Strangers in a Foreign Land: National and Personal Identity | Festival | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Festival

Strangers in a Foreign Land: National and Personal Identity

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

This festival of German films by immigrants from Greece and Turkey runs Friday through Thursday, September 29 through October 5, at Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton. Screenings are $7, $5 for Facets members; for more information call 773-281-4114.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29

40 Square Meters

A Turkish villager, brought to Hamburg by her immigrant laborer husband, watches the world go by from her window, but she's forbidden to learn German or venture outside their tiny apartment. Flashbacks that reveal her modest joys and growing trepidation as she was married off are juxtaposed with the loneliness and boredom of her life in Germany, an endless cycle of cooking, cleaning, and satisfying her husband's sexual urges. Ozay Fecht gives a touching performance as the miserable woman, capturing her silent frustration and simmering anger, and as director Tevfik Baser chronicles her mental and physical disintegration, his 1985 film becomes a sad commentary on how tenaciously some immigrants cling to old customs in the face of an unfamiliar culture. 77 min. (TS) (7:00)

Brothers & Sisters

An honest, sympathetic account of three Berlin teenagers, children of a Turkish cabdriver and his German wife, who must navigate the prejudices of the immigrant community and their fellow Berliners' ambivalence toward the growing population of "guest workers." Disillusioned with Germany, the sullen eldest son spends much of his time bumming around and longs to join the Turkish military; his younger siblings, eager to fit in with their German peers, are buffeted on one side by the country's racial hierarchy and on the other by the strict rules of their old-fashioned father. The austere mise-en-scene of this 1996 drama suggests a documentary treatment, but director Thomas Arslan neglects the larger social issues to present a somewhat aimless panorama of life in an insular culture. 82 min. (TS) (9:00)

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30

Lola and Billy the Kid

Director Kutlug Ataman reportedly fled Istanbul to escape the death threats that followed the release of this 1998 film. A powerful and superbly acted drama about the gay and transvestite subcultures among Berlin's immigrant Turks, the film gracefully interweaves a number of compelling story lines: a boorish, foul-mouthed gigolo falls for a prim German architect who lives with his aristocratic mother; a cross-dressing entertainer ponders a sex-change operation, pressured by his ultramacho boyfriend; a homophobic man turns to violence when he suspects his brothers of being gay. Ataman's only misstep comes late in the film, when a fight with some neo-Nazis becomes a stylized knife-and-gun battle recalling West Side Story. For the most part, though, this is fierce, eye-opening work. 93 min. (Adam Langer) Ataman will attend the screening. (7:00)

Short Sharp Shock

This 1998 feature about three young immigrants in Hamburg--a Turk, a Greek, and a Serb--plays like a tamer version of John Woo's Bullet in the Head. Members of a small-time gang since childhood, they've grown close despite their ancient ethnic rivalries, but one of them wants to go straight after serving a jail term and the other two get mixed up with a brutal Albanian crime lord. Writer-director Fatih Akin captures the trio's chummy machismo in the face of their social disenfranchisement, but he's less successful at characterizing their three girlfriends, stoic creatures who only disrupt the male bonding. Despite references to German society and scenes of ethnic gatherings, this action flick could be set in the seedier districts of any port city. 100 min. (TS) (9:00)

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 1

Nights Gambled Away

After her father dies, a Greek woman travels to Berlin to visit her estranged older sister, who's abandoned a dancing career to work as a croupier in an illegal gambling den. The two leads more than compensate for the fairly conventional plot: Jasmin Tabatabai is volatile but vulnerable as the older sister, while Viki Volioti gives a dignified, understated performance as the younger sister, whose cool, judgmental facade conceals her unhappiness and resentment toward their late father. The script falters when it turns away from the women, its side characters sketchy at best, yet director Angeliki Antoniou captures the insular mentality of immigrants in Berlin and the plight of being boxed in by one's past mistakes. 91 min. (TS) (5:30)

The April Children

Yuksel Yavuz's 1998 German feature focuses on the struggles of a Kurdish family living in Hamburg. 85 min. (7:30)

MONDAY, OCTOBER 2

40 Square Meters

See listing for Friday, September 29. (7:00)

Lola and Billy the Kid

See listing for Saturday, September 30. (8:45)

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3

Brothers & Sisters

See listing for Friday, September 29. (7:00)

Nights Gambled Away

See listing for Sunday, October 1. (8:45)

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4

Short Sharp Shock

See listing for Saturday, September 30. (7:00)

40 Square Meters

See listing for Friday, September 29. (9:00)

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 5

Lola and Billy the Kid

See listing for Saturday, September 30. (7:00)

The April Children

See listing for Sunday, October 1. (8:45)

Add a comment