Soul Kitchen (2009) Film. Director : Fatih Akin

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n Hamburg, German-Greek chef Zinos unknowingly disturbs the peace in his locals-only restaurant by hiring a more talented chef.(Imdb)

From the director of Head-On comes the story of a young restaurant owner Zinos is down on his luck. His girlfriend Nadine has moved to Shanghai, his Soul Kitchen customers are boycotting the new gourmet chef, and he’s having back trouble. Things start looking up when the hip crowd embraces his revamped culinary concept, but that doesn’t mend Zinos’ broken heart. He decides to fly to China for Nadine, leaving the restaurant in the hands of his unreliable ex-con brother Illias. —tiff.net

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The Edge of Heaven ( Auf der anderen Seite) (Yasamin Kiyisinda) (2007) Film. Director : Fatih Akin

The Edge of Heaven

An ensemble film that tells the story of several people from Germany and Turkey who do not know each other but whose paths cross fatefully. One of them is Susanne Staub, whose daughter Charlotte has fallen in love with the young Turkish activitst Ayten Öztürk. When the young activist is deported back to Turkey from Germany, Charlotte follows her, but is killed. Susanne also decides to go to Istanbul, where she finds support from Nejat Aksu, a German language and literature professor of Turkish descent. For his part, Nejat is hoping to find the missing Ayten – but he has no idea of the relationship between any of the stakeholders. –Berlinale

The Guardian, Friday 22 February 2008

The Turkish-German director Fatih Akin’s new film has been given a poetic English title for its UK release, but the German original, Auf der Anderen Seite, “On the Other Side”, is better. This is an intriguing, complex, beautifully acted and directed piece of work, partly a realist drama of elaborate coincidences, near-misses and near-hits, further tangled with shifts in the timeline – and partly an almost dreamlike meditation with visual symmetries and narrative rhymes.

It is about the tension between Germany and Turkey, to whom postwar West Germany opened its doors for “guest-worker” labourers, thereby getting an economic boost but creating for itself an unacknowledged quasi-imperial legacy of guilt and cultural division. And it is about the gulf between the first- and second-generation Turkish-Germans, conflicted about their identity and their relation with the old country, itself conflicted as it prepares to join the European Union.

At the movie’s centre is Nejat (Baki Davrak), a second-generation Turk who has attained what might be the greatest distinction Germany has to offer: he is a university professor, lecturing on Goethe. His rascally old father, Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz), also in Germany, has offered cohabitation rights to the Turkish prostitute Yeter (Nursel Köse) for whom he is a regular, and who is only too eager to escape the bullying Muslim activists who patrol the red-light district – but doesn’t see Ali’s yet unrevealed darker side. Having established this fraught, tense family relationship, Akin spins the narrative thread off sideways to investigate the situation of Yeter’s fugitive daughter Ayten (Nurgül Yesilçay) and her relationship with an idealist young German, Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska) who between them are reviving the spirit of Baader-Meinhof for a new generation. Lotte’s mother is Susanne, played by Hanna Schygulla, a casting decision that is partly a kind of ancestor-worship of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, an acknowledged inspiration for Akin.

It is a glitteringly confident narrative pattern, gesturing at the globalised, historical forces that govern individual lives; in some ways it is like a very, very much better version of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s mediocre film Babel – there is some similar business with a handgun – but not as schematic and superficial. The web of happenstance and dramatic reversals of fortune may teeter on the brink of unbelievability, but it is a measure of Akin’s confidence as a storyteller that his world so plausibly enfolds us.

To the political institutions involved, Akin directs a fierce satiric pessimism. A Turkish revolutionary is refused asylum by a German court not on the grounds of terrorist activities – of which it is in fact unaware – but on the Catch-22 basis that a country about to be admitted to the EU club couldn’t possibly be tyrannical. Later, after repatriation, we see the Turkish government cut a cynical deal to release this same suspect from prison to placate the German authorities. Amid the bureaucracy and the institutional bad faith, however, individual Turks and Germans find common ground: friendship and love.

This is perhaps not a film for everyone; it does need a leap of faith, though not a very big leap. What I think is beyond doubt is that Akin – already the winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival for his 2004 film Head-On – is a director who has found a real voice. He tackles big ideas, big themes, in the service of which he creates believable human beings and elicits tremendous performances from his actors. It is bold and exhilarating film-making.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/feb/22/worldcinema.drama

Head-On (Gegen die Wand ) (Duvara Karsi) (2004) Film. Director : Fatih Akin

Duvara Karsı

In ‘Gegen die Wand’ Cahit, a 40-something male from Mersin in Turkey has removed everything Turkish from his life. He has become an alcoholic drug addict and at the start of the movie wants to end it all. Sibel a 20-something female from Hamburg wishes to please her Turkish parents yet yearns for freedom. She has had her nose broken by her brother for being seen holding hands with a boy and yet she can not break her mother’s heart and run away. She too attempts suicide and she first approaches Cahit there at the Hospital. Sibel asks Cahit to marry her, as she believes this to be the way out of her parent’s house. She promises Cahit that their relationship will be like roommates, not like a married couple. The film follows Sibel and Cahit as they get married, become closer and eventually fall in love.(imdb)

Cahit Tomruk (Birol Ünel) 40 yaşlarında Almanya’da yaşayan, hayattan vazgeçmiş bir Türk’tür. Üstelik duymakta olduğu acıyı dindirmek için kendisini kokain ve alkole vermiştir. Bir gece, bilinçli olarak arabasıyla duvara çarpar ve kıl payı hayatta kalır. Psikiyatri kliniğinde Sibel Güner (Sibel Kekilli) ile tanışır. O da intihar girişinde bulunmuş olan bir Türk’tür. Sibel, Cahit’ten onunla evlenmesini ister, böylece tutucu ailesinin onu bunaltan kurallarından kurtulabilecektir. Cahit başta bu teklifi reddeder ama ardından plana uymayı kabul eder. Plana göre sadece ev arkadaşı hayatı yaşayacak, tamamen bağımsız özel hayatlara ve cinsel yaşamlara sahip olacaklardır. Fakat birbirlerine aşık olmalarıyla durum karmaşık bir hal alır ve Cahit’in Sibel’in sevgililerinden birini kıskanarak öldürmesi ile sonuçlanır. Cahit hapishaneye düşerken, Sibel İstanbul’a gider.Cahit hapisten çıkacak ve onu bulacaktır. —Wikipedia

By MANOHLA DARGIS 

Published: January 21, 2005

One of the truisms about romances, even those shaded pitch black and set to banging rock music, is that you have to fall in love with the characters when they’re falling for each other. It takes a long time for Cahit (Birol Unel) and Sibel (Sibel Kekilli) to get inside each other’s heads, much less anywhere else.<nyt_text>ove doesn’t just hurt in the jagged German romance“Head-On”; it cuts and bleeds and even kills. A story about a lonely man and a still-lonelier woman fighting against their worlds and what often seems like their own best interests, the film has caused a stir in Germany for the murky, troubling light it sheds on the lives of the country’s Turkish immigrants. Its popularity made it a fleeting social phenomenon and a minor cultural footnote. But it doesn’t explain why this film about two strangers with suicidal tendencies and a deep commitment to self-aggrandizing drama is the first very good movie of this very young year.

The couple meet in a nasty, classically punk fashion at a mental institution, where they have both landed after trying to commit suicide. Cahit drove a car into a brick wall; Sibel slit her wrists, and probably not for the first time. He is dying for a drink and likely dying from drink. Meanwhile, what Sibel needs more than anything else, more than a nip or a prescription for Zoloft, is a Turkish husband.

The only daughter in a strict German-Turkish family, Sibel has a broken nose and scarred arms, and is living a life of everyday brutality.

The character was born in 1980’s Hamburg, but for Fatih Akin, who both wrote and directed “Head-On,” she might as well be living in another century or any cloistered society where women are kept captive by their fathers and brothers and called whores for wearing short skirts. Sibel’s father happens to be a conservative Muslim. Yet for Mr. Akin, the son of Turkish guest workers who immigrated to Germany and ended up in Hamburg, where he was born, religion is not specifically, or at least exclusively, the problem. The problem is how faith becomes dogma, a prison sentence and worse.

For Sibel, the solution to that problem is a husband who can pass muster with her father, which is how she and Cahit end up under the same roof. Movingly played by both Mr. Unel and Ms. Kekilli, the couple enter the arrangement with no illusions, their relationship developing in reverse of the typical romance: they start off steeped in cynicism and doubt, and in separate beds. Cahit, who’s on a long downward spiral, betrays little interest in Sibel and the world from which she comes, and it soon becomes clear why. During the couple’s wincingly comic courtship, when Cahit is playing nice and sober opposite Sibel’s sanctimonious father, her thuggish brother sneers about the suitor’s fumbling Turkish, asking what he did with it. Cahit answers coolly, “I threw it away.”

In time, Mr. Akin reveals why Cahit lets this lost lamb into his fold, though he doesn’t really try to explain the character’s rationale or go spelunking in the darker recesses of his mind. People are strange and filled with contradictions, and sometimes that’s all you need to know.

Cahit is as haunted by the past as Sibel is plagued by the present. Both are slaves to loves: he of heartbreak, she of her father and his God. For his troubles, Cahit wears the mantle of tragic hero, a role the charismatic Mr. Unel embraces with exuberant, tangible heat. Sibel, meanwhile, embodies the film’s divided conscience. Split between two cultures, yearning for life and for death, the character is struggling to declare not just her independence, but her very being.

“Head-On” may offend those who endorse cultural relativism, no matter how noxious its consequences, or forget that freedom from religion is as essential as freedom of religion. Mr. Akin’s commitment to his characters is uncompromising, as is his humanity, which makes a mockery of the kind of politically correct pieties that often plague stories about cultural outsiders. Unlike, say, Ken Loach in his last film, the nauseatingly smug “Ae Fond Kiss,” Mr. Akin doesn’t presume to know how to tie up religious, cultural and sexual differences in a neat package.

Germany, it emerges, is no more hospitable to Cahit and Sibel than the couple’s own family and background. It also isn’t any better for non-Turkish Germans. That’s tough on this unlikely pair, but it’s not the end of them, either.

Despite the tears, the blood and the booze, “Head-On” is a hopeful film, if for no other reason than Cahit and Sibel can’t be sized up or pinned down, their troubles filed under immigration and assimilation. Their tribulations are at once specific and universal, by turns grimly funny and darkly ironic. Set principally against the grubby environs of working-class Hamburg, in dives and derelict apartments, the film has a terrific sense of place. The city’s grubbiness works a vivid contrast to the visions of Turkey that flicker throughout the film. Istanbul looks beautiful, but then so, too, does Cahit’s wreck of an apartment, where anarchy and the freedom it promises linger as stubbornly as the smell of stale beer and cigarettes.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/21/movies/21head.html