Film on the Case of Murat Kurnaz” A Scandal of Democracy”

“Five Years” examines the fate of the German Guantanamo prisoner Murat Kurnaz. Director Stefan Schaller’s film exposes viewers to the horrific abuse of human rights endured by camp detainees. Jochen Kürten reports

Cinema has always tended to embroil itself in current politics. While there is no standard formula for the genre of political cinema, the success of such films often comes down to the quality of the script and the ability and sensitivity of the director. The German film “5 Jahre Leben” (“Five Years”) is one triumphant example.

The background to the film is the case of Turkish-German Murat Kurnaz. Shortly after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, Kurnaz was captured in Pakistan and taken to the notorious Guantanamo detention camp where he was imprisoned for five years.

First Minaret in Saarland

18.02.2012

The Turkish Muslim community in the city of Volklingen celebrated the completion of the first minaret in the federal state of Saarland last week. The plans to build a minaret on top of the Selimiye Mosque, a former cinema, had divided Volklingen’s population last year. While the argument was reminiscent of the ban of minarets in Switzerland, opponents of the minaret in Volklingen could, however, not enforce a similar ban.

Hollywood Ignores East-West Exchange

At the Oscars last month the gap between what interests Hollywood and what the rest of the world seems to be doing was sharp and clear. Of the five nominees for the best foreign-language film, all but one, among them the winner, “In a Better World,” from Denmark, dealt in some way with relationships between the West and Islam.

So did many others of the 65 films offered for consideration by film academies around the globe, including the French, German, Dutch and Bulgarian submissions. In contrast, each of the nine American films that were nominated for best picture and eventually lost to “The King’s Speech” from Britain were inward looking, with purely domestic concerns — a characterization that can be applied to movies as different in style and substance as “The Social Network,” “Black Swan,” “The Fighter” and “True Grit.”

But why isn’t the United States also part of that same emerging global cinematic conversation? Why isn’t Hollywood also making movies that grapple with the issues that are provoking filmmakers elsewhere? And when Arab and Muslim characters do appear on screen, why are they presented in such simplistic and stereotyped ways?

In American cinema, “We see everything through American eyes, without context or a representation of community” on the Islamic side, said Matthew Bernstein, an editor of the book “Visions of the East: Orientalism in Film” and chairman of the film and media studies department at Emory University in Atlanta.

German film portraying honour killing released at cinemas

The German drama “Die Fremde” (“When we leave”) portrays the subject of honour killings in a Turkish German family. Up-and-coming actress Sibel Kekilli, a Turkish German herself, acts the part of Umay, who grows up in Berlin and gets married to a Turkish man in Istanbul. When Umay escapes the brutal relationship and flees to Berlin, she is rejected by her family and threatened by her husband.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, Kekilli speaks about her role and the significance of the topic of honour killings, which she campaigns against with “Terre des Femmes”. Asked about her view on contemporary Islam and its ability to reform, Kekilli claims that all religions can be interpreted in an intolerant way, and that Turks in Istanbul are generally more open and modern than their German counterparts, who have always lived a segregated life out of homesickness, fear and frustration. As for herself, she cherishes the values of both cultures she grew up with, particularly pointing to the German values she internalised: discipline, free thought and tolerance.

The award winning film was released at cinemas on 11 March 2010 and brings honour killings back on the agenda of the German feuilletons.

Naples hosts Moroccan film festival

The city of Naples is hosting a film festival featuring short films, documentaries, cartoons, and women’s films from Morocco. The festival is also organizing debates, book readings, talks, musical events, food sampling, and other exhibitions related to Morocco and Moroccan culture. Four main sections divide the festival – women’s cinema, documentaries, fiction, and Berber cinema. The documentary section is being dedicated to Izza Genini, Morocco’s first female documentary-maker.

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