Porn past haunts award-winning German actress
16 February 2005 , BERLIN - The star of the film that won the Golden Bear award at the 2004 Berlin Film Festival has spent a year hiding from her own family and waging legal battles in the German courts - because she once appeared in hard-core porn flicks. In recent days 24-year-old Sibel Kekilli, currently on a world tour to promote the award-winning film "Head-On", received the best actress award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for her work in German director Fatih Akin's raw portrait of
16 February 2005
BERLIN - The star of the film that won the Golden Bear award at the 2004 Berlin Film Festival has spent a year hiding from her own family and waging legal battles in the German courts - because she once appeared in hard-core porn flicks.
In recent days 24-year-old Sibel Kekilli, currently on a world tour to promote the award-winning film "Head-On", received the best actress award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for her work in German director Fatih Akin's raw portrait of two Turkish-born residents of Hamburg.
But home in Germany, Kekilli spends much of her time under police protection following threats from members of her Turkish extended family who say she has brought shame upon them.
The scandal has enthralled Germany's tabloid readers since the mass-circulation Bild newspaper plastered its pages with still photos of Kekilli in highly candid poses in flicks with titles like "Heavy Pecking Down on the Chicken Farm".
After months of legal wrangling, Kekilli recently obtained a court-ordered restraining order against Bild newspaper. A Berlin judge has threatened to slap Bild with a half-million-dollar fine should the paper ever again print an infamous front-page picture of Kekilli in a sexual situation over the tabloid caption: "A truly penetrating performance".
In fact, she appeared in hard-core productions up until late 2002 when she was picked to be in Hamburg filmmaker Akin's "Head-On".
His low-budget film, dealing with the story of a young Turkish-German woman who marries a man she does not love to escape her conservative Moslem family, became the first German picture in 18 years to win the top award at the Berlin Film Fest.
Festival organizers have been on the defensive since revelations about Kekilli's pornographic past surfaced.
"This is an outrageous and scurrilous attack on a talented young actress," says festival director Dieter Kosslick. "We fully support her and I'm not making any moral judgements. I just want everyone to know that this festival stands firmly behind her."
Kekilli's devout Moslem father, living in Germany since 1977, was tracked down by reporters and news crews, who badgered him for details about his daughter's upbringing.
"The disgrace is too great for the family," Kekilli's father said. "Sibel moved to Hamburg two years ago. I thought she was working at city hall - and now this! I can never forgive her for it. I don't want to ever see her again," he said.
Through it all, the petite actress with a child-like face has been completely candid about her chequered career.
"Yes, I did make these (porn) films. But that's the past. What counts is the Golden Bear," she says.
Her 30-year-old director concedes he was also aware of Kekilli's past right from the beginning.
"I knew all about it," Akin admits. But added he has not seen the porn flicks himself because "I wanted to direct 'Head-On' with an unbiased mind."
Known for temperamental outbursts, Akin has lashed out at tabloid news coverage, calling it "bigoted and disgusting" and indirectly accusing the German media of anti-foreigner bias.
But he acknowledges it was his own fault for having under- estimated the ramifications - and not having expected that his low- budget film would come under intense media scrutiny.
"Sibel and I hoped naively that it wouldn't come out," he told a Berlin paper.
Meanwhile, Kekilli is starring in a new German production about the Holocaust in which she plays a Jewish Berlin woman who is rounded up for deportation to Auschwitz in 1943.
The film, based on a true-life account of 1,200 Berlin women whose deportations were "a birthday gift to the fuehrer", has the working title "Der Letzte Zug" (The Last Train).
Shooting begins in April in Germany and Lithuania for the production, which also stars Gedeon Burkhard, best known outside Germany for his role as a handsome Vienna homicide investigator in the popular syndicated police dog TV series "Inspector Rex".
Subject: German news