is actively involved in peace initiatives between the Turks and Greeks, is plagued by guilt at having killed and buried two Greek Cypriots in the mud during the war. He can not, therefore, bear to go near there.

Ali’s obsession leads him to unearth an ancient statue of Cybele, a fertility goddess, in the mud. He gives the statue to his sister’s boyfriend, Halil, and asks him in return to help move the boundary fence of the military zone. Halil reluctantly agrees but once he finish the job, Ali is caught and thrown into military jail. Ali’s discovery of the valuable statue precipitates disaster both for him and his loved ones. In the end, Ali, his sister and closest friend are taken hostage by the local Mafia, who want the statue of Cybele for themselves. Unable to resist the threats of mafia, Temel lies and says they will find other ancient artefacts in the mud. The mafia thugs escort Temel to the mud patch and start digging up the site he shows them. Instead of ancient artefacts, however, they unearth a pile of bones – the bones of the Greek Cypriots Temel killed. Temel and Ali are murdered by the mafia, while Aisha, Ali’s sister, miraculously survives. Aisha, a specialist in test tube babies, fertilises a donor’s eggs with Ali’s sperm, has the embryos injected into her own womb and becomes the surrogate mother of her own brother’s child.

Director’s Note:
One would not be mistaken in thinking that the events Cyprus has experienced- the displacement of peoples, the wars, the massacres,-in many respects (but most of all in that its fate was pre-determined long ago) resemble ancient tragedies. Mud is an attempt to to question, however tentatively, the inevitability of this fate. How and under what arrangements various peoples may live together side by side in a world today growing smaller, but to the same degree also becoming a theater of prejudice, violence and hate, is a question which has lost none of its vitality. In seeking an answer, we believe it necessary to open to new questions, but also that we should maintain our honesty and humanity as we do so.

One, widespread, view regards the functions of weapon wielded in combat as equal to the function of  the eye. The same view make it clear that “only he who holds a weapon can see.” Our story MUD intends to describe the dilemmas faced by the average person who wants both to put down his weapon and to see. We think that for the sake of a possible future peace, we have greater need of these kinds of stories than ever before.

Interview With Dervis Zaim:
The boundary between tragedy and comedy

I like to create characters or situations that enable me to use black humor and irony. I look for comic figures who are trapped in tragedy. My characters all belong to the same spiritual family: people who suffer, but suffer with dignity; people who are lonely and desperate, but challenge and transcend their limits. I want to explore the boundary between tragedy and comedy. For me, the more horrific things are, the funnier they become. This gives me the flexibility to discuss tragic events because of the lighter tone comedy provides. As I see it, this is an ideal way of depicting life truthfully. I am also fascinated by the idea of combining elements of different cultures in a single setting, character or dramatic situation. These juxtapositions produce a kind of synergy.

Many sources helped me organize the structure, the conflict and the atmosphere in MUD. The childhood memory of a single soldier standing on the Mesaria plain under the summer sun… Stories heard from friends about cursed objects in military camps… A visit to the ancient ruins of the Asclepion temple in Bergama… A visit to my former home on the Greek side of Cyprus after 26 years… Episodes from the war…

Life after war in Cyprus

I have been affected by people’s battle to continue their lives after the war in Cyprus. Not only my personal memories, but observations of society as a whole also influenced me. Parallel with this film, I have been working on a documentary (Parallel Trips) about Cyprus. I interviewed men from three villages, who lost all their children and the women of their families during the war. Their commitment to life despite the loss was extremely moving. Even though their villages are now ghostly, empty and silent, they have no plans to leave. Instead, they carry on with their lives in the same houses by mass graves with all those memories in mind. In time, some of them may remarry and have children.


All the characters in MUD have some sense of guilt, though this operates in different guises and at different levels. Most of them take steps to liberate themselves from guilt and succeed sooner or later. At the same time, each character reveals his/her guilt in a way that affects the others, forcing them in the process to change something in the story line. Each revelation of guilt triggers another. For example, guilt is the central motive behind Temel’s character. He throws plaster casts of Greeks into the sea, he takes out the watch of the Greek he killed, or he secretly confesses on video camera before smashing the tape. But, in the end, he manages to overcome his guilt with a public confession.

Ambition for power

Greed and money are classic characteristics of the ambition for power, an ambition that can easily bring disaster for both the individual concerned and the people around him/her. An unquenchable thirst for power can surrender that person to evil. In MUD, every character is anxious to gain some sort of power, but the nature and extent of this and its consequences are shaped by the character’s attitude to power. Ali wants the power of the mud to cure him. Temel wants to confess and overcome the evil in his mind; he is eager for more power so that he can visit the mud. Aisha secretly undergoes IVF, using one of her patient’s eggs, to become a mother. Halil sells the Cybele fertility statue to the Mafia to get rich. But this single act has more serious consequences. Halil’s obsession with power leads to a catastrophe, the extreme point of evil.

Ali’s mysterious illness

In MUD, I wanted to draw attention to the long isolation of Turkish Cypriots from the outside world. Making Ali, my central character, unable to speak gave me the opportunity to explore the relationship between the individual and the collective, the individual and nature, and the individual and history. I also wanted to add a dimension that made Ali look like a tragicomic actor from the age of silent film. The symptoms of his illness are so elementary and his attempts to cure himself are so courageous that Ali radiates a kind of energy. This, in turn, helped me to build an atmosphere that sometimes verges on the surreal and adds a touch of black humor to the film. Ali’s illness remains a mystery. It may be viral, it may be psychological. It may have been brought on by the sun or by his shouting during military training. But we never find out the exact cause or its proper diagnosis. Ali’s doctors, who are equally at a loss, simply recommend that he avoids direct sunlight.

Paradoxal communication

MUD warns us to be wary of the false illusion that communication is easy. This is illustrated in the role-playing workshop scene. If the workshop provides a setting where the characters can freely confess past transgressions, they have had to suffer greatly in order to reach this point. This is an ironic scene in terms of communication ability when Ali is chosen to speak at the role-playing workshop. He is supposed to put himself in the position of a Greek, who suffered at the hands of the Turks. Paradoxically, Ali himself was injured in the war at the hands of the Greeks. All the same he begins addressing the audience, but what Ali relates is the personal experience of Temel, who killed Greeks in the war. Sparked by Ali’s role-playing speech, Temel begins his own confession, sparing the audience no detail.

When the film takes place

In April 2003, the border dividing the Greek and Turkish sides on Cyprus was opened, allowing civilians free passage either way. This is not the case in MUD. Ultimately, it would be fair to say that the film takes place in the very recent past. Temel offers a clue when he says that the plaster cast of the Greek man is visiting his old house after some 25 years. The implication is that the Greek left his house in 1974, the time of mass emigration on the island. This would put the earliest date of the film’s action at 1999.

Extraordinary peace initiatives

People working for peace in Cyprus are, as far as I know, very serious about their mission. Even if there are a few cases of weird events, I would never oppose peace initiatives from an ethical point of view. It was certainly not my intention to make fun of them in the film, even if they may seem slightly unusual. MUD is ultimately a kind of cultural artifact, which favors peace and all peace initiatives. Since I am a storyteller rather than a historian, my main objective is to give greater priority to fictionalization than the realistic portrayal of life. I decided to use a blend of realism, surrealism, symbolism and irony in the film. A “sperm installation project” gave me opportunities for dramatization, characterization, humor to digest all the horrific events, irony, a more powerful final and subtext.

Peace on Cyprus

Peace is a slow process. In order to build peace, old enemies need to begin to trust each other. Whatever form it takes, the road to a peaceful resolution is a tough one. The main benefit of MUD will be a contribution towards this resolution. Cultural artifacts are the guerrillas of this war. However we should add that that we are fully aware of the fact that the effect of Mud would show itself slowly rather than immediately.


I found the mud motive during a visit to a small Aegean island (Gökçeada). I was on the beach. Suddenly I saw three Martian like figures covered from head to toe in black mud. They were coming from a small salt lake at the back of the beach, where they had found mud. They had smeared this over their bodies for its health-giving properties. From that point on I began to explore illness, the salt lake and mud as a metaphor. The mud in the film symbolizes both good and evil. It can heal, but at the same time acts as a catalyst for disaster.

Which of these conflicting properties applies depends on the nature of each character’s relationship with the mud. In reality, there are mud patches like this in Cyprus. The mud patch I created in the film is unique. I shot the scenes at a salt lake near Konya, in Central Anatolia (Turkey). During the shoot local people told us that the mud does have benefits for certain illnesses.

The fertility statue

Mud and fertility have parallel implications in the film: they can both be positive or negative depending on the character’s approach. The fertility symbol (statue of the fertility goddess Cybele) can signify good or bad just like the mud. Ali’s discovery of the fertility statue unlocks a Pandora’s box. Ali’s first intention is to give the Cybele statue to his sister, Aisha, to bring her luck. However, he makes the mistake of giving it to her sister’s fiancé (Halil) to give to Aisha. Halil has little respect for the statue. When he tries to sell it, things take a turn for the worse. Thereafter, the Cybele statue assumes almost demonic significance.

In vitro fertilization

I used in vitro fertilization (IVF) in MUD as a platform to discuss man’s ability to change his environment, his history and his destiny even under the worst conditions. IVF was a context for highlighting the motivation of my characters and adding a subtext of regeneration to the film. Aisha and Ali lost all their relatives in the war. When Aisha loses her brother Ali, her ambition to continue her genetic line becomes conscious, but her inability to make it happen gives me greater opportunity for dramatization. In the end, she has the courage to carry a surrogate child using her dead brother’s sperm and a donor’s eggs, an act which is unlawful in itself.

Sole survivor

Making Aisha the sole survivor allows me to show her motivation for using IVF in a positive (and alternative) way. As she is completely alone by the end of the film, her motives for using IVF secretly and illegally are clearer. I also wanted to create more space for Aisha towards the end of the film. This continues the emphasis I tried to give to women early on in the film for instance, by creating a female doctor, who specializes in IVF; by incorporating Cybele, a fertility symbol, as an object of everyone’s desire; by making motherhood a dramatic theme; by portraying the desire to continue a genetic line. Why? History and wars are usually created by men. Making a solitary woman the only survivor and allowing her to give birth at the end of the film helps the audience to consider the idea of a new beginning, of regeneration, of seeing things through a woman’s eyes.

About Cyprus Issue:

For 40 years, Cyprus has been torn apart. The Cyprus issue is not an isolated episode in Turkish-Greek relations. It is an integral part of the history between the two nations over the past millennium, to which both sides have brought past grievances. Cyprus lies 250 miles from the nearest Greek island (Rhodes) and 40 miles off the coast of Turkey. The island has two peoples: around 200.000 Turkish Cypriots (mainly Moslems) and 700.000 Greek Cypriots (mostly Greek Orthodox Christians). Turks have inhabited the island since the 16th century. In 1960, the independent ‘Republic of Cyprus’ was architected by the Greek, Turkish and British governments. In theory, the Republic was an ideal creation, allowing the two ethnic groups to co-exist in legalized harmony. In practice, the chosen traumas and glories of both sides dominated. By 1963, Cyprus was an inter-community battleground. In 1974, the Greek military government staged a coup d’état against the Greek Cypriot leadership, so realizing enosis (the political union of Cyprus and Greece).

Turkey quickly landed troops on the island to protect Turkish Cypriots. The island was divided into northern (Turkish, 37%) and southern (Greek, 59%) sections separated by a UN buffer zone (4%).Some 160,000 Greeks and 65,000 Turks became refugees. In 1983, the Cypriot Turks established the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’, a state recognized by Turkey alone. At the civilian level, a core support group has been initiating peace projects in Cyprus and abroad since the late 1980s. Elsewhere, negotiations continue between the two sides and leading international organizations (EU, UN) to turn the cease-fire into a workable solution. In April 2003, the EU accepted Greek Cyprus, as the whole island, for full membership. Within a week, the Turkish- speaking north opened up the border in Nicosia, allowing civilians free passage either way for the first time in years. The development is undoubtedly positive, but does not imply a definitive solution on the island.



Written and Directed By:

Derviş Zaim


Mustafa Uğurlu (Ali) • Yelda Reynaud (Ayşe) • Taner Birsel (Temel) • Bülent Emin Yarar (Halil) • Tomris İncer (Oya) • Arslan Kacar (Mafya elemanı) • Ümit Çırak (Mahir) • Nadi Güler (Çavuş) • Serhan Ernak (Er) • Erdinç Olgaçlı (Komutan) • Muhammed Cangören (Mafya) • Yüksel Arıcı (Mafya) • Atilla Ulaş (Mafya) • Serafettin Kaya • Veli Dogan • Fuat Sözen • Misafir Oyuncular Engin Alkan (Doktor) • Murat Garipağaoğlu (Heykel getiren adam)


Marco Müller, Downtown Pictures (Italy) • Derviş Zaim, Marathon Filmcilik (Turkey)


Panicos Chrysanthou Artimages (Cyprus)

Associate Producer:

Samir, Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion (Switzerland)

Line Producer:

Sadık Deveci• Lucy Wood

Director of Photography:

Feza Çaldıran


Francesca Calvelli

Original Music:

Michael Galasso • Koulis Theodorou


Nuh Mete

Sound Editing:

Emmanuella Di Giunta

Art Direction:

Adnan Öngün

First Assistant Director:

Arslan Kacar

In Association With:

Rai Cinema, TSI-Televisione Svizzera, Fabrica Cinema

With the Support Of:


With the Contribution Of:

Fondazione MonteCinemaVerità, Efes Pilsen, Comtech Ticaret

Assistants to the Director:

Özden Özdemir, Inanç Parmaksizoglu

Post-Production Co-Ordinators:

Gabriella Brunamonti, Fiorella Ferrara

Production Co-Ordinators (Italy):

Martino Sclavi, Valentina Merli

Production Assistants:

Cengiz Deveci, Mete Sen, Giulia Grassilli Administration Viviana Queirolo Bertoglio

Editing Assistants:

Alfredo Alvigini, Anita Cacciolati Foley – Foley artist Sergio Basili, Antonio Tirinelli

Editing Special Effects Sound:

Gianluca Basili, Massimiliano Normanno

Italian Language Version:

Carlo di Carlo

Sound Mix Engineer:

Roberto Cappannelli (A.I.F.M.)

Music Recording Supervisor:

Giorgio Collodet

Music Recording Engineer:

Ulas Agce


Dogu Kaptan, Serra Yilmaz, Nancy Öztürk

Music Directed By:

Michael Galasso

Graphic Design:

Omar Vulpinari, Constance Gounod, Simona Lettieri, Gabriele Riva

Web Design:

Gianni Billio




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