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‘Almanya´: the sweet sorrow of German-Turks
1.       tunci
7149 posts
 09 Nov 2011 Wed 08:14 pm


‘Almanya´: the sweet sorrow of German-Turks

09 November 2011, Wednesday / EMİNE YILDIRIM, İSTANBUL

                                              Photo: Cihan

On the 50th anniversary of the Turkish workforce migrating to Germany, German-born Turkish director Yasemin Şamdereli´s vivacious and naïve feel-good comedy of a Turkish family´s migration story fits well for the historic occasion and its current choice of adopting a positive and hopeful “multi-kulti” (as the Germans would say it) approach as opposed to the very prevalent cultural and political clashes that it brought to the nation.

Şamdereli, who has penned the script of “Almanya: Willkommen in Deutschland”  (Welcome to Germany) with her sister, Nesrin, is herself a second-generation German-Turk. And as a director, she prefers a tone reminiscent of the typically lighthearted and genuine Mediterranean family and atmosphere rather than the gloomy Western European background in her film. Just like Fatih Akın, Şamdereli seems to come from a generation of filmmakers who have owned up to their heritage and have simultaneously chosen to organically adapt to their environs.

The multi-generational story begins with that of Hüseyin Yılmaz (Fahri Ogün Yardım) in the early 1960s, told through the voiceover of his granddaughter Canan (Aylin Tezel). Like every other man, all Hüseyin wants to do is to make a better living and provide more for his family. He falls in love with the prettiest girl in his Anatolian village, elopes with her and initially moves to the shantytowns of İstanbul. They have a humble but happy life as Fatma gives birth to their three children, yet Hüseyin has higher ambitions. The minute he hears the news that Germany is looking for “gastarbeiter” (that household word meaning guest workers) he applies for the position and suddenly finds himself in the provinces of West Germany, away from his wife and children. When Hüseyin decides the following year to bring over his entire nucleus family, the film finally arrives at its launching board, and we become witness to a series of tragicomic and endearing events, mostly based on culture shock and cultural misunderstandings.

The strength of Şamdereli´s film is its charming and embracing attitude towards her characters and their immediate surroundings. She does not shy away from illustrating the difficulties of the cultural and emotional adaptation of the family to Germany, but at the same time she handles these difficulties with humor and a particular kind of positivism that takes hold over the entirety of the film, thus making it a satisfying and pleasant view for all kinds of audiences without being shallow.

The story is at its finest when focusing on the children of Hüseyin; the way they deal with a new country, their language learning skills (which are much better than those of the adults), their quick adaptation and the sudden yearning for a Christmas tree are all brought to the screen through genuine dialogues and acting. Şamdereli and her sister obviously remember their own childhood experiences fondly and precisely since they succeed in providing us with a convincing sequence of family dynamics.

Naturally, the parents are not as adaptable as the kids, and several instances where Fatma tries to communicate with the German butcher turns into a game of charades, but no matter, this place becomes the family´s new home. Note that the filmmakers are tiptoeing around, not showing any kind of racism or fascism that the family might have actually encountered. Surely, this decision of excluding the grim side of migration seems a tad naïve at some point, but all things considered, “Almanya´s” avoidance of the grim does not give way to sociopolitical superficiality or untruthfulness. The film is carefully sprinkled with archive footage starting from the ´60s that depicts the long and culturally transformative journey of the gastarbeiters.

The second storyline entails the old age of Hüseyin (Vedat Erincin) and Fatma (Lilay Huser) in the present tense, in which, after 50 years, they are finally eligible for a German passport.

The two stories intertwine with crisp editing and a meticulously written emotional parallelism. Perhaps Hüseyin and Fatma have been waiting for these passports for longer than ever, but the elder Hüseyin has started to yearn for his Anatolian village and convinces the entire clan (now filled with grandchildren and in-laws) to travel to Turkey for a vacation in the village -- so everyone can remember where their roots came from. Essentially the movie becomes a circular road film where the characters are traveling the same road but with opposite destinations throughout the time.

Given that metaphor of the same road but with different destinations, Şamdereli leaves the audience with the gratifying (if not entirely truthful) notion that Germany has indeed become the epitome of a multi-kulti society in which diversity is more than welcome on the road to socio-cultural and economic growth. Of course, “economic” is the real key word in this equation, but gladly the film reminds us of the famous German quote in the end credits: “We were expecting workers, we got people.”

´Almanya: Willkommen in Deutschland´

Directed by: Yasemin Şamdereli

Genre: comedy

Cast: Vedat Erincin, Fahri Yardın, Aylin Tezel, Lilay Huser, Demet Gül











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