By Raffy Ardhaldjian
I recently went to the movies to see Fatih Akin’s ‘Gegen die Wand’ (or better known as "Head On" in the US). Besides winning many awards in Europe–the film–written in German and Turkish–with English subtitles initially provoked a great scandal when tabloids reported that the film’s little-known star (Sibel Kekilli) was an ex-porno actress earlier in her career. I ended up seeing the film three times. I left each screening with further appreciation to the talent of the filmmaker and deeper reflections on its impact on me as an avid movie-watcher. I do not remember seeing a Turkish film since Yilmaz Gney’s "Yol" (1982) that I related to this much (www.imdb.com/name/nm0351566/).
I am not going to attempt to critique a film when acclaimed critics–like the LA Times’ Kenneth Turan mentions that "It’s easy to see why this film won so many awards in Europe."Head-On" won the Golden Bear in Berlin–five German Lolas–and three major European Film Awards. It deals with the subject of identity and culture clash that is too familiar to our life in the diaspora. Besides–it is a beautifully crafted love story with dynamic–real characters.
I thought long and hard why this film is one of the best good movies I’ve seen in a while.
Despite the drama–the blood–and the drugs–"Head-On" is a hopeful and liberating film–as it takes its two main characters–Cahit and Sibel–through an incredible journey of personal growth–teaching them that cultural identity matters at the end of the day. And that true–unconditional love cannot be possessive and requires that we do what really makes our lovers happy.
I write these lines as I remember being part of a generation that was told not to watch Turkish movies and was forbidden to listen to Turkish music. I even remember watching piles of confiscated Turkish video tapes from Armenian homes being burnt in public squares in Armenian neighborhoods in Lebanon. That was 20 years ago. Today–(if asked) I would tell every movie-loving Armenian to go watch this raw and powerful love story. Besides getting your money’s worth at the cinema–you might learn something about your own identity watching two second-generation Turkish-German immigran’s trying to adjust between conflicting cultures. Sound familiar?
Raffy Ardhaldjian is an emerging independent feature film producer in Hollywood–CA (www.markopolofilms.com)