Interview with Fatih Akin

"I Stand in Opposition of Tradition!"

German-Turkish director Faith Akin's "Head-On" took home the Berlinale's Golden Bear, making "Gegen die Wand" the first German film to win the main award in 18 years. Eleonora Volodina spoke with him about the film

Fatih Akin poses with his Golden Bear award after the awarding ceremony at the 54th International Film Festival Berlin 2004 (photo: AP)
Fatih Akin

​​Your film is about Turkish immigrants in Germany. Do you think you have to be Turkish to deal with the subject with in such a blunt manner?

Fatih Akin: I didn't want the characters to represent the whole Turkish minority. They were outsiders in this community. That interested me from the very beginning. I did not much think which were the Turkish elements. I was born with it and grew up with it. I was on the inside and did not reflect upon it that much. I did it later, not when I was making the movie.

Still the girl has to fight against her conservative Muslim heritage.

Akin: The girl is crazy somehow. She wants to kill herself, she is going head on into the wall. She does not accept the pressure. There is a certain kind of pressure, a certain kind of dogmatism, that especially Turkish females face in our society, here in Germany more, than in Turkey. And she is fighting against it. That was interesting. Sure, she was rebelling, but as an outsider, not as someone typical. We tried to show the family not as a typical one. Her mother is very modern, even the brother accepts the male hero, even if he is a lump, because he loves her, because it is good for the sister.

Should immigrants drop their traditions and heritage and integrate in a new society?

Akin: The answer is somewhere in between. Me personally, I stand in opposition of tradition, but I am also loyal to tradition. I don’t say everything is wrong. I don’t believe in that. I would like to keep a lot of stuff from the Turkish heritage, some things I would not like to keep because I don’t accept them. I was born in Germany, went to German school. To try to keep the respect – that is very important to me. That is why it was important to show the family in respectful way.

At the end they return to Turkey, where their roots are. Is that the only way to find perhaps not happiness but at least some piece and quiet? Is the message that immigrants can find peace only where they came from?

Akin: Well, I don’t know. The tricky thing about all the stuff is that the personal home is Germany. She was born in Germany. He grew up in Germany. He is so German that he does not almost speak Turkish anymore. He does not look even Turkish anymore. They go somehow to a foreign country, or to a new country. Not to their home. That is a general idea. They have to escape.

Starting over?

Akin: Yes, exactly. Both are on a quest. He is trying to find himself. She is trying to find herself. And the moment when the film stops, it is just the moment, where the film stops. We don’t know what happens next. Do they stay there, do they go away. She accepts her new life, but we don’t know if she is very happy with it. He goes back to his roots, to the place where his parents come from, where he was born. But he does not go as a lucky man. The quest still continues.

Eleonora Volodina

© Deutsche Welle 2004

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