Sunday, 13 November 2011

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Almanya - GFF 2011

Opinion: A-

Light-hearted screenplay fuels the highly appealing family comedy drama with optimistic charms that would simply make anybody's day by watching it. It's amazing to see how a film illustrating cultural clash between Turkish and Germans managed to handle any potential sensitivity so delicately well, inducing lots of guiltless laugh out loud moments. Together with great comedy acting and scripting, this makes one of the best films to catch this year for anybody who's looking for a really good time.

“Who or what am I really: German or Turkish?” This is what six-year-old Cenk Yilmaz asks himself when neither his Turkish nor his German schoolmates choose him for their football team. To cheer him up a little, his 22-year-old cousin Canan tells him the story of her grandfather Hüseyin, who came to Germany in the late 1960s as a “guest worker” and later fetched his wife and children so they could be in “Almanya” with him. Much time has elapsed since then, and Germany has long since become the family’s home.

One evening, during a big family gathering, Hüseyin surprises his loved ones with the news that he has bought a house in Turkey and wants to take everyone back “home” with him. But what is home? Where is it really? Although all family members struggle with this ques­tion their own way, Hüseyin refuses to take no for an answer and so they have no choice but to set off for Turkey. It’s the beginning of a journey full of memories, arguments and reconciliations – until the family outing takes an unexpected turn…

Films like Almanya never cease to remind us how every genre would have its gem worthy of note and recognition. Ever noticed how films that dominate the Oscars annually were the "serious" ones, and never other mainstream genres such as comedy and action.

It's hard to define what are truly great films, especially when each of the greatest films could be diversely different from one another. Ever wondered why The Dark Knight was probably left in the cold during the award season less for a post-humorous recognition of the late Heath Ledger? His Joker had a famous quote in the film,

"Why so serious?"

Not to downright verdict that Almanya was a terrific piece of film art that sparkled several food for thoughts, it's nevertheless a fine feature debut by the Samdereli sisters. Yasemin Samdereli directed and co-wrote the screenplay while Nesrin Samdereli wrote the script. Both of them took up their respective roles where their forte was, eventually it did pay off.

Making good light of several situational pokes at cultural clashing opportunities, it did allow the film to enjoy a good deal of light-hearted jolly without being offensive to the general audience (in mind of not knowing who might be viewing the film).

We like to believe that such hilarious moments resulting from contrasting cultures were only natural and would take time and understanding to adapt to a new environment and practices. There's perpetually nothing wrong with either cultures having their respective ways of living.

This film firmly assured us of it.

Wittingly scripted and acted, a lot of the fun derived from the cast's action and words indeed. I didn't note any cast member who gave a lacklustre performance, which supported my impressive of the film's wonderful cast ensemble. It's a film about a family attempting to strengthen domestic and cultural values, and the cast impeccably made that happen.

Very likely inspired by their own personal life experience, as the Samdereli sisters were like their film characters - Turks born in Germany. Indeed reflective of such is one fine scene that depicted how the children urged their Mother to hold a Christmas festive party at home in the beginning years of their time in Almanya.

Which of course flopped with hilarious yet heartwarming results.

Every character had been detailed vividly to truly create distinctive personalities within a relatively big family. This allowed us to follow each of the member and subsequently care for them as a family. This came as a pleasant surprise as the screenplay not only featured great scripted scenarios and narrative structure (best seen in how they handled the flashbacks back and forth between the present and the past) but also well-developed characters.

Not to forget that it's only their feature debut!

Of course, with all the heightened drama and physical acting, it was hard to deem some of the happenings as plausible. That's the way it'd always been with comedy, if anybody's life were as highly engaging and interesting, nobody would need to go to comedy films to escape from a dismaying reality.

Amidst all that fun, laughter, and occasional tear-jerking moments, there's an underlying message that was intended by the filmmakers. That the foreigners who had slogged and contributed towards the development of the German economy, had simultaneously tried hard at fitting into the new native culture. Thus it's their right to be in Germany as any citizen.

And Almanya would serve as a documented process (of 45 years!) of a Turkish family's integration with the German culture and society. One to remember for life, no less.

(You may like to read an interview with the Samdereli sisters here from Beta Cinema Press)


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