Turkish German Cinema on Multiple Screens: Theoretical Interventions and Institutional Frameworks

In this volume, we propose to move beyond the traditional focus on representation and signification to approach Turkish German cinema as part of a long history of film professionals in German and European cinema with a migration background. The connection between the transnational as a function of film production and film aesthetics, and the movements of film workers and ethnic/national stereotypes across borders and media are an essential part of this long history. As argued earlier, the important, provocative, and innovative—but sometimes also mediocre and conventional—films subsumed under the category of Turkish German cinema cannot be reduced to the discourses of identity, as defined through a fixed number of narrative themes and motifs, the implicit equation of filmic representation and social reality, and specific assumptions about film authorship and (auto)biography. Instead of abandoning identity as a critical category altogether, we suggest expanding our definition of Turkish German cinema to include the perspective of filmmaking as a profession and of ethnicity as a function of self-branding. This enables us to theorize transnational cinema as part of Europe's new creative economies and its long history of film migration and cultural exchange. Turkish German cinema makes a rightful claim to occupying both sides of the divide marked by the absent hyphen: of being self and Other, at home and abroad, foreign and native—a unique position that explains the frequent enlistment of these films in larger theoretical debates about national cinema.

Even a cursory look at recent publications confirms the transnational as a key category in explaining the new cinema of hybridity that emerged in the Berlin Republic and the New Europe of the 1990s and that today finds privileged expression in Turkish German cinema. Central to most writings on these films is the search for critical tools adequate to the movements of peoples, ideas, and services in a globalized world and the filmic constructions of identity as fluid, contingent, and multiple (Bergfelder 2005; Hjort 2009). Scholars have recognized the limitations of the national as a category of film analysis (and do the same for the distinctions between art cinema and popular cinema) and begun to reassess the historical narratives and cultural topographies that place Germany within Europe and both in relation to Hollywood (Silberman 1996; Higson 2000). Furthermore scholars have rejected the critical binaries—captured in terms such as in-betweenness, interculturalism, and so forth—that still conceive of such artistic trajectories and aesthetic sensibilities primarily in one-directional terms (i.e., from the south to the north, from the periphery to the center) and hierarchical modes (i.e., through the dynamics of self and other, majority and minority, or the universal and the specific).

In the growing body of scholarship, the conflation of the economics and politics of transnational cinema and the filmic representation of the problems of ethnic, racial, and national identities has produced important new insights and critical blind spots. As we have shown above, the latter result from the discursive enlistment of, or self-presentation by, Turkish German filmmakers as native informants or typical immigrants and a reading of their films as allegories of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism, that is, as either accurate reflections of social reality or utopian projections of the pleasures of hybridity. At the same time, the theoretical preoccupation with fluid subjectivities, contested identities, and negotiated meanings ignores well-established traditions that, in the form of genre conventions, type casting, and the star system, have made ethnic stereotypes and the actors who perform them an integral part of German cinema since the Wilhelmine era. More specifically, ahistorical approaches often elide the material conditions under which film professionals with migration background come to perform their various roles: as directors insisting on their status as unhyphenated filmmakers but willing to speak out on Turkish German issues; as actors both empowered and constrained by being cast in ethnic roles; as screenwriters at once resisting and relying on the demand for typical stories in typical settings with typical characters; as producers and distributors marketing Turkish Germanness as a commodity to different audiences (German, Turkish German, Turkish, European); and as creative individuals building on informal networks of family and friends to realize their film projects under the typical conditions of artisanal production and new local and regional funding schemes, points addressed in greater detail in the final section on Akin.

From its inception German cinema has been multicultural, accented, hybrid, and hyphenated; Turkish German cinema is only the latest manifestation of a model of cultural production and representation unique to cinema and other modern forms of entertainment. Notwithstanding the official discourse on national cinema, filmic production, distribution, and consumption have always been international as well as transnational, with film professionals (both native and foreign-born) as the quintessential skilled migrant worker. Examples include the Danish film professionals in Wilhelmine cinema, the Russian film as the first diasporic cinema in post-1918 European cinema, the contribution of German Jewish actors and directors to Weimar cinema, or the leading role of Austro Hungarians in the sound film of the late 1920s and early 1930s (Behn 1994; Diestelmeyer 2006; Schoning 1995 and 2005). German cinema after 1933 may be described as the model of a national/nationalistic cinema; but the Central European exiles and emigres in Hollywood and elsewhere also became the best- known historical example of an accented or diasporic cinema. After the war, such transnational movements continued in the contribution of remigrants, political exiles, and avant-garde cosmopolitans (Peter Lilienthal, Jean-Marie Straub/Daniele Huillet) to New German Cinema, and the East German coproductions with Eastern Bloc and Third World socialist countries. In order to understand ethnicity as a representational, performative, discursive and historical category, we therefore need to untangle the various strands that define its contradictory functions in the making of national and transnational cinemas, beginning with the selfrepresentation of directors and actors as ethnic or foreign in changing historical contexts.

Linking the mobilization of ethnic and national stereotypes in genre and art cinema to the professional and artistic choices of film directors and actors with migration background leads us to a better understanding of the significance of Turkish German cinema as a unique social, cultural, and artistic phenomenon. These film professionals stand in a long history of mobility and cultural contact made possible by the great disruptions of twentieth-century history: wars and revolutions, but also exile, diaspora, global capitalism, labor migration, and cultural modernity. Yet the filmmakers discussed here also differ fundamentally from most of their precursors in that most are German-born, second-generation immigrants, unlike the foreigners, migrants, and exiles who have performed ethnicity and projected otherness on German screens until now. In this sense Turkish German cinema resembles more closely early Hollywood cinema and its heavy reliance on immigrants and foreigners as the producers and consumers of popular constructions of nationhood and images of Otherness.

Nonetheless, filmmakers such as Fatih Akin, Thomas Arlsan, Kutlug Ataman, Ayse Polat, and Seyhan Derin, along with the actors regularly cast in their films, share with their predecessors—the Danes of the 1910s, the

Russians of the 1920s, and the Austrians and Hungarians of the 1930s—an acute awareness of the profitable, productive, and performative quality of ethnicity as a marker of difference and an essential part of the economics of signs and significations in national and transnational cinemas. In that sense, the central position of Turkish German cinema within a contemporary visual culture that encompasses film, television, live comedy, hip hop music, social networks, Internet culture, and installation art not only refers back to a longer history of media convergence and aesthetic hybridization but also opens up a perspective from which to rethink existing accounts of German film and film history beyond the national and beyond identity.

The volume at hand responds to this proliferation of new artistic and critical approaches by attempting a systematic but not comprehensive stocktaking of contemporary filmic practices of Turkish German cinema. Individual contributions access a range of disciplinary frameworks, including reception studies, television studies, star studies, feminist theory, and minority studies. Several take the opportunity to expand on themes that have emerged in the previous years such as Fatih Akin's representative role as auteur in a new global art cinema. Throughout we propose to make productive use of the disagreements and contradictions that, as outlined on the previous pages, define rather than confine this field of artistic production and critical engagement. In other words, the volume seeks to reproduce the centrifugal proliferation of methodologies that accompanies the prevalence of Turkish German visual culture, including film, television, installation art, actors and actresses, and the reception of films in Germany and Turkey. At the same time, the fifteen contributions resonate with each other and their geographically and materially constituted fields, with keywords such as identity, stereotype, hybridity, migration, globalization, cosmopolitanism, social realism, spectatorship, nostalgia, and performativity functioning like an invisible thread.

Accordingly the first three essays intervene in the status quo of scholarly debates about Turkish German cinema by revisiting the objects of study that have haunted its theorization from the outset: ethnic stereotypes. Daniela Berghahn's "My Big Fat Turkish Wedding: From Culture Clash to Romcom" opens the section by illustrating popular culture's contemporary self-aware employment of stereotypes in romantic comedies and their globally circulating spin-offs. Using Roland Barthes's notion of myth, David Gramling focuses on cinematic narratives that appear to adhere to well-known conventions. His "The Oblivion of Influence: Transmigration, Tropology, and Myth-Making in Feo Aladag's When We Leave" invites us to read the film's seeming realism as a myth-making in which the actors' iconic presence overrides their roles and undermines the film's narrative legitimacy. The section concludes with Marco Abel's provocative intervention into scholarly debates overdetermined by the concern with identity. Building on Jacques Ranciere's notion of the political, "The Minor Cinema of Thomas Arslan: A Prolegomenon" theorizes Arslan's films as minor cinema in the Deleuzian sense and entails a reconceptualization of the political through the film's formal and aesthetic choices.

The volume's second section foregrounds the diversity of genres and media that Turkish German visual culture inhabits today. In her piece "Roots and Routes of the Diasporic Documentarian: A Psychogeography of Fatih Akin's We Forgot to Go Back," Angelica Fenner resituates Akin's autobiographical documentary through his public self-presentation and the film's dynamic spatial designators, and examines its invocation of nostalgia as a symptom not of individual affection but of larger social and cultural phenomena. Ingeborg Majer-O'Sickey's "Gendered Kicks: Buket Alakus's and Aysun Bademsoy's Soccer Films" also concerns documentary modes but shifts the focus to the ways in which these cinefeminists use filmic soccer narratives to imagine and advance women's presence in the public sphere. Nilgun Bayraktar's "Location and Mobility in Kutlug Ataman's Site-specific Video Installation KUba" continues these lines of inquiry by focusing on recent shifts in the modes of exhibition from single-screen movie theaters to multiscreen installation art. As the first of two contributions on television, Brent Peterson's "Turkish for Beginners: Teaching Cosmopolitanism to Germans" argues that a popular television series can teach cosmopolitanism to Germans via its staging of interethnic romances. Similarly Brad Prager's "'Only the Wounded Honor Fights': Zuli Alakus's Rage and the Drama of the Turkish German Perpetrator" uses the political debates about violent Turkish German youth to shift attention to the portrayal of the emasculated liberal German father as a symptom of the fragile authority of the generation of 1968 and its surface habitus of social tolerance.

The undergirding question of how institutional contexts and practices shape Turkish German cinema comes to the fore in our third section, beginning with Randall Halle's reading of the institution of the motion- picture theater as an interzone, a term he proposes as an alternative to Arjun Appadurai's concept of the ethnoscape, and which he tests in his empirically based case study of Karli Kino in Berlin. Berna Gueneli continues this line of inquiry by focusing on two actors, Mehmet Kurtulus and Birol Unel, and the ways in which their casting reproduces orientalist strategies of sexualization and eroticization, not least through the continuities and discontinuities with New German Cinema. The final two contributions in this section survey the reception of Fatih Akin in the German and Turkish press, outlining two distinct but related sets of responses in which a desire for national identification and representation emerges as a central concern. Karolin Machtans traces the reactions to Akin's oeuvre and public persona in the German press, whereas Ay^a Tun^ Cox reads the Turkish reception of Akin in the larger context of Turkey's relationship to Europe and of individual newspapers' ideological positions within Turkish party politics. These last two essays prepare the ground for the fourth section, a case study on Fatih Akin and his contribution to what Rosalind Galt and

Karl Schoonover call global art cinema (2010). Accordingly Mine Eren's "Cosmopolitan Filmmaking: Fatih Akin's In July and Head-On" relates cosmopolitanism in Akin's films to the arabesque as a recurring aesthetic theme and affective mode, outlining a shift in Akin's hopes and attitudes toward Europe from In July to Head-On. The final two essays engage with music as an integral part of Akin's cinematic strategies. The practice of citing, riffing, referencing, and remixing within a global musical archive and the citational community that it seeks to create shapes Roger Hillman and Vivien Silvey's jointly authored argument in "Remixing Hamburg: Transnationalism in Fatih Akin's Soul Kitchen" Their observations on how global soundscapes contribute to the construction of a local place—in this case Hamburg—dialogues with the last contribution, Deniz Gokturk's "World Cinema Goes Digital: Looking at Europe from the Other Shore." Here Gokturk shows how contemporary global cinema constructs locality based on a close reading in The Edge of Heaven of the music of Kazim Koyuncu from the Black Sea region, negotiating the aural dimension of film that proliferates in the digital world of multiple textual platforms.

This project grew out of a workshop held at the University of Texas at Austin in March 2010. Not all participants were able to contribute, but several other contributors were added in order to include underrepresented areas of inquiry. From the beginning, our goal has been threefold: to offer an overview of contemporary practices and debates associated with Turkish German cinema, to outline the shifts in aesthetic and critical sensibilities since the 1970s, and to complicate the dominant terms of analysis by introducing intertextual, contextual, institutional, and transnational perspectives. The resulting contradictions remain an integral part of the contemporary discourse on Germany as a country of immigration and characterize the overall organization and purpose of this volume as well. We propose that this structural tension is integral to the richness and diversity of Turkish German cinema and the theoretical field that it has constituted and that continues to be constituted through it. The strategies with which filmmakers respond to those tensions speak to broader issues of social belonging and artistic expression in the globalized world; they also allow us to affirm the power of film and related audiovisual media in making sense of its actual and imaginary movements and places.

 
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