Dir: Yuksel Yavuz. Germany. 2003. 101mins
Awell-intentioned attempt to explore the fate of Kurdish immigrants, both legal and illegal, living on the streets of Hamburg and the illusion of freedom they enjoy there, Yuksel Yavuz's second feature seeks to cover too much ground and ultimately delivers too little for its efforts. A typical product of the Kleine Fernsehe Spiele ZDF TV frame within which it was developed, it is both authentic and relevant, but lacks the professional know-how that would mould its ingredients into a powerful document. Given the recent interest in the fate of Kurdish people, both in their own land and in their places of exile, the television future for this picture seems pretty safe. Festivals will display interest in its approach - it screened in Directors' Fortnight at Cannes - but more than that would be difficult to achieve.
Baran, who is 17 and has lost his parents back home in Kurdistan when they were handed over to the Turkish police by a traitor, lives with his cousin in Hamburg and works as a delivery boy in a Kurdish restaurant owned by one of his people. Without the necessary papers to stay in Germany, Baran has to avoid any encounter with the law, be it the most innocent one, and to hope for a miracle or at least for a girl with a German passport who would be prepared to marry him and eliminate the risk of an imminent deportation. But Baran is not very comfortable with girls, and when he does strike an alliance it is with Chernor, an African boy his own age, another illegal immigrant who is facing his own troubles trying to stay in Hamburg. The entire film is built on the relationship between the two boys, with the gay undertones evident from early stages coming forth only towards the end.
As the friendship does not provide the dramatic material to carry a full-length feature, and none of the characters is sufficiently explored to generate actual interest, it is the background that is most interesting - that is the state of the Kurdish community, their problems and crises, the fierce animosities carried with them from back home, the gap between the adults who speak the language of the old country and the younger ones who normally answer in German, and the constant fear of the authorities, who can easily put a stop to the 'little bit of freedom' all these people enjoy.
Consisting of separate episodes, not particularly compelling on their own nor in the way in which they are put together, and acted mostly in a lackadaisical manner, the first dramatic change of tone in this loose chain of events comes only after about an hour into the film. Baran discovers that a man he met accidentally on the street is responsible for the death of his parents and decides to take his revenge but by that time, it is a bit too late for the excitement to build in.
When the film ends, just as it has began, with excerpts from a home-video of Baran's family, the general feeling is that instead of going to the heart of his subject, Yavuz lost his way in the process. Instead he has come up with a series of disparate, perfectly valid but rather slack observations, the impact of which will not really move a Western audience out of its apathy. And, after all, that should have been the point of the exercise.
Prod co/int'l sales: Cotta Media Entertainment
Co-prod: ZDF Mainz
Prod: Ralph E Cotta, Peter Stockhaus
Cinematography: Patrick Orth
Ed: Lars Spath
Prod des: Beatrice Schultz
Music: Ali Ecber
Main cast: Cagdas Bozkurt, Necmettin Cobanoglu, Leroy Delmar, Sunay Girisen, Nazmi Kirik, Suzanna Rozkosny