Thursday, September 30, 2010

another side

Yuksel Yavuz's film, Kleine Freiheit, was so engrossing I didn't even think about knitting. There was something utterly seductive about it, about the way that it constructed mobile, exterior space and left you sitting around in interiors that you should have exited or never been invited into. The film is framed by video footage of Baran's grandfather in southern Turkey, footage which Baran watches repeatedly during the course of the film, all the while also recording excerpts from his life in Hamburg. The film is intended, we learn, for his younger sister, who, like him, was left orphaned when her parents were killed in clashes between the PKK and the Turkish army. This loss constitutes the film's aporetic center, a loss which was not merely a casualty of "war," but an injustice, a result of betrayal and torture, as is revealed when Baran meets the "traitor" who reported that his parents had taken in a wounded PKK guerrilla in the streets of Hamburg. This acute and still vivid loss is brought into contrast by Baran's new friend, Chernor, who doesn't know where his parents are. Chernor is illegally in Germany from somewhere in Africa, but we also never know where. Unlike Fatih Akin's recent popular films, which present the effacement and unreliability of identities constructed in terms of binaries, like Turkish-German, an identity which Akin also eschews, Kleine Freiheit doesn't even go there. It presents the problems of diasporic life not in terms of cultural acclimation or integration (i.e. Turkish with German), but political conflicts and violence at home persist in the diaspora. Yavuz also, and importantly, seems more interested in showing their morphed and distorted forms of expression, the intelligibility of these acts to those who are both members of the same diasporic group, on the same side politically, or even in the same family, and the intelligibility then to others, figured in the final scene where Baran goes to the police with a gun to protest against the arrest of Chernor. Chernor, who has before called all Kurds "crazy," yells at Baran, "what are you doing?? you're crazy!" The issue is not the fact or lack of intelligibilty; the film presents the audience with a sympathetic view of assorted acts of violence. We are asked to understand some supposed perpetrators: the restaurant owner who fires Baran, the traitor who ends up crying in the street, Chernor's "friends" who attack him for being gay, Baran's cousin who accidentally shoots his friend in the stomach. Others, however, are hardened as leaders of the oppressed in their various forms: the guy who lets Chernor and his friends rent from him, and the police, including the plainclothes policemen who come upon Chernor and Baran. The power of these individuals is flaunted, and self-referential. Their violence does not refer to or seem to have any other reason; it is generated by playing the system, by being the system, to a certain degree. This, then, is the border, the edge that is shakily perceptible in Yavuz's film; the edge that Baran seems to cross psychologically at the end, and the border that both he and Chernor will be forced to cross back across.

picture: Cagdas Bozkurt in Kleine Freiheit (2003), from the Deutsches Filminstitute Bildarchiv

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