Cannes: Turkish village's battle against trash
9 May 2007, Istanbul (dpa) - When Hamburg-based film director Fatih Akin calls on the Turkish Environment Minister Osman Pepe in Ankara, he is rebuffed: "You might know about making films, but you don't know anything about environmental issues," the minister tells him. The chapter of the landfill site that is being set up near the village of Camburnu with its 3,500 inhabitants in the tea-growing region near the Turkish Black Sea coast, was long closed, Pepe insisted. Akin, however, whose most recent film,
9 May 2007
Istanbul (dpa) - When Hamburg-based film director Fatih Akin calls on the Turkish Environment Minister Osman Pepe in Ankara, he is rebuffed: "You might know about making films, but you don't know anything about environmental issues," the minister tells him.
The chapter of the landfill site that is being set up near the village of Camburnu with its 3,500 inhabitants in the tea-growing region near the Turkish Black Sea coast, was long closed, Pepe insisted.
Akin, however, whose most recent film, On the Other Side, has been nominated at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, is only now rolling up his sleeves. His next project, a docu-thriller on the struggle of the Camburnu villagers is being filmed in Turkey under the working title Rubbish in the Garden of Eden.
Akin was not allowed to film the run-in with the environment minister, but the first shots from the Black Sea coast are in the can.
"Either there will be a happy ending, if we can mount so much pressure that the project is halted," the 33-year old said in an interview with Deutsche-Presse Agentur dpa in Istanbul, "or it will end in a tragedy with the death of the village."
The Turkish-German film director feels he is personally involved in the villagers' resistance.
"It's my grandfather's village. I've been fighting together with its inhabitants for the past two years," said Akin, who was born and reared in the northern German city of Hamburg.
He is pulling out all the stops both in Turkey and in Germany.
"What's that, Osman?" Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as asking his environment minister by the Hurriyet newspaper, when he received a letter from German Green Party leader Claudia Roth, pointing to the environmental risks of the planned landfill site.
"I think the only chance the village still has is political pressure from abroad," Akin says. Turkey has to understand: "There's no place for you in the European Union if you can't sort out your environmental problems."
Has Akin, who won the Golden Bear at the 2004 Berlin Film Festival for his angry drama Gegen die Wand (Head-On), discovered politics for himself?
"The times are too irritating, too disturbing at the moment for me to be able to ignore it in my art," the director says. "I'm not interested in anything else right now." If political education could be entertaining it would be even better, Akin thinks.
A film should not look didactic, Akin says. "First of all I want to entertain. That's my job, I'm a storyteller."
Akin does not want to follow in the footsteps of Michael Moore, who won the Palme d'Or at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for Fahrenheit 9/11.
"It's my questions and my voice that you can hear (in the film), and sometimes I'm in the picture too," Akin says. But he does not want to go as far as Moore, he says. He prefers to work more with the means of the classic documentary.
"I try to find images that discover the scandal that a 12-year old can understand," Akin said.
The heroes of his film are the villagers, tea pickers, a primary school teacher, the village photographer.
"I learn from the modest dignity of those people" who fear that the rubbish heap near their village will poison their water, attract pests and bring disease, Akin said.
Akin has particular respect for Camburno Mayor Huseyin Alioglu. After all the village community's court appeals against the landfill site failed, Alioglu has now been charged "for not granting building permission and acting in an un-Turkish way."
The mayor is charged with acts "against the national interest," Akin says, adding, "He is without doubt the tragic hero of the film."
Subject: German news