No longer able to stand her husband's ill-treatment, Umay flees from Istanbul with her five-year-old son Cem to seek shelter in the arms of her family living in Berlin. But as the reality of Umay's defiant actions sets in, the family's reputation within the Turkish community at home and abroad is threatened—resulting in her sister's engagement being rescinded and ultimately leaving little Cem's future in question. Love, affection, and loyalty soon become irrelevant as a once caring and close-knit family painstakingly struggle to reconcile Umay's willful self-determination with the patriarchal social system that governs their lives.
Standout performances led by award-winning actress Sibel Kekilli (lead in Fatih Akin's acclaimed Head-On) deliver nuance and almost foolhardy earnestness to an irresolvable situation that teeters between hope and heartbreak. An award-winner at the Berlinale, Austrian actress Feo Aladag's compelling directorial debut wrestles with the question: What sacrifice is independence truly worth?
Director's Statement Collapse
My principle interest is in human relationships, as a metaphor for everything else in life; politics, morality, social issues, and a lot more. Six years ago my attention was drawn to a series of honor killings being committed in Germany, woman who had simply tried to free themselves from family and social restrictions. In connection with Amnesty International's "Violence Against Women" campaign, for whom I had directed several social interest spots at the time, I also spent a long time researching related subjects. When my work there was finished, there was still something still within me that I couldn't let go of. I tried to figure out what it was and one key image in particular kept popping into my head: the image of an extended hand, a hand that enables us to bridge every gap that separates us.
In a way that was my central abstract idea. I wanted to raise questions and tell a story about the incredible tragedy of missed opportunities in reaching out to one another. What is it that makes us define our relationships by our differences and makes us chain our love to some sort of condition instead of letting our similarities be stronger than what forces us apart. At its core my film is about the universal wish to be loved by our family for who we are—rather than for the way we choose to live. At the heart of the story is, as a glimmer of hope, the missed opportunity for mutual reconciliation. It is a story in which nobody is condemned, but I wanted it to make the compulsions and conflicts as well as the tragedy of all the characters emotionally comprehensible.
My intention was to create empathy for all the characters trapped in this conflict and to humanize them—beyond the prejudices of the media and ethnic and cultural blame. There must be a sustained effort to listen and learn from each other, to respect each other, and to seek common ground. The prerequisite for this belief, not in an explicitly religious sense, but in the sense of the hand extended between people. The belief that a harmonious co-existence is possible if we, in the name of empathy, grow beyond the shadows of our principles and convictions. I guess this theme is quite universal, as it affects all of us, whether it is people who love one another, or people who share a society, a country, or a planet and are therefore a community.
The important thing, it seems to me, is that we believe in the possibilities of one another. This belief often requires courage, especially in the microcosms of the family as the basis for cooperation in the sociocultural context. If we barricade ourselves behind a defensive system of antiquated structures and insurmountable principles, and try to maintain our stability through the desire to possess, then we make ourselves prisoners of those, our own, principles. To love and be loved takes courage. So to live peacefully with one another we have to let go of our own habits and expectations. We live in a multicultural society, which can no longer simply promote consensus but must find new ways to get around arising divergence, and that will only happen with ongoing dialogue and allowing ourselves to be being guided by our similarities rather than by our differences.