"Almanya," a rare feel-good movie about Turkish immigrants in Germany which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival Saturday, defies recent political declarations that multiculturalism has failed in Europe.
Coming amid an anguished public debate about the place of foreigners in Germany, the debut movie by two Turkish-German sisters delighted filmgoers with its comic and optimistic depiction of immigrants' efforts to integrate in an alien society.
"After so many dark films we wanted to show a perspective that we felt a lot closer to, that was not so extreme and negative," said Nesrin Samdereli, who wrote the screenplay, at a news conference in Berlin.
"Almanya," which will be released in Germany in both Turkish and German, pokes fun at the need to assimilate. In one scene, when a "Gastarbeiter" (guest worker) seeks to obtain German nationality, a bureaucrat insists he commits to devouring pork, holidaying in Majorca and sporting a Hitler-esque moustache.
But the film also shows the great efforts made by immigrants to integrate, while retaining their own culture.
"We had noticed over many years that the issue of Turks in Germany is often cast in a negative light...and it was quite tiring," said Yasemin Samdereli. "My own family tried very hard to face up to the new challenges (when they arrived in Germany), but this was never portrayed."
The Samdereli sisters said they incorporated many autobiographical experiences into the film, such as forcing their mother to stage Christmas for them.