Building Bridges: Fatih Akin and the Cinema of Intercultural Dialogue

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    Multicultural tensions within Germany have reached alarming new levels following Angela Merkel’s acceptance of more than a million refugees and migrants in 2015. In the wake of the anti-immigration Pegida movement protesting the ‘Islamisation of the West’, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, founded in 2013 to challenge the euro, sharpened its focus on immigration and won 12.6% of the vote in the German Election in September 2017, a spectacular, and disturbing, result. In the face of this renewed surge in nationalism, the films of German-Turkish director Fatih Akin have, perhaps, never been more relevant, and necessary. Many scholars have tended to focus on the transnational inflections in his work: Halle identifies a ‘transnational normalcy’ (2008: 167), while Hake and Mennel interpet his films as representations of how multiple simultaneous affiliations unsettle the links between ‘home, belonging and cultural citizenship’ (2012: 9). We will argue that Akin’s films fight against seeing such a transient existence as in any way normal. As he has remarked: ‘All of my characters are searching for something. They are searching for a better life. However […] [almost] all of them fail’ (Brockmann 2010: 485). He does not downplay ethnic tensions, as films such as Kurz und Schmerzlos/Short, Sharp, Shock (1998), Gegen die Wand/Head On (2003) and the current Aus dem Nichts/In the Fade (2017) reveal: the latter is a direct engagement with the surge in far-right violence directed at migrants and ethnic minorities. However, films such as Auf der anderen Seite/Edge of Heaven (2007), Soul Kitchen (2009) and Tschick/Goodbye Berlin (2016) have increasingly celebrated an alternative mode of existence grounded in the creation of bridging and bonding social capital within space and place, and the possibility of a new way of building community that erases, rather than perpetuates, Otherness. Some of the characters do find themselves with the possibility of attaining a better life. However, it is not to be found by looking afar, but rather built in small communities, in rootedness in local spaces that incorporate diverse, mutually enriching cultures. Akin’s films reinforce optimism that a truly robust multicultural identity can be forged, which might indeed allow people to feel wholly rooted, rather than simultaneously itinerant, to feel a sense of belonging hitherto deemed ephemeral or illusory. It is in these communities that the nationalist forces can be resisted, where cosmopolitan values can flourish. As such, the chapter argues that Akin’s voice is a powerful one, and more badly needed now than at any time before in his career, not just in Germany, but across Europe as a whole.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationNationalism in Contemporary Western European Cinema
    EditorsJames Harvey
    Place of PublicationLondon
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
    Number of pages22
    ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-73667-9
    ISBN (Print)978-3-319-73666-2
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2018

    Publication series

    NamePalgrave European Film and Media Studies


    • Fatih Akin
    • German Film
    • Cinema of Intercultural Dialogue
    • Transnationalism
    • Migration
    • Cosmopolitanism


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