Volume 19 • Issue 15 | August 25 - 31, 2006

‘Fratricide’ casts immigrant experience through violent lens

Written and directed by Yilmaz Arslan
Starring Erdel Celik, Nuretin Celik, and Xewat Gectan
Playing at the Film Forum through Sept. 5
209 West Houston St.

Koch Lorber Films.

Nurettin Celik as Semo, a Kurdish immigrant and pimp living in Germany, and Erdal Celik as his younger brother Azad in “Fratricide.”

By Leonard Quart

There have been of a slew of recent films dealing with the struggles that immigrants face in adjusting to life in Western Europe. Among them are Jan Hrebejk’s satiric and penetrating, “Up and Down,” Stephen Frears’ thriller, “Dirty Pretty Things” and the unsung, trenchant “The Last Resort” directed by Pawel Pawlikowski.

Yilmaz Arslan’s harsh, forceful, realistic “Fratricide” centers on a young Kurdish immigrant, the decent, honest Azad (Erdel Celik) — a shepherd in impoverished Turkish Kurdistan who is brought to Berlin by his émigré older brother, Semo (Nuretin Celik), a pimp.

The Kurdish landscape may be desolate and their homes ramshackle, but there is no golden land in Berlin. Azad lives in a refugee shelter, and cuts hair in the bathroom of a Kurdish café. The only thing that gives him solace is his friendship with a kind, vulnerable 11-year-old orphaned Kurd, Ibo (Xewat Gectan), a boy whose childhood has been taken from him. Their loyalty to each other is profound, but it isn’t strong enough to help them survive in Germany.

For the Berlin they inhabit is one where many of their fellow immigrants have turned to crime and prostitution. It’s not that the Germans portrayed in the film behave like oppressors (in fact, they offer a great many social services), but a number of the immigrants have lost their way and their moral sense in a city that is alien to them.

The film does touch on what it means to be an immigrant from a rural environment, and confront the seductions and impersonality of the city. And the film succeeds in evoking how family ties among the immigrants transcend profound differences in values. “Fratricide” also has no use for political movements. It perceptively and unpredictably views the Kurdish nationalists in Berlin as people that are willing to twist the truth, and as exhibiting little interest in the individual immigrant’s plight, except in how it may serve the cause.

However, too much of “Fratricide” is caught up in a cycle of violence and revenge that submerges the larger immigrant story. And some of that violence seems too gratuitous and sensational. Also, Arslan’s mostly non-professional cast carries a great deal of authenticity, but has problems projecting anything more than the most basic emotions.

“Fratricide” can be moving and honest, but, for the most part, it eschews nuance by using fierce action to pound its message home about immigrant alienation and anomie.


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