Almanya -- Willkommen in Deutschland: Berlin Review

Delightful and charming comedy about the differences between East and West - and what can happen, if the two should meet.

BERLIN -- (Out of Competition) With Germany's integration-debate continuing at a fever pitch, it's pure pleasure to see the lighter-side of cultural exchange in Almanya -- Willkommen in Deutschland, a comedy about three generations of German-Turks and the difficulties such a hyphenisation can entail.

The film does for Turkish-German immigrants and their progeny what Goodbye Lenin did for (or to) East Germans, charmingly poking fun at the respective peculiarities of Turks and Krauts alike without ever being condescending. It deserves to be a huge hit in Germany and Turkey, while being consigned to arthouse releases in other territories.

The story evenly moves in the past and the present, with the girl Canan telling her nephew how their grandfather came to Germany, just after the stubborn old man has announced his acquisition of a house in the old country. By now, the family has been completely assimilated into the culture of beer and sausage, with one son being married to a picture-perfect blonde, another one getting divorced, one being out of work and Canan suddenly pregnant by her British boyfriend. Even the grandparents have finally made their trip to the passport-office, becoming "proper" citizens without forgetting the customs and charms of their birthplace.

Charm is the operative word anyway, since director Yasemin Samdrelli, who wrote the script together with her sister Nesrin, displays a wonderfully light touch even when handling contentious themes, making her film a true and rare delight. This is especially surprising since style and content of her story frequently require her to change focus, keeping all characters in play and going back and forth from present to past -- heavy stuff for a seasoned director, but a daunting challenge for a first-feature director like her.

One particularly well-done element is her handling of the different languages, which she easily sidesteps by having the language-challenged new arrivals to Germany speak proper and fluent German, while their Teutonic counterparts talk in a foreign tongue that, while it could conceivably be Turkish, sounded more like a made-up language.

The cast is uniformly excellent, with Vedat Erincin and Lilay Huser delivering especially memorable turns as patriarch and matriarch of the clan; roles that are equally well played by Fahri Yardim and Demet Gul in the flashbacks.

Technical credits are high, with special kudos going to cinematographer The Chau Ngo  and editor Andrea Merten.

Venue: Berlin International Film Festival, Out of Competition
Production companies: Roxy Film GmbH
Cast: Vedat Erincin, Fahri Yardim, Aylin Tezel, Lilay Huser, Demet Gul, Denis Moschitto, Petra Schmidt-Schaller
Director: Yasemin Samdereli
Screenwriter: Nesrin Samdereli, Yasemin Samdereli
Producer: Andreas Richter, Annie Brunner, Ursula Woerne
Director of photography: The Chau Ngo
Production designer: Alexander Menass
Music: Gerd Bauman
Costume designer: Steffi Bruh
Editor: Andrea Merten
No rating, 97 minutes