Les Enfants Terribles

Directed by Ahmet Necdet Çupur

93 minutes / Color
Turkish; Arabic / English subtitles
Release: 2021
Copyright: 2021

Twenty years ago, Ahmet Necdet Çupur left his village in south-eastern Turkey, against his parents wishes. Now, he is back. But this time as a filmmaker documenting his siblings’ struggles against the same oppressive family culture that drove him away.

Zeynep is a teenager who dreams of a better life. She’s taken a job as a seamstress at a local factory and signed up to finish high school through distance learning. Her ultimate goal is to become independent, move to a nearby city, and attend university. Her older brother, Mahmut, faces a struggle of a different kind. At 26, he wants a divorce from Nezahat, the 17-year-old wife he married at 14, at his parents’ behest. He thinks it’s wrong to force her to stay married to a man who doesn’t love her and who spends much of his time working out of the country. But a divorce would mean she’d be left destitute or married off to a much older man.

To the parents, these aspirations are at best baffling, and at worse a threat to their way of life. Nezahat sits in her in-laws’ living room, listening as they discuss her fate. “I wish she’d die,” says her mother-in-law. “It’d be easier for us.” Later, Mahmut and Zeynep’s father says the family’s problems could be solved with a bullet.

In LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES, Çupur brilliantly captures these tensions over several years, witnessing emotional conversations, troubling threats, and his siblings’ moments of intense soul-searching as they struggle to fulfill their desires while maintaining their family ties. The film tells the story of a troubled family, but also of generational clash in the midst of cultural change.

“Clear, unambiguous and fascinating to observe.” —Business Doc Europe

“[A] remarkable work which gets up close and very personal with its protagonists, but which also knows how to step back (by way of beautiful scenery, subtle lighting, apposite music and skilful editing) and move away from the "battlefield" of the family home, where a microcosmic generational shift is taking place - a predicament which will resonate with many different audiences and which anyone will be able to identify with, regardless of cultural differences.” —Cineuropa

“Ahmet Necdet Cupur trains his camera on his family, finding only tension and sorrow. The intimacy of the interactions and the obvious emotional connection that the filmmaker has with his subjects provides this documentary with a remarkably unfiltered candour, highlighting a culture clash that extends to an entire regressive community.” —Screen Daily

“Highly recommended! So intense; the children threaten suicide, and the parents threaten murder… A fascinating exposé of rural Muslim culture.” —Alexander Rolfe, Educational Media Reviews Online

“A resounding success... LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES serves as a case study into the social changes ongoing in Turkey as modern life and expectations continue to fracture and override conservative Muslim traditions... The Çupur family [offers] a window into a broader culture, and their conflicts and desires are easy to identify with, making this documentary a must-see.” —Video Librarian

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Select Accolades

  • MESA FilmFest 2022 
  • Special Jury Award, Visions du Réel 2021
  • DocsBarcelona 2021
  • Human Rights Award, Sarajevo IFF 2021
  • fARAD IDF 2021
  • Best Film, Best Editing & Special Jury Mention, Adana Golden Boll IFF 2021
  • Second Silver Nanook & Audience Award, Flahertiana IDF 2021
  • BFI London 2021
  • Gangneung IFF 2021
  • RIDM 2021
  • EnergaCamerimage 2021
  • Kasseler Dokfest 2021
  • IDFA 2021
  • Special Jury Award, Crime and Punishment IFF 2021
  • Young Jury Award, Cinemamed Brussels 2021
  • Zurich HRFF 2021
  • Best Film Award, Cinema Vérité Teheran 2021


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