ALMANYA – WILLKOMMEN IN DEUTSCHLAND (ALMANYA – WELCOME TO GERMANY)
Germany, 2010, 97 minutes, Colour.
Directed by Yasemin Samdereli.
With many ultra-nationalist movements arising in modern Western Europe, here is a pleasing rejoinder that blends serious issues with a comic and light touch.
The issue is that of the Turkish presence in Germany, the descendents of the Turkish guest-workers who were encouraged to migrate and augment the workforce in the 1960s. How hearty now is the Welcome to Germany?
While the story starts in the present, with the grandfather and grandmother who migrated in the 1960s and 1970s (he, by courteously stepping back for another migrant in a queue to become the millionth and first worker entering) wanting to become naturalised (he no, she yes), we are taken back to those early days in Turkey. The story is being told by one of the granddaughters to her little cousin who has been bullied at school. The teacher has asked the Turkish children where they came from. He is from Anatolia but the teacher’s map ends with Istanbul – but this is righted at the end!
We are shown the courtship of the young couple in the village, the marriage, his work in Germany and the correspondence, the children and their growing up, the transition to Germany. They are some funny scenes as mother and children go into their new apartment and draw all kinds of conclusions about German cleanliness, lack thereof, and other problems. There is also a funny scene when the old man has a dream before his citizenship ceremony where the busy official asks whether he and his wife will be good Germans who eat pork regularly and go to Majorca for holidays every two years.
At a family gathering in the present, the old man announces he has bought a house in Turkey and everyone is to go there for their holidays. So, much of the latter part of the film is the rediscovery of Turkey, the combining of the love of the country of origin with the love of the country of adoption.
1. This film for a German audience? For a Turkish audience? For Europeans debating cultural and national identity? For world audiences: migrant issues, cultural issues?
2. The film-makers, their Turkish and German backgrounds? The experience of the 20th and 21st century migration? Communicating to Turks? To Germans? Through story, characters, humour? The points being made?
3. The title and the tone, post-war Germany, the guest workers, from Turkey, the 1960s, the millionth migrant, the million-and-first?
4. The narrative from Canan, telling the story of the family, for Cenk? Her perspective, the younger generation? Going back to her grandfather? The photos, the original, the final photo? The Turkish story of wooing, marrying? The German story of work, migration? The film moving between past and present? Employing jokes, poking fun at Germans and Turks?
5. Huseyin, his arrival, enthusiasm, stepping back in the queue, missing out on being the millionth migrant, the vehicles, the dormitory, the hard work, the years passing, the letters home? Memories of his wife? The girls, the courting, the refusal, the abduction? The joke about sex or not – and the later reprise? The family, his children, their fights, Veli not going to school? The decision to migrate? The whole family? The German program, settling?
6. Huseyin and his family, his wife and the arrival, the hounds being mistaken for rats, the house, the puzzle about the toilet and the toilet seat, the criticism of German customs, the Turkish wife cleaning the house? Trying to buy bread and milk, the shopkeeper and his not ugg the accent? Time passing, settling down, another pregnancy?
7. The issue of naturalisation, Huseyin not wanting it, his wife wanting it? The arguments? His patriarchal tone – yet the love between husband and wife? His nightmare the night before the naturalisation, the conditions of being German? Getting their passports?
8. Gabi, her life in German, widow? Mother of Canan? Her past, the little girl amongst the brothers, her wanting to be a bin woman? The irony of her seeing the women carrying the bins on her return to Turkey? Muhamed and Veli, siblings, their fights? The blankets on the bed? Their arguments, their father’s reaction? Growing into adults, Veli and his being fat, lazy, his marriage breaking up? Muhamed being out of a job? The youngest brother being born in Germany, marrying the blonde German wife, Cenk as his son? His fastidiousness about meals?
9. Cenk, at school, the map of Europe, the end of Europe at Istanbul, coming from Anatolia, putting the flag on the blackboard? His being hurt, the fights, at home, getting his aunt to tell the story? Cenk's nightmare and his seeing Jesus on the cross?
10. Canan and her pregnancy, her father knowing it, her British boyfriend?
11. The dinner, the announcement of the visit to Turkey, the buying of the house, the arguments for and against? The trip, on the bus, the stops, the meal? The youngest and his being sick? The talk at the meal?
12. The travel, the beauty of Turkey, the village? Ordinary life? The father talking to his daughter about the pregnancy? His quiet death?
13. The effect, the issue of the passports and foreign graves, the burial? The celebration afterwards?
14. Muhamed and his decision to stay after finding the house was just a façade? The brothers reconciling? Cenk and his going to school – and extending the map of Turkey?
15. The effect of this kind of storytelling – not too serious yet serious, humour as a way of communicating and looking at human nature?