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‘Almanya’ pokes gentle fun at German, Turkish stereotypes
1.       tunci
7149 posts
 14 Mar 2011 Mon 10:57 am

‘Almanya’ pokes gentle fun at German, Turkish stereotypes

14 March 2011, Monday / CATHERINE HICKLEY

A scene from Turkish-German filmmaker Yasemin Şamdereli’s debut feature “Almanya,” which premiered February at the Berlin film festival.

Germans don’t wash, eat only potatoes and pork and are obsessed with official bureaucratic stamps, according to a movie that just opened in US theaters.

Two sisters born into a Turkish family in Germany, Yasemin and Nesrin Şamdereli, have mined their own past to inject some welcome humor into the immigration debate; “Almanya” is an affectionate depiction of the cultural differences between Turks and Germans.

Hüseyin Yılmaz leaves Turkey for Almanya (Germany) in the 1960s as a Gastarbeiter, or guest worker, and gets permission to settle his family there. Forty-five years later, he tells his children that he has bought a house in Turkey and that they are all going back -- at least for the summer. They reluctantly agree to go.

The trip provides the framework for a family history told through flashbacks that hold a mirror to German and Turkish societies. When Hüseyin arrives as a Gastarbeiter, he finds a country where dogs all have owners and walk on leashes, people speak gibberish, Coke has replaced water and God is nailed to a cross and hung on the wall.

The children learn the language faster than their parents and adapt to the new world, even bugging their father to shave his mustache because German men don’t have them (he refuses).

The kids are enchanted by Christmas and goad their Muslim parents into celebrating it. The disappointment is palpable when their mother doesn’t know she is supposed to wrap the presents and the Christmas tree is a scrawny branch of fir in a jar on the mantelpiece, decorated with a few sad baubles.

After 40 years in Germany, Hüseyin and his wife finally decide to apply for passports. The night before they collect them he has a nightmare in which a bureaucrat at a desk lined with official stamps makes them promise to holiday in Majorca, watch the “Tatort” (“Crime Scene&rdquo police series -- a German institution -- and join a shooting club. The official also makes them eat a plate of pork and cabbage.

The film was a hit with audiences at the Berlin film festival last month and is likely to appeal to both Germans and Turks for its gentle fun-poking at stereotypes and clichés on both sides.

There is unnecessarily manipulative tear-jerking at the end and the movie flags in places. Yet “Almanya” hammers home a valuable point that has been missing from the heated discussion about Muslim immigrants in Germany: A meeting of cultures does not have to be a clash or a social problem -- it can be funny and enriching too. © Bloomberg News, 2011



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