Film Review: Am Rand der Städte (On the Outskirts)

Posted in conjunction with the course Multicultural Germany in fall semester 2015.
Author: Angel (Jingwei) Li

Am Rand der Städte (On the Outskirts)

Film Production Studio: Harun Farocki Filmproduktion
Running Time: 83 min
DVD Release Year: 2007
Director: Aysun Bademsoy
Writer: Aysun Bademsoy

-Alone but not lonely.

The documentary is a compilation of individual interviews recounting their lives in Germany and Turkey. Although each episode of individual seem unrelated and isolated from one another, they are actually all reunited by a concurring theme beneath the flow of personal stories and struggles. They all somehow feel wandering on the outskirts, am Rand der Städte of their community, no matter how familiar or how long they have been in such communities.

The documentary began with a Turkish song singing, floating from an aloof jeep overseeing the shore of Turkey. And a young man who has been to Germany who wanted to stay in Germany but could not in the end, concluded that his life now in Turkey is tough, but beautiful. And so many more interviews on these individuals are conducted through out the documentary, about their lives in Germany, lives in Turkey, the difficulties, the hopes, the told and the untold. The documentary presents a very diverse group of Turkish individuals with experiences of life in Germany who returned to Turkey. Among them, there are single moms, teenagers, musicians, tailor shop owner, and etc.

One of the most impressive feature in conversations was the perpetual loneliness, and the emptiness they felt. Despite participation in the crowds, yet still feels alone. Which is what we discuss in class about the identity confusion and struggle. which I think not only because of the effect that in this particular case his father left him, but also, larger in the picture, an attachment lost, in identity and homeland. There are individuals here who are left alone, who strive to be alone, to adjust to being lonely. Also, to my attention, many of them, talked about a spiritual ballast on something like the ocean, the sea, and music. The young man from the begging of the documentary, would often come to the seaside, alone, listen to Turkish music in car, and thinking. The beauty salon owner, who divorced with her husband, who remarried in Germany, talk about going to the ocean, when she needs help but nobody could help. These symbols became their attachment, since their original attachment were forced to fade away. These symbols help not only the younger generation, but also the older generation, to repose their hope, their sentiments, on something larger, something to be entrusted on, other than themselves. When some of the children and teenagers are back in Turkey, due to the language barrier, they wouldn’t be able to speak Turkish, making there restarting over life in Turkey is more difficult. These were only a few of the struggle. Even though in many of the interview, some spoke about very trivial things like Bratwurst that they miss, chocolate that they dream of, it is not only the standard of life that they were thinking of, but a way of living, their way of living, a lifestyle, a self pursuit of happiness of freedom.

One of the other most impressive features is family separation, and family reunion. Not only in geographical sense, but in emotion sense as well. This ties into what we discuss in classroom on the topic of Where does Europe begins in the irreconcilable line between physical map, and mental map. There are quite a few things that they missed, or they all expressed, the so many human sentiments that are completely ignored or avoided under the grand, cold, and bloodless immigration policies, borders and paperwork of government. Some speak about the time lost to spend together with their fathers, mothers and children. This reminded us of the discussion we have about media image and comedy, and how press would portrait the immigration issues as numbers, as regulations, but the faces, hearts and gazes behind these news are far more complicated.

One of the musician speaking in German struck me when, he says that he loves everything in Germany, lots of unconventional circles that Turkish German don’t usually blend into in Germany. Although he led a very German style, and speak perfect German, yet, what he loves the most and always engage it, is playing Saz, the traditional Turkish music instrument, and singing old Turkish tunes. Though as if nothing is Turkish in him, yet everything Turkish is deep rooted in his heart, no matter how much he does not seem or appear to be. This raises the question of identity and how they actually stay in heart of these individuals rather than something that they could easily be forgotten, transformed or gone away.

Also I noticed that the documentary does not have names for the individuals that it has spoken with. I assume that the director did this on purpose, not out of the consideration that these people’s names are not important, but out of the many more that they represent.

This documentary, through the snapshots and episodes of a few individuals and families of Turkish origins who have lived in Germany, and later returned to Turkey, shows how their lives and surroundings have even transformed. Although everything seems familiar in the homeland, they have came from, yet, strange. Again raise the question that are unable to answer in class or in readings, but rather post more thoughts, flashbacks and outlooks than ever, where is Heimat, our homeland?

– Angel Li

This entry was posted in Blog, Project Updates (Home Page) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.