Berlin film festival 2011: Turkish guest worker fun in Almanya: Welcome To Germany

Article published on Feb. 13, 2011
community published
Article published on Feb. 13, 2011
In an era when multiculturalism is being questioned in European society thanks to politicians isolating the issue – in January chancellor Angela Merkel declared multiculturalism had 'failed' in Germany - it's refreshing to watch a historical and comic account of three generations of Turks in Germany.
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Granddad, are we Germans or Turks? pleads six-year-old Cenk Yilmaz, bullied at school for the fact that he can technically play sports for both Germans and Turks, offended by the fact that his father's native Anatolia isn't even a part of Europe on the school map. Off we go on a family comedy adventure to the story of the past, as Cenk's aunt Canan, 22, explains how their Turkish grandparents were welcomed to Germany, or 'Almanya', as the fictional 'millionth-and-first guest workers'. The story picks up on the couple in the present and in old age as they are collecting their German passports. With their children and grandchildren, they prepare to take an autumn holiday of rediscovery to Anatolia as one big newly German family together. Almanya 1

The beginning of the ninety-seven minute film has the Germans rolling in the aisles as their nostalgia for the past is fed through the eyes of how they seemed to their-then newest citizens. It's a romantic retrospective of life between Don Quixote Anatolia to sharp sixties west Germany, a delightful romp in its portrayal of a family of three generations living in an integrated Germany. There are no negative aspects to this story of integration, and at least two of the family members are in relationships with non-Turks. Producer Andreas Richter developed the script over a number of years with sister screenwriter and director team Nesrin and Yasemin Samdereli. He shrugs off labels such as integration, Turks and third generations: 'It's a film about normal people,' he explains, 'about how one family learned to live and be accepted in Germany.' In any case, the team succeed in telling the story of a close-knit Turkish family in Germany through a child's eyes and ears without resorting to media stereotypes.

Almanya 3 Through kitsch postcard-style images and authentic videos, the Samdereli sisters seem to have been inspired by their own childhoods in Dortmund. They tell the stories of our own parents' Hollywood stories of emigrations to Europe, but also the parents of our neighbours, school friends and lovers. The film embraces its subject matter and will be released in both language versions of Turkish and German. Most enlightening about the movie come the revelations from the actors who play the grandparents in the movie; they have lived in Germany for thirty-three and twenty years respectively. 'In Turkey, I am seen as an 'Almanyar' too,' explains the actress who plays the grandmother, Lilay Husay. Her co-star and onscreen husband Vedat Erincin emphasises that 'Germany changed us. This and the next generation are neither Turks, Greeks or Germans: we're the new Europeans.'

As for the film itself, it's a little too long, veering too suddenly between seventies slapstick comedy to a sentimental coming-of-age drama. The stories of the various characters loop up and around themselves a little too often, but we still recommend you watch this memorable film for a laugh and a couple of tears thrown in for measure. Especially if you want to see Angela Merkel eating an own goal after that official statement on integration. After all, the story of Turks in Germany is a story of Europe.

Almanya: Welcome To Germany is released on 10 March in both Turkish and German

Watch the trailer here