The German Turkish Spectator and Turkish Language Film Programming: Karli Kino, Maxximum Distribution, and the Interzone Cinema

Much research has been done on the Turkish German image projected onto the screen, or about the background of the auteurs who produce such images. Little work has been done on the institution of Turkish German cinema, its conditions of production, distribution, and display. Although Martin Hagemann, a producer from Zero Films, once complained that "Turks" do not go to these films, analysis of the audiences for Turkish German films is all but nonexistent (Hagemann 1999: 227). Moreover, if Turkish German film indeed did not draw the interest of German Turks, we still know relatively little about the actual viewing interests of and spectator statistics for this population because until recently the cinema had not been a primary mode for German Turks to consume culture. When we consider Turkish German films solely as produced in a network of German institutions and as media for a minority, then we ignore the interweaving of that industry with production in Turkey and disregard the fact that Turkish German productions are not the main forms of film consumed by German Turks. Indeed, German Turks appear to share with the general population in Germany a similarly limited interest in German films and a distinct preference for popular entertainment from Hollywood.

One aspect that distinguishes German Turks is their access to Turkish language productions. In this regard the multilingualism opens up an orientation toward entertainment possibilities not available to the general population. (Although most residents of Germany speak more than one language, limited Turkish instruction in the schools means that most people who speak Turkish do have a migrant background.) Media and entertainment consumption of Turkish-language offerings, however, has historically taken place elsewhere, through television, newspapers, radio, and Internet. In Germany it was not until 2003 that a cinema, the Karli Kino in Berlin Neukolln, began first offering regular Turkish- language offerings. What Turkish or Turkish German programming had made its way onto the German screens up to that point had been sporadic in appearance, often art house in nature, or had offered scenes of Turkish German suffering that Turkish audiences in Germany seem to have largely rejected.

This absence of opportunities has changed in the last years, to a great extent because of Karli Kino and other cinemas now following its model. It allows us to consider a German Turkish cinema as including films beyond representations of Turkish German problems as we might find famously in Fatih Akin's Gegen die Wand (Head-On, 2004). The spectators for the Turkish programming at Karli Kino do not represent an audience based only on local and particular interests, and, as this essay will explore, Karli Kino could not present its offerings if it were not for the presence of a larger apparatus of cinema.

Thus what interests me in this essay is how these developments are signs of cinema's ability to establish new political, economic, and cultural spaces. I want to insist from the start that this is not a simple Turkish space in spite of its largely Turkish-speaking audience nor is it an easy German place in spite of its immediate location in German multiplexes. This cinema derives from transformations in Germany and Turkey that are not simply simultaneous or mutual but rather convergent and interdependent. A thorough examination reveals that they belong to the dynamic of "deracination" in Germany that Ruth Mandel has identified as a way of refashioning discourses about ethnicity, specifically discourses of ethnic essentialism that serve as a basis for monoculturalist politics (2008: 1). Mandel observes in the relationship of what is typically determined by oppositions of native and foreign, or indigenous and migrant, that "a process of reciprocal transformation and social differentiation has taken place in German society to such an extent that in many realms it already is impossible to distinguish two distant, bounded totalities" (2008: 18). I would modify this observation to add that the process takes place not just in German but in Turkish society as well.

This dynamic of convergent and interdependent spaces is, on the one hand, an increasingly common experience and yet, on the other hand, an emergent quality of globalized space; approaches to interzonal dynamics typically misrecognize them because they rely on national frameworks or presume monoculturalism. In such an approach, Turks in Germany attending Turkish-language films would exemplify a willful ghettoization from Germany's dominant culture. The model of film production under discussion here would appear as a matter of simple import of one national film into the cultural realm of another. This approach misses the interconnected, indeed integrated quality of the cinematic space.

To obviate national discourses and to apprehend the specific quality of contemporary convergent and interdependent spaces, I identify such spaces as interzones, by which I mean that geographical and cultural space that develops as a space of transit, interaction, transformation, and vibrant diversity. It develops through border crossing in its broadest sense, not just geographically abutting borders, but also psychological boundaries. Border crossing in this sense is an act of montage that brings together two categories into a new relationship to produce a meaning that transforms them both. An interzone is in effect the opposite of Appadurai's ethnoscape; it is a conflictual dialogic space in which filiative terms such as ethnicity are in flux (Appadurai 1996). This essay will first offer a discussion of the Turkish German interzone established by and through cinema as a process of multidirectional and polyvalent cultural production. It will consider how the small space of exhibition and viewing in Berlin's migrant neighborhoods is a concrete site of the Turkish German interzone, which in turn has opened up a not-yet-fully realized public sphere. It will then present an initial evaluation of a survey conducted on audience members for Karli Kino's Turkish programming with the goal of providing some insight into the interests of the audience inhabiting this space.

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