Hyphenated Identities: The Reception of Turkish German Cinema in the Turkish Daily Press

The success of Turkish German filmmaker Fatih Akin initiated new debates on the identity of Turkish diasporic filmmakers in Germany. While star director Akin and other Turkish German filmmakers have been celebrated in the German media with the slogan "the new German cinema is Turkish," the Turkish media seems to downplay the German side of their hyphenated identity.1 Instead, the Turkish press uses the achievements of these Turkish filmmakers in Germany to bolster a positive image for Turkey in an international context.

In this essay, I am particularly concerned with how hyphenated identities, which allow for "simultaneous denial and acceptance of their cultural and ethnic specificities," are reconstructed in Turkey in the context of wider Turkish politics (Mani 2007: 124). Investigating the reception of these filmmakers in the Turkish press sheds light on a number of pertinent issues. First, the Turkish press utilizes the success of the filmmakers in order to make a case about Turkey's accession to the EU. The emotionally charged controversies surrounding Turkish German filmmakers suggest that more is at stake than just the reputation of individual filmmakers. Second, it also endeavors to establish a national sentiment about Turkish identity by making them appear more or even exclusively Turkish. Celebrating the international success of these hyphenated filmmakers seems to be intended to revive Turkish national pride. Particularly prominent in the press are nationalist discourses, which challenge the filmmakers' ambiguous sense of belonging (for a comparative perspective, see Karolin Machtans in this volume).

Focusing on the coverage of Turkish German cinema in newspapers, this essay constitutes only one aspect of the overall reception of Turkish

German cinema in Turkey, and does not claim to be exhaustive. Nonetheless I argue that daily newspapers are by far the most important media sector in Turkey. According to a recent report published by the Turkish National Statistics Institution (TUIK), there are currently 6,073 newspapers and magazines published in Turkey, and the total circulation figure for 2009 was around 2.3 billion, of which newspapers accounted for 94.4 percent (TUIK 2010).2 These figures clearly suggest that magazines in general, let alone specialist film publications, are far less influential in terms of shaping public opinion than daily newspapers. Specialist film magazines are more concerned with issues of film aesthetics, genre, narrative, and, in terms of their coverage of Turkish German cinema, comparable to other international film magazines. The study of these specialist publications would therefore have been less revealing than the close reading of news items in the Turkish daily press. This does not mean that reviews in newspapers' art and culture sections do not provide insightful analyses of the films themselves, but when it comes to Turkish German filmmakers, such examples seem to be the exception rather than the rule. This alone is evidence that the discussion of Turkish German films and filmmakers in the Turkish press is a special case worth investigating.

The politics of the Turkish press is crucial to understanding its role in the reproduction of ideologies such as Turkish nationalism.3 Chart 1 and Chart 2 (see page 163), which are based on my readings of pertinent news items, reviews, and commentaries, are not conclusive, but aim to present a compact yet informative classification of the Turkish press, and are devised to facilitate following the correlations between the papers' ideologies and their particular coverage of Turkish German filmmakers.

 
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