Umay is a young woman of Turkish descent, fighting for an independent and self-determined life in Germany against the resistance of her family. Her struggle initiates a dynamic, which results in a life-threatening situation.
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When their ship is sunk in the first world war, in the Indian ocean, 50 men have to cross infinite stretches of sea and desert, avoid enemies, find allies and finally make it home to Germany. A breathtaking real-live odyssey.
German-born Umay flees her oppressive marriage in Istanbul, taking her young son Cem with her. She hopes to find a better life with her family in Berlin, but her unexpected arrival creates intense conflict. Her family is trapped in their conventions, torn between their love for her and the traditional values of their community. Ultimately they decide to return Cem to his father in Turkey. To keep her son, Umay is forced to move again. She finds the inner strength to build a new life for herself and Cem, but her need for her family's love drives her to a series of ill-fated attempts at reconciliation. What Umay doesn't realize is just how deep the wounds have gone and how dangerous her struggle for self-determination has become... Written by
Independent Artists Filmproduktion
A simple story casting deep shadows on great problems
This film is very realistic. Its detailed depiction of one Turkish family living in Berlin casts overtones for a greater problem of European multiculturalism. But forget the wider scope of those implications for now. The film is very focused on Turkish culture within Germany and one of its great weaknesses: what it considers to be saving the "honor" of the family. The older daughter in the film has left her violent and abusive husband in Turkey and moved back to her family in Germany. Her parents immediately side with her husband, and they repeatedly ask the daughter to return to him. But the daughter has sacrificed much to get away, and will not return. After an attempt to kidnap her son and return him to the father fails, she moves out...and moves again...and moves again as problems mount. Her younger brother and sister, although initially supportive of her, slowly begin to turn against her as the shame of her living independently with child causes the Turkish community to isolate the family. This ultimately leads to a final decision by the men in the family, with tragic results.
The family is Muslim, although Islam is not portrayed as the reason why the family is shamed by the older daughter. In the culture, it is easy for an independent woman to bring shame to the family, especially if she leaves her husband. At no time do the parents ever seriously consider the perspective of their daughter. It is quite clear, she has to maintain the family honor at all costs; which in this case means returning to her husband. As the daughter continues to make unwise choices by maintaining contact with her family because she loves them, the unwritten codes of this "honor" system will drive the family into greater acts of cruelty. This film can make you very angry indeed at the injustice to women done by patriarch based communal cultures. The "honor" that they cling to is so twisted. It is based on a superficial sense of righteousness that has little basis in truth. It is more concerned with appearances than justice. More concerned with blind obedience than righteousness. And that concept is promoted in Islam, though not exclusively.
This film should be mandatory viewing for any woman in similar straits as the main character in the film who has needed to separate from the family for safety. The Germans have provided good resources for such women, but they are advised, "For now, avoid contact with your family." One of this beautifully done film's main points is: Once you leave or are forced to leave the family, it may be for good. You cannot expect your family to sympathize with you, support you, or even accept you as family. There is a good chance they WILL turn against you if the community slanders the family. And a woman who leaves her abusive husband, lives alone, calls the police for safety, or takes any action to safeguard her life and livelihood may very well be thought of as nothing more than a "whore" by the rest of the German Turkish community. Contact your family again at risk to your life! I would wish that Turkish men (those who are perpetrators, that is) who see this would also feel ashamed for some of their sexist standards, but I don't know if they would...
The film is very moving and well done. The actors all fulfill their roles, particularly the leading lady. The eye communication of the cast is extremely profound, leaving you wondering about all of the unspoken thoughts stewing in their heads. The writing allows sympathy with all of the characters while still clearly pointing out who is right and who is wrong. You see they all have deep passions about righteousness. It's just that some are righteous and others are not. It is a simple story that casts deep shadows on complexities of cultural clashes. This is not a film that will break grounds in cinematography, but it is a brave film and urgent as the Muslim (both immigrant and native) population rises in Europe. Hopefully this will start a trend that will cause the Turkish culture to think about what true honoring of the family really is.
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