Culture

Fatih Akin’s cinema: a step closer to integration

Article published on Oct. 12, 2007
Article published on Oct. 12, 2007
Belonging to the homeland, the importance of education for immigration and Turkey's entry into the European Union are converging themes in 'The Edge of Heaven', the latest film by the German director

Nejat, professor of German philology at the University of Bremen, decides to travel to Turkey in search of the daughter of Yenet, the prostitute his father Ali, a first-generation immigrant in Germany, has just accidentally killed after buying her love. His goal: to pay for the girl's education, previously funded by her mother. Meanwhile, Yenet’s daughter Ayten, a member of the political resistance in Turkey, flees from the police and ends up in Hamburg to look for her mother. There she is welcomed by Lotte, a student with whom she falls in love, and together they decide to travel to Bremen to meet Ayten’s mother. When Ayten is deported to her country, Lotte doesn’t think twice about flying to Turkey to free her lover from Istanbul’s women's prison in which she finds herself. The paths of the characters become entwined, each of them oblivious to how close they are to each other.

(Photo: Kerstin Stelter; corazón international)

The Edge of Heaven ('Auf anderen Seite'), the latest work from Fatih Akin, the German director of Turkish origin, is not only a film about quest and fortune. It is also about immigration, mixed races and cultural and generational shocks in a globalised world. A student from Hamburg welcomes a Turkish political refugee into her house despite barely knowing her. The film that tells this story won the award for Best Screenplay in May 2006 at the Cannes Festival, and will represent Germany at the next Oscars ceremony in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. It champions understanding between cultures, without distinction of race or nationality. In order for such understanding to exist, it is essential to have knowledge and education. The Edge of Heaven is also a film about education and its importance in the coexistence of cultures: a professor of Turkish origin in a German university, a German bookstore in the heart of Istanbul…

Education for integration

In this piece, Akin expresses his support for immigrant integration. Ten years have passed since he demonstrated a pessimistic attitude towards immigration in Short Sharp Shock ('Kurz Und Schmerzlos'), which portrays how three young third generation immigrants from the multicultural Hamburg district of Altona become small-time gangsters and thieves. In Head-On ('Gegen die Wand'), awarded the Berlin film festival's Golden Bear for Best Film in 2004, two Germans of Turkish origin succumb to the pain of alcohol and drugs. Germany has changed, along with its experience of immigration. This is exemplified in Akin’s new film by the passion felt by Nejat – professor of philology – towards the work of Goethe.

Concept of homeland in a global world

After reaching the turning point of his integration, Nejat suddenly discovers feelings towards the homeland of his roots, Turkey, and settles in Istanbul. At the same time, his father Ali, after leaving prison, returns to his town on the shores of the Black Sea. The Edge of Heaven is also a film about the search for one’s identity and roots in this time of globalisation. 'Or rather about belonging to the homeland,' stated Akin at the film's premiere on 24 September in Lüneburg (northwestern Germany). Neither does the feature-length film stay on the sidelines of the debate about Turkey’s entry into the European Union, dramatised in the film by the discussion in English, in a German kitchen, between Susanne, Lotte’s mother, and the Turkish political activist.

Following Head-On, The Edge of Heaven is the second part of Fatih Akin’s Love, death and the devil trilogy. Death lends a notion of symmetry to the film: a coffin flies from Germany to Turkey while another makes the journey in reverse. But despite the pain this causes, the loss of a loved one is something that can be overcome and Susanne, living in Istanbul since the death of her daughter, raises a toast to death with Nejat. Death becomes a simple fact, one more routine element of people's lives. It leads Nejat and Susanne to Istanbul, scene of nostalgia and catharsis for human beings, the hinge between east and west and symbol of coexistence between cultures.

'The Edge of Heaven' was released in German cinemas on 27 September, and onto Austrian and Swiss screens on 4 October

Release dates across Europe 2008

Germany (Pandora) 20 September 2007

Latvia (Amarton Filmide) October 2007

Austria (Filmladen), Switzerland (Cineworx) 4 October 2007

Sweden (Folkets Bio) 26 October 2007

Turkey October 2007

Lithuania (Amarton Filmide) November 2007

Italy (BIM Distribuzione) 9 November 2007

France (Pyramide), Belgium (Cineart) 14 November 2007

Czech Republic (Bontonfilm) 15 November 2007

Estonia (Amarton Filmide) December 2007

Spain (Golem Distribucion) January 2008

Greece (Rosebud) 11 January 2008

Norway (arthaus) February 2008

UK (Artificial Eye) 15 February 2008

Netherlands (A- Film) 16 February 2008

Poland (Kino Swiat) May 2008

Romania (Independenta) 18 April 2008

Portugal (Atalanta Films), Denmark (Camera Film) tba

'The Edge of Heaven', Fatih Akin