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Interview: Feo Aladag • Director

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“The universal necessity we have to be loved for ourselves”

- Extracts from the press conference at the Berlinale 2010 where the Austrian director unveiled the highly moving When We Leave in the Panorama section

Interview: Feo Aladag   • Director

What first sparked this project?
Feo Aladag: Six years ago, I shot footage for Amnesty International on violence against women, and I did a lot of research and read a lot of reports – a lot of news in German newspapers is about that kind of domestic violence. It is an emotional topic but in the filmmaking process all these feelings support and help you and make you more creative – the film feeds off of what happens inside you.

Then I tried to find what was the universal core of what moved me about this subject, and for me, it is the universal necessity we have to be loved for ourselves, for our character. We need unconditional love. It is a small but important step towards overcoming prejudices.

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What reach do you hope your film will have?
The story goes beyond the microcosm of the family: it is about reaching out and seeking common ground. What I am trying to say here is that German society really needs to have an open dialogue with its minorities and reach out. [They] must really look at each other without condemning or stereotyping... People need to see that this society, which perhaps doesn't function in a homogeneous way, is all the richer for it. I hope my film can generate a certain dialogue.

Speaking of which, how challenging was it to work in two languages?
Turkish is a very difficult language – I started learning it five months before shooting and have to say I really failed – but working in Turkish was enriching for me. Since we couldn't translate everything word for word, we had to convey it in the images and consider while doing it how rich that language is. It is always a big challenge to shoot in two languages, but you do not always shoot on a verbal level. Communication also takes place in many other ways, and language is only one level.

For music, for instance, I chose to have an original score by Max Richter and Stéphane Moucha because I didn't want any folkloric music but a harmony. Folklore would not have suited the movie.

When We Leave [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Feo Aladag
interview: Feo Aladag
film profile
shares with Fatih Akin's Head-On [+see also:
film profile
a theme (integration) and an actress (Sibel Kekilli)...

I wasn't writing the script yet when Head-On came out. I think the main difference between the two films is that, in Head-on, the heroin wants to break free from her family, to really get away, while in our film, Umai constantly tries to have both, to not lose the love and affection of her family and still live her own life the way she wants. She never stops trying to go back to her family, to be part of it; they have very strong bonds. It is a very different approach.

I think that the more films tackle this subject, the better. Depicting all the minorities that are part of our country, not only the Turkish minority, is important.

When We Leave has been awarded of the LUX Prize of the European Parliament in November 2010.


international title: When We Leave
original title: Die Fremde
country: Germany
sales agent: Telepool
year: 2009
directed by: Feo Aladag
screenplay: Feo Aladag
cast: Sibel Kekilli, Nizam Schiller, Settar Tanrioegen, Derya Alabora, Tamer Yiğit, Florian Lukas, Serhad Can, Almila Bagriacik, Nursel Köse, Alwara Hoefels, Ufuk Bayraktar

main awards/selection

Berlinale 2010 Europa Cinemas Label Award

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