Based on audience reaction during Wednesday's press screening for Almanya: Welcome to Germany, it's going to be really popular with this year's festival goers. The film details the lives of a large Turkish family living in Germany. Hüseyin (Vedat Erincin plays him in the present, Fahri Ögün Yardim is the younger version) and Fatma (Lilay Huser presently, Demet Gül in the past) left Turkey to participate in the "economic miracle" of the 1960s, when workers of the world flocked to find employment in the city centers of Germany.
40+ years later, Hüseyin and Fatma are officially becoming German citizens. This doesn't rest too well with Hüseyin, who secretly purchases a home back in Turkey, springing the news on his family as they gather for a celebratory dinner. He insists, to much protest from his family, that they join him in a journey to fix up the house during the upcoming holidays.
Almanya is a film that unfolds across two time periods. The story of Hüseyin and Fatma's past is explained to Cenk (Rafael Koussouris), the youngest member of the clan, by his cousin Canan (Aylin Tezel). Director Yasemin Samdereli allows the tale to flit between reality and light surreality, often without warning. This works extremely well in the first half of the film, like in the very funny scene where Hüseyin and Fatma finalize their German citizenship and immediately have a pork-rich dinner thrust upon them. The recurring sequences involving their son Muhamed's (Ercan Karacayli in the present, Kaan Aydogdu as the younger version) Coca-Cola obsession lean the hardest on the use of the surreal, yielding some of my favorite moments in the film.
The light mood does not prevail for the entire film, though, as the third act transition feels more manipulative than authentic. While the move to a more serious set of circumstances is entirely appropriate, the manner in which it is orchestrated plays out much more by the numbers than anything that preceded it. As I hinted at the beginning of this post, this didn't seem to faze those in the audience on Wednesday, and while it might not bother everybody, it did bug me.
Overall, Almanya is a good film with an incredibly charismatic cast of characters that will likely please a lot of PIFF attendees (expect laughter and clapping). I just wish it could have taken a more honest route to its conclusion, without relying on emotional gerrymandering.
Almanya: Welcome to Germany will screen for the public at the Whitsell Auditorium on Feb. 10th at 6pm, the Lloyd Mall 6 on Feb. 11th at 3:15pm and 8:30pm A final screening will occur on Feb. 12th at the Lake Twin Cinema at 8pm.
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