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Interview with Fatih Akin, director of Soul Kitchen

Video - Venice Film Festival 2009, Venice Days

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Cineuropa met up with German director Fatih Akin, whose feature Soul Kitchen [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.
Soul Kitchen is an exhilarating comedy based on life of a young restaurant owner Zinos, who hasn't good luck in his life. The director explains why he decided to change his style of films and make a comedy. He also talks about how important it was for him to win the 2007 Lux Prize for The Edge of Heaven [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Fatih Akin
interview: Klaus Maeck
film profile
]
.

Cineuropa: Why did you decide to change styles with Soul Kitchen and make a comedy?
Fatih Akin: After the serious films I did, I really felt exhausted by this serious world, I was stuck in a serious world. I wanted to break out of that for one film. To try to do something different and challenge myself. Am I able to do something different? Am I able to make people laugh? I want to become a good director, whatever that means. I think that means, in my opinion, to handle different genres, to handle different things, you know, I have to try this out, I have to go into the risk and try so. I said to myself, “If I don’t do it now, I will never do it. It took a lot off grit and “desperence” because I had success with the serious stuff I did. Then came the risk and I said okay and I’ll be completely different. That’s why I was so happy and so relieved when I realised the reactions yesterday, that it worked much better than I expected. I was so afraid.

You’ve created a successful comic duo. Do you think a new European star system can be born?
We had this star system in Europe in the 60s, maybe the 50s, 60s and 70s. We had the Romy Schneiders, we had the Marcello Mastroianis, we had the Jean-Paul Belmondos, the Clauss Kinskys . And so many more. And today we don’t have it, we lost this. Everybody speaks about making this Europe common, common, common, but who is an international European star these days? We have certain names who are known by groups, but they don’t have the same symbol like Belmondo has, like Lino Ventura has, like Alain Delon has, or Brigitte Bardot. Where are all these Brigitte Bardots?
But I realise that the star system, not just in Europe, is going away or not existing. Also in the States. I don’t know about the new names in American cinema at all. Those stars I know are back from the 70s – the DeNiros and the Sean Penns – maybe Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt is the youngest star I know. But after Brad Pitt I don’t know nothing, I don’t know the new names, I don’t know the girls. They all look the same. They all wear the same clothes, they don’t have an individual thing anymore.
And in Europe? Okay, you have people like Castellito, but he’s not that known in Germany. Or maybe Benamarte. Bud Spencer and Terrence Hill, they were stars. Adriano Celentano, he was a star. I don’t know, because in a way when we have this desperate way of bringing Europe together, everybody’s stuck in their own national borders.

You won the 2007 Lux Prize for The Edge of Heaven. What do you think of this award and the cinema support from European institutions?
I’m very thankful to have this European desk at the European Film Foundation. This European money for films is very, very, very important, especially for little countries, countries like Turkey, who are so much dependent on this money to create wonderful films like Takva. Takva wouldn’t be able to do it without European money, without this link of the European companies. It would not be possible, this spending really hard cash and to keep the culture. This is important. The Lux prize is a very important thing to transport culture into different languages in Europe.
Thanks God we have these different languages and it’s not everything globalised in Europe and we are not just one way of thinking. Thanks God we have different mentalities. All these mentalities can clash. I don’t want to have a unique thing where Berlusconi is leading me, I don’t want that. I don’t want to have Labour Party from England, Brown, leading me. It doesn’t mean that I’m happy with Merckel, but other people didn’t want to be led by Spanish politicians, but I want that. It’s good that we are separated in a way. Norway doesn’t want to be in all this. I think that the more separate Europe was, in the case for the star system, it worked much more, and we have to go back in those days again, the glory days of the 60s where Sergio Leoni was, and this European western.
Thanks for prizes like the Lux prize. The Lux prize gave me the hope that we’ll come back to those golden eras of the 60s, of the European cinema.

Watch the other interviews from Venice 2009:

Sherry Hormann, director of Desert Flower.
Alex van Warmerdam, director of The Last Days of Emma Blank.
Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher, directors of La Horde.
Daniel Sánchez-Arévalo, director of Gordos.
Daniel Monzón, director of Celda 211.
Erik Gandini, director of Videocracy.
Claude and Nathan Miller, directors of Je Suis Heureux Que Ma Mère Soit Vivante.
Jorge Navas, director of La Sangre y la Lluvia.
Léa Fehner, director of Qu’un seul tienne et les autres suivront.
Sterlin Harjo, director of Barking Water.
Merzak Allouache, director of Harragas.
Mario Canale y Annarosa Morri, directors of Vittorio D..
Signe Baumane, director of Teat Beat of Sex.
Stefano Consiglio, director of L'amore e basta.
Marina Spada, director of Poesia che mi guardi.
Goran Paskaljevic, director of Honey Moons.
Paola Sangiovanni, director of Ragazze - La vita trema.
Israel Adrián Caetano, director of Francia.
Jesper Ganslandt, director of Apan.
Valerio Jalongo, director of Di Me Cosa Ne Sai.