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MONTREAL — If immigration has been the source of major strife in Europe, you’d never know it from Almanya: Welcome To Germany, a second-generation story whose overpowering feel-good vibe has little room for real-world hardship. Thoroughly commercial without becoming too cloying, Yasemin Samdereli’s likeable tale will be an easy sell to Turkish émigrés in particular, but its take on old country/New World identity issues is general enough to resonate with other communities as well.
Told from the perspective of Canan, a college-age girl eager to share family lore with her 6 year-old cousin Cenk, the film bounces engagingly between past and present. In 1964, a mustachioed charmer named Hüseyin leaves his wife and kids in Turkey to join the ranks of immigrants enabling Germany’s “economic miracle.” Bringing his family over as soon as he gets his feet under him, he then watches as his four children become thoroughly German. Decades later, the gruffly lovable patriarch arranges to buy a run-down house in their old village and shames his descendants into joining an all-family mission to renovate it.
As Cenk begs to hear more about the legacy he’s just discovering, the movie approaches its intergenerational storytelling in a playful, Princess Bride-like way: Cenk’s questions sometimes intrude from offscreen, prompting his young grandparents to look quizzically into the air before shrugging and returning to the tale.
While Samdereli effectively mines little culture-clash details for their comic value (Western toilets are baffling, as is Christianity, which one Turkish kid amusingly interprets as sanctified cannibalism), the director/co-writer refuses to acknowledge any serious hardship or angst. A bit of schoolyard teasing is the biggest challenge immigrants face here. When unrelated difficulties arise, the film’s blanketing pep hardly allows them to sink in. Canan is hiding an unexpected pregnancy, for example, and it feels about as weighty as if she had dented Mom’s car.
The film’s core performances walk the line between charm and sappiness, with Vedat Erincin(as the elder incarnation of Hüseyin) offering just enough wryness to balance the bland cuteness of younger costars. Nothing in his friendly-bear demeanor can inject gravitas in a movie designed solely to congratulate a wave of successful workmen and their descendants, but few in this film’s demographic will have a problem with that.
Venue: Montreal World Film Festival, Focus on World Cinema
Production Companies: Roxy Film, Infa Film, Concorde Filmverleih
Cast: Vedat Erincin, Fahri Yardim, Aylin Tezel, Rafael Koussouris, Denis Moschitto, Lilay Huser
Director: Yasemin Samdereli
Screenwriters: Yasemin Samdereli, Nesrin Samdereli
Producers: Annie Brunner, Andreas Richter, Ursula Wörner
Director of photography: The Chau Ngo
Production designer: Alexander Manasse
Music: Gerd Baumann
Costume designer: Steffi Bruhn
Editor: Andrea Mertens
Sales: Beta Film GmbH
No rating, 101 minutes
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