The Boston Phoenix - November 25, 2005

By Peter Keough

 

East meets West in Turkey. And now in Germany, where filmmakers of Turkish descent have nurtured a vital hybrid cinema. Two films in the "Turkish Directors Abroad" series at the Museum of Fine Arts, part of the 10th Annual Boston Turkish Festival, demonstrate this blossoming in its earliest growth.

Both feature the theme of cultural conflict and reconciliation. Seyhan Derin's Zwischen den Sternen | Between the Stars (2001) begins with the old saw about lovers in separate countries united by looking at the same night sky. The star-crossed Romeo and Juliet also get a nod as Deniz, an assimilated Turk aspiring to law school, gives her passport to Umut, a young man she meets while visiting the old country, so he can join her in Germany. Nothing matters but love to these starrry-eyed kids, but the realities of "artificial identities and boundaries" prove hard to overcome, not to mention the objections of parents and the demands of bills, exams, housekeeping, and proper personal hygiene. Derin relies overmuch on glib motifs, but the crips storytelling, engaging performances, and wise avoidance of melodrama elevate the film to creditable if not celestial heights.

Testosterone, not true love, unites the pals in Fatih Akin's Kurz und schmerzlos | Short Sharp Shock (1998). Costa the Greek, Bobby the Serb, and Gabriel the Turk have sworn to cover one another's backs in the mean streets of Hamburg's Altona. But they don't figure on Muhammer the Albanian, the local mobster whom Bobby joins to further his dreams of becoming another Al Pacino in Scarface. These kids have watched too many movies, and Akin himself leans on his viewing of Scorsese and Tarantino in this tale of tortured loyalties, madcap spirits, abrupt violence, and macho stupidity. Nonetheless, a sytlistic exuberance and weighty authenticity add substance, qualities that will bear fruit in Akin's 2004 Gegen die Wand | Head-On.