Director: Fatih Akin

Germany-Turkey| 2004. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby-EX digital stereo. 121 min.

Deserved winner of the Best Film and Best Director prizes at last December’s European Film Awards, this breakthrough drama puts the wrenching contradictions of the Turkish-German experience on screen in no uncertain terms. Writer-director Fatih Akin sets out his stall early on, when he sends dishevelled rocker anti-hero Cahit (Birol Ünel) driving straight into a brick wall in an alcohol-fuelled gesture of self-destruction. He wakes up in a residential clinic where he’s soon taken with a fellow Turkish-German patient, Sibel (Sibel Kekilli), who’s straining to escape her conservative family and live the dissolute lifestyle of Western twentysomethings. They make a deal: if he marries her to get her away from her folks, she’ll cook, clean and perform the wifely duties short of consummating the marriage. With drink, drugs and promiscuity complicating the scene, and questions of cultural identity never far away when genuine emotions enter the fray, it’ll make a turbulent relationship that bit more tempestuous.
Cleverly, Akin’s film sets the blood, sex, and flaring violence in context by interpolating a folksy Turkish romantic ballad performed against the picture-postcard setting of the Bosphorous, since elsewhere the incredibly committed writing and performances embody the damaging collision point between Turkey and Europe. Although German media reports that leading lady Kekelli had previously worked in the porn industry threatened to overshadow her bravura contribution, her co-star Ünel embodies the live-fast-die-young ethos to a worryingly charismatic degree. Still, it’s hard to overestimate the sheer power and energy bursting off the screen in a movie which does for the Turkish-German community what Once Were Warriors did for the Maoris and Mean Streets did for Little Italy. Don’t miss.

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