Lily Qian ’19J
I am not a movie-going person. I usually prefer to spend my Thursday night in the library catching up on my homework. It was my German professor’s promises, including pizza, that convinced me to go see “Almanya: Welcome to Germany.” However, when tears slipped down my cheek during the film, I realized that I was given more than pizza and simple enjoyment.
Viewing its warm movie poster, I initially assumed that this movie would be a comedy, narrating the journey of a Turkish immigrant family and their struggles to join German culture and society. I thought that there would be both humorous and bitter elements scattered throughout the movie, and that heroes and heroines would eventually go on to live on happy lives. I was half right.
The story begins with Hüseyin, a Turkish immigrant who has lived in Germany for decades. He has a nightmare during which he gets a German passport. When he wakes up, he reluctantly follows his excited wife, Fatma, to register and officially become a German citizen. Later, at a family dinner, Hüseyin announces that he bought a new house at their old hometown in East Anatolya, and has planned to take the whole family back to Turkey to see the new house. His plan surprises the whole family.
Nevertheless, they still fly to Turkey and rent a bus to drive to their destination. On their journey through Turkey, the family traces their memory back to the days when they first arrived in Germany. This features warm family scenes and the immigrants’ culture shock.
Unfortunately, Hüseyin dies before he makes to the destination. Since he is a German citizen at that time, he is not allowed to be buried in a Muslim cemetery. In order to let their father rest in the land to which he truly belongs, the family buries his body in his old hometown. The rest of the family returns to Germany, while the second son of Hüseyin, Muhamed, stays in Turkey to rebuild his father’s destroyed home.
The movie itself is full of bright color, combining the exotic Turkey countryside and modern German cities. However, it is quite noticeable that even though this movie is called “Welcome to Germany,” Turkey takes up the larger portion of the movie. Even the parts of the movie that are related to Germany actually emphasize the way that the Turkish perceive Germany. The Turkish elements are prevalent throughout the movie.
Despite its seemingly comedic nature, the film poses deep and serious issues that evoke my sympathy as an international student. The movie points out the immigrants’ assimilation into German culture and lifestyle — Fatma is so excited to eventually get a German passport, and her young son Ali who is born in Germany cannot follow a Turkish diet. However, the film focuses more on the theme of reflecting on the immigrants’ true identity. Who am I? Where do I truly belong? Who should I become? Am I a Turk or a German?
These are the questions the movie poses, and each character provides his or her own answers. They embody the continuing debate for individuals who combine two cultures in their identities and find it hard to strike a balance between them. As an international student in the U.S., I experience similar confusion to the characters in the film. When I encounter differences between two cultures or ways of thinking, I also undergo conflicts and sometimes feel quite lost.
Overall, I would say that the movie might be better titled as “Let’s go back to Turkey”, or “A family’s reflection on its cultural immigration.” While on the journey back to Turkey, the characters start to think more about what their true identities are. As for the audience, we might also think about our own identities. The process of pursuing and shaping our own identities and finding the place that we truly belong is one of life’s most important challenges.