Home Communication Turkish German Cinema in the New Millennium: Sites, Sounds, and Screens
Brussels in Beyoglu
Neukolln, the district that houses the Karli Kino, is the most densely settled part of Berlin with 300,000 inhabitants. Further, it has always been a site of migratory labor; already in the nineteenth century, the district was one of the primary quarters in which the new urban proletarians settled on their way from the countryside. Starting in the 1960s, it became the home to many of the new immigrant workers from Turkey. Demographically Neukolln is a young area, having the highest birth rate in Berlin, well above the national average. Neukolln is experiencing an ongoing influx of residents with more than just an ethnic German background and simultaneously a form of what in the United States would be called "white flight." The collapse of long-term historic industries such as the Kindl brewery has fostered this transformation. The demographic shift, largely in the north of the district, is ostensibly an exchange of one working population for another, a multicultural immigrant precariat replacing a middle European migrant industrial proletariat (Beck 1986).
To understand the developments in Neukolln's Karli Kino though, we have to look well beyond that district. This is not a simple one-way migration, a cultural transfer from a sending to a receiving country. Neukolln is not an isolated locality. Just as with the travel and orientation of the district's residents, the production, distribution, and exhibition of Turkish films in its cinema arise out of a complex set of connections between Turkey and Germany. Neukolln as a locale proves in contact with reference points in the United States, India, throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and of course multiple countries in the European Union (EU).
Cinema as interzone here means we consider a space in which policy decisions taken in Brussels have a direct influence on films produced in the Beyoglu neighborhood in Istanbul. To a large extent this interzone arose because the Mediterranean region has been a site of intense investment of EU-based resources, second only to Eastern Europe during the period prior to EU expansion. Through such programs as the European Neighbor Policy, the EUROMED Partnership, MEDIA Mundus, or the expansion of the Europa Cinemas network, the EU has sought to develop a Mediterranean sphere of influence. These initiatives started in the mid-1990s with the goal of "restoring" coherence to north and south, understood as inherent to the region since at least the Romans (Moulakis 2005). Clearly though the goal is not to reference the Roman Empire but rather to unblock national restrictions on a region that had been a crossroads of trade and communication.
Through the most successful of these initiatives, the EU has extensively fostered audiovisual production as a means to accomplish the stated goals of Mediterranean cultural unity. At this point for most of the non- EU EUROMED member countries—Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey—the majority of film production takes place as coproductions with EU partners. To narrow the focus for the sake of this essay, we can note that of the non-EU Mediterranean partners, Turkey has received the second most support from the EU after Israel. And on various points of comparison Turkey has received more support than a number of Mediterranean EU member countries: more so than Malta, Cyprus, and even Greece.
As with the other EUROMED countries, this assistance has had an important effect on Turkey, imbricating it ever more fully into EU structures—in spite of anti-Turkish sentiment complicating its application for ascension. Since 1988 sixty Turkish coproductions have been arranged with European partners through the Eurimages program alone (Demirhan 2008). With a rate of film production in Turkey during the 1990s below twenty films per year, we recognize that this number has been about 10 percent of annual production. Such support has helped revitalize the industry. Indeed we can note successes such as the various film festival prizes for Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Yesim Ustaoglu, and Tayfun Perisemboglu bringing international attention. However, these celebrated representatives of an auteurist Turkish cinema frequently if not exclusively produce their works as coproductions with European partners.
Along with art film, popular film has also experienced a boom. This productivity could be described as deriving from an indigenous development: the Turkish economy has been flourishing in the new millennium, expanding at rates in line with Brazil and India. However, in the era of globalized economies the boom should not be understood as a national phenomenon, but as in the case of Brazil and India deriving from external investments of finance capital. And in the case of Turkey, much of that capital comes from Europe and especially from Germany; Turkey may not be part of the EU free trade zone, but it is a preferred site of investment.
Thus EU economic and political investments are not simply benevolent mechanisms of support for local culture and indigenous peoples. As interzone it is not European or specifically German society that has changed; Turkish society has undergone dynamic changes as well. This investment transforms and reshapes Turkish culture. Mine Gencel Bek astutely argues that the relationship to the EU has had a bifurcated effect on the Turkish media in general (2009: 79). On a political level, the EU has pushed forward a democratizing agenda, which Bek sees positively. On the economic level, the entry into the European free market has brought new market pressures to bear on the industry. The EU forced competition and opened Turkish media to outside ownership, as with the presence in Turkey of the Axel Springer AG and its investment in the Dogan group, publisher of the HUrriyet daily newspaper. In film production we can note similar investments. Turkish popular film is profitable for European media funds, and production companies such as Geopoly or Plato Film Production bring European monies to Turkish popular film projects. Considering print and broadcast media Bek assesses that in this process "commercialization is being favored over communication" (2009: 79). We can extend this to film. The Turkish public sphere is being recreated as a consumer society of products from a culture industry financed in part by a Europe to which Turkey nevertheless remains outside. There is much more that could and should be said about these developments, but the key point here is that as part of this interzone, the revitalization of production in Turkey's film industry interconnects with the development of a new cinematic space in Germany.
|< Prev||CONTENTS||Next >|