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Talking about each other

3 Sep

By Aktina

In the current issue of the New Yorker, Anthony Lane offers a review of Fatih Akin’s latest movie, Soul Kitchen (Slice and dice, p. 86). I am not so interested in engaging with his analysis of the movie which I find to have largely missed the point along with the film’s humanity. I am most interested in something he mentions in passing which I found disquieting. Writing about the way the Greek- German hero of the movie and his brother deal with the “craziness that befalls them, seem[ing] both settled and sketchy”¬† he makes the following, comment, in parentheses:

There could be a simpler reason for this: they are Greeks, and it would be a miracle if Akin had got under their skin. Given the depth of hostility between the two nations, it’s a miracle that he even tried. (p. 87, my emphasis)

For one, the comment on the assumed hostility, parenthetical and out of any political-cultural contextualization as it is, amounts to no more than a easy generalization that only serves at reproducing an old stereotype that ignores the richness and complexity of the two nations’ relationship. In addition, it denies art one of its most valuable qualities: the capacity for empathy. If it is a “miracle” that Akin “even tried”, by the same token and given the vastness of cultural differences in the world, it is “a miracle” that i.e. men make movies about women, Americans about Iraqis and so on and so forth. Leaving aside my personal view that Akin gave a great portrait of the young Greek Germans avoiding the pitfalls of folklore or stereotypes, I find that such comments should be examined twice before being¬† inserted in a context that cannot at least provide enough argument to support them. Innocent or parenthetical as they may be comments like that do carry an ideological weight.