The topic of labour migration to Germany is present in various Turkish and German-Turkish films. It was not only an inspiration for many films in the Turkish Yeşilçam industry, but was also an important subject for the German directors with or without Turkish origin. The film series Left Side Stories: Social Criticism in the German-Turkish Migration Cinema deals with Turkish and German-Turkish films, which focus on the phenomenon of labour migration to Germany and the lives of the so-called “guest workers” from a societal-critical perspective. They deal with social justice, class consciousness, women’s emancipation and the living conditions of the children of the workers from Turkey. It is also discussed how, despite the negotiation of German-Turkish migration in the films, the political sphere of the 1970s in Turkey decisively influenced the films and their directors.
With kind support by Landesstelle für Entwicklungszusammenarbeit des Landes Berlin (LEZ).
Can Sungu studied film and visual communication design in Istanbul and at the Institute for Art in Context at the Berlin University of the Arts. He has given workshops and seminars in the field of film and published texts on film and migration. As an artist, he participated in numerous exhibitions, including at MMSU Rijeka, Künstlerhaus Vienna and REDCAT Los Angeles. He is co-founder and artistic director of bi‘bak.
Shirin's Wedding by Helma Sanders-Brahms shows the fate of a "stranger" in the "foreign lands" warts and all. Shirin is a young Turkish woman waiting for the return of the man whom she loves and to whom she was promised: Mahmut. Despite the promise, she is married to her parents' estate manager. She flees to unknown Germany, to Cologne, the city where Mahmut works. Shirin herself also finds work and a place to stay. But when she loses the job and thus her residence permit, her situation changes dramatically. In her desperation, she meets Aida, a seemingly helpful stranger.
The film triggered heated discussions that even reached the Turkish parliament and prompted a protest rally by Turkish nationalists against the WDR.
Metin and Anne are the same age. Anne moves in to the front house and meets Metin, who lives in the rear building. They do not speak the same language, but curiosity quickly brings them together. Metin and Anne explore Berlin Kreuzberg together. They realize that the people around them are sceptical about their friendship. They have to assert themselves against prejudice and resentment.
The bilingual film Metin by Thomas Draeger is aimed for both adults and children.
Güldane is a young confident Turkish woman, who lives and works in Germany. She spends her summer holiday in Turkey, where she meets Mahmut. Mahmut wants to marry her just to have the opportunity to go to Germany. In exchange, he offers her money, which she accepts without showing any interest in him as a person. In Germany, her behaviour towards him changes when she is in need for protection from a man who is harassing her. Mahmut and Güdane start to become closer, but the hard life in Germany brings them more desperation than joy.
Almanya Acı Vatan (Germany, Bitter Home) by Şerif Gören, is considered a milestone in the German-Turkish migration cinema and is mostly shot in Berlin. Almanya Acı Vatan is the first exhaustive try in Turksih cinema to deal with the theme of migration to Germany. Leaving the traditional melodrama behind, it uses socialist realist elements to criticise society. The film shows the life of the so-called guest workers from a critical point of view.
We celebrate the German premiere of the film Kara Kafa (Black Head) from 1979 in presence of director Korhan Yurtsever.
Kara Kafa tells of the increasingly hopeless situation of the Turkish metalworker Cafer, who is bringing his family from the Turkish village to Germany. Cafer is convinced that Germany is the land of opportunity and will save the family from poverty. In his view, all migrants who work in Germany should be grateful and obedient to their work without complaining. He does not like the clubs, trade unions and meetings attended by many of his friends and also by his wife Hacer. Hacer is involved in the women's movement. She changes outwardly and mentally. Her eldest son is lonely and wanders aimlessly through the streets of the city while the daughter has to stay home to look after her newborn brother. As the song in the end of the film suggests, the fate of the working-class family lies in their own hands: "If we do not stand up, our misery will not end!"
Kara Kafa was immediately banned after its completion by the then censorship committee in Turkey, for the reason that the film violated "the honor of Germany, the befriended nation". The world premiere of the film took place therefore only in 2011 with 32 years delay at the film festival in Antalya. Kara Kafa stands out among other examples of the German-Turkish migration cinema for its left-wing view of migration and its open social criticism.
Korhan Yurtsever, born in Istanbul, has worked since a young age as a cutter in the his uncle's studio. His feature film Fıratın Cinleri from 1978 won several prizes, including the prize from the jury of San Remo festival. After a personal invitation from the major of Berlin he started shooting Kara Kafa in Berlin, in the Ruhr area and in Turkey. After his movie was banned, he stayed in Germany for a couple of years, before he returned to Turkey, where he continued working as a director, mostly for promotional films.
Mein Vater, der Gastarbeiter (My Father, the Guest Worker)
Yüksel Yavuz, Germany, 1995, 52 min.
The Kurdish director Yüksel Yavuz tells in an autobiographical documentary film about the life of his father, who worked from 1968 to 1984 as a so-called guest worker on a Hamburg shipyard. He knew only the way to work, to the fish market and to the cafe and he never really felt at home. Yavuz succeeds in creating a touching testimony of the time, in which he traces the personal life story of his father and connects it with a part of West German history.
Sie dienen Allah und den Deutschen (They serve Allah and the Germans)
Michael Brückner and Peter Heller, Germany, 1973, 25 min.
Before My Father, the Guest Worker the 16mm short film They serve Allah and the Germans by Michael Brückner and Peter Heller will be screened. The documentary depicts the role of religion for the Turkish Guest Workers in an iron foundry in Frankfurt.