Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Sezen Aksu
Photo: Strand

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Directed & Written by: Fatih Akin.
Produced by: Fatih Akin, Klaus Maeck, Andreas Thiel, Sandra Harzer-Kux & Christian Kux.
Director of Photography: Hervé Dieu.
Edited by: Andrew Bird.
Released by: Strand.
Language: English, German & Turkish with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: Germany/Turkey. 92 min. Not Rated.
Music by: Baba Zulu, Orient Expressions, Duman, Replikas, Erkin Koray, Ceza, Mercan Dede, Selim Sesler, Brenan MacCrimmon, Siyasiyabend, Aynur, Orhan Gencebay, Müzeyyen Senar, Sezen Aksu & Alexander Hacke.

Fatih Akin follows his dark and high-spirited drama Head-On with a languid stroll down the ancient streets of Istanbul, accompanying rock composer Alexander Hacke (who scored Head-On) on an exploration of the Turkish music scene. The difference between the two films is like a sip of apple blossom tea and a triple espresso.

If music can tell you everything about a people (as quoted in the film by Confucius), it’s a tall order for one documentary to take on the culture of over 70 million. Hacke admits as much in his voiceover, saying he has only scratched the surface. Far from an exhaustive overview of the entire music scene, the film’s tone is off-the-cuff with Hacke acting more like a laid-back flaneur than cultural anthropologist as the spotlight moves from early rocker Erkin Koray, to young hip hoppers (a diss is a diss in any language), and a Romany village near the border of Greece. For the most part, Hacke and Akin look to the past with reverence as they film a performance by superstar Sezen Aksu and interview the still spry 86-year-old Müzeyyen Senar, and ‘70s screen heartthrob Orhan Gencebay. One of the few times the film ventures onto political waters is the recording of a dirge-like ballad sung by a Kurdish folk singer in a deserted bathhouse (the acoustics are like a recording studio.) In 1980, all native languages, except for Turkish, were banned in the country. The restriction was only lifted 10 years later.

If the music fails to hold your interest, there’s always Madonna. Over the closing credits, her dance anthem “Music” is covered by a Turkish singer (in English) and suddenly there’s a bolt of energy, and not only because of the song’s familiarity or its catchy hook. Its inclusion points to what has been missing – contemporary Turkish dance/pop, such as singers Ankarali Turgut and Oguz Yilmaz, both from Ankara, who blend Turkish folk music with a drum machine, an infectious union of East and West. Although hardly heartthrobs and probably too middle of the road for most Turkish hipsters, these two are as unknown, and perhaps as appealing, to the film’s intended audience, the armchair traveler. Kent Turner
June 9, 2006



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