“Auf der anderen Seite” Review by Ying Ruan

Auf der anderen Seite is a German-Turkish drama directed by Faith Akin in 2007. The movie follows stories of six people from either Germany or Turkey, presenting political and social issues faced by elder and younger generations of Turkish, Turkish-German and German people. The various backgrounds of characters lead to a sophisticated situation depicting Turkish and German society. The film explores transnational movement, cultural integration and globalization as results of the influx of Turkish immigrants into Germany since 1961.

The film presents cultural and transnational movements of identity in contemporary Germany. Ayten is a Kurdish activist, who participates in anti-government demonstration in Istanbul, but then flees to Germany for political asylum. Here she meets a young German girl Lotte who warmly helps her. However, Lotte’s mother Susanne is pleased neither with Ayten’s broken language nor with her radical political attitudes. Lotte represents German younger generation, actively engaging in constructing a multicultural Germany where Susanne is a typical elder generation who holds her bias to foreigners. Although not universally true, it is undeniable that German younger generations are more likely to embrace other cultures than elder ones, as shifts of government’s policies on immigration and education of social integration. Besides, there is an inconformity between generations in migrant families. Ali is the first generation of Turkish migrant, speaking acceptable German but always being homesick and wants to go home. His son Nejat completely integrates into German, holding a German passport, speaking perfect German and lecturing German literature in Hamburg. Before going to Turkey, Nejat never doubts himself as a German. However, as he arrives in Turkey, people are more interested in his Turkish family name than his official nationality. “It’s interesting that you have a Turkish name─being Turkish but teaching German.” Questioning the lineage of non-ethnic Germans and denying their identities as Germans has been long debated. The song Foreign in my Own Country gives an example of a Turkish-heritage German being marginalized in Germany because of his non-German appearance. Moreover, conflicts between Nejat and Ali also exemplify problems met by many Turkish immigrant families. For example, Nejat’s unwillingness to “returning” to Turkey and his incomprehension of his Turkish father. Preface to Kanaki Speak introduces Kanaki to describe “guest-worker-children” of second, third… generations, creating their language Kanaki Speak as a result of being excluded from both Turkey/Turkish and Germany/German.

The movie also explores diversified facets of globalization and integration in Germany. Ayten quarrels with Lotte’s mother Susanne about globalization─Susanne thinks Turkey will get better as it joins the European Union where Ayten points out the EU is globalization which they fight against. Turkey joining into the EU is not a recent concern: Turkey’s application to accede to the EU was first made in 1967, but many now believe that Turks have lost their faith in the EU as the result of the European financial crisis as well as perceive European rejection of Turkey. According to the U.S.-based Pew Research Center, many Europeans no longer trust the EU. Germany yet gives a striking exception, with Germans feeling better than others about the EU. However, the film explores the recent public histories in Turkey such as the Maraş Massacre for people to better understand Turkey’s situation. In the film, the mobility of the characters symbolizes cultural transformation and integration: Lotte meets Ayten in Hamburg and loses her life in Istanbul; Susanne travels to Istanbul after her daughter’s death; Nejat goes to Turkey looking for the daughter of a prostitute who is killed by his father Ali but ends up sharing a flat first with Lotte and then Susanne. Eventually every character interconnects with other characters or cultures. The tangled web of interrelationships reflects the complexity of current Turkish-German relations—integrating and repelling. Additionally, by using English, German and Turkish, characters in the film express a sense of cultural hybridity. Ayten talks with Lotte in English; Nejat replies in German when his father asks in Turkish. Multilingualism by reasons of encountering different cultures leads to a thought-provoking understanding of globalization. It also questions principles of integration─whether it is necessary to legitimate one language as the only official language for those who want to integrate.

By telling stories in a movie, Faith Akin presents various social and political issues to audiences. Although it is hard to tell if everything presented in the film is reliable, the movie grants a well-rounded perspective of contemporary Turkish and German society, exploring pros and cons of integrations and globalization.


  1. Faith Akin: Auf der Anderen Seite (Germany, 2007)

2. Deniz Göktürk, David Gramling, Anton Kaes: Germany in Transit: Nation and Migration 1955-2005 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007)

3. Thomas Elsaesser: “The Cross-cultural Dilemmas and Moral Burdens of Faith Akin’s The Edge of Heaven”, Ethical Calculus, 2008

4. Keith Hussein: Fresh Start: Transnational and Cultural Movements of Identity in Auf der Anderen Seite(2012), accessed April 06, 2014: http://www.seismopolite.com/fresh-start-transnational-and-cultural-movements-of-identiy-in-auf-der-anderen-seite

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