Fatih Akin cooks up 'Soul Kitchen' for Venice film fest

12th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Turko-German director’s newest film dishes out humour, a yet-unexplored emotion for the usually serious filmmaker.

Venice -- Turko-German director Fatih Akin served up some pure entertainment at the Venice film festival Thursday with Soul Kitchen, a story of changing fortunes in a Hamburg suburb in the throes of gentrification.

The film is the first to offer full-bore humour so far in the competition for the prestigious Golden Lion.

In contrast Thursday, Filipino director Brillante Mendoza unveiled Lola, a hard-hitting social commentary on the mean streets of Manila.

With just two days left for the jury, led by Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee, to pick a winner, Italian critics have put three films at the head of the pack: Todd Solondz's dark comedy Life During Wartime; Michael Moore's funny but frank Capitalism: A Love Story; and first-time Israeli director Samuel Maoz's Lebanon.

In Soul Kitchen, restaurateur Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos) "holds the whole world on his shoulders, but he also plays with the world like a ball, like Charlie Chaplin," Akin said.

"It must be something to do with his hair, he's like Samson," he said, referring to the biblical figure whose superhuman strength was linked to his hair.

The son of Greek parents, Zinos is a longhaired, big-hearted youth who makes two round-trips from rags to riches with his restaurant in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg, where property speculation is rife.

"The film is different from my earlier ones, a comedy with music and humour," said Akin, whose screenplay for the drama The Edge of Heaven won at Cannes in 2007. "I wanted to laugh."

Things begin to go wrong when Zinos's bourgeois girlfriend Nadine (Pheline Roggan) is transferred to Shanghai and his do-nothing brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu) is allowed out on weekends from his latest stint in prison.

A new cook, described by Akin as a "Don Quixote (who) wants to change the world," turns fish sticks and fries into a nouvelle cuisine sight to behold -- but a turnoff for the regular clientele.

Things go from bad to worse for the lovelorn Zinos when he suffers a herniated disc and tax and health officials begin to hound him.

A combination of sheer grit, luck and chutzpah finally gather the wind back into his sail.

After his success at Cannes, Akin, 36, said he felt "a slave to my success, to the expectations of others who expected a certain type of serious film, but at the urging of my producer (Andreas Thiel), now sadly deceased, I freed myself of everything and told myself that laughter is part of life."

Soul Kitchen is among 25 films in the running for the prestigious Golden Lion here, to be bestowed on Saturday.

In Mendoza's film, the second "surprise" selection in the 66th Mostra, a frail Lola Sepa (Anita Linda) is seen hunched under an umbrella torn by driving rain lighting a candle at the spot where her grandson was stabbed to death by a cell phone thief.

The grandmother of the killer, Lola Puring, also scratches out a meagre existence in a Manila slum.

Both Lolas are weighted down by debt and hounded by loansharks, the first for her grandson's funeral and the second for her grandson's trial but both struggle tirelessly for the well-being of their families.

Gina Doggett/AFP/Expatica

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