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Based Down South

Based Down South

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(Wir sitzen im Süden) Director: Martina Priessner, D, 2010, German, Turkish / English subtitles, 88 min

Four people of Turkish background who grew up in Germany now work in Istanbul at call centres for German companies. It seems that for only one of them is the stay in Turkey voluntary; the others dream of life in Germany. A film about identity and homeland that refutes the cliché about the lack of will to integrate.

On the phone they give such fake names as Ralf Becker, Ilona Manske and Sandra Braun – but they are really called Bülent Kubulu, Murat Demirel, Fatos Yildiz and Cigdem Özdemir. Their German is perfect. Only Fatos Yildiz has a problem: she can’t completely hide her Black Forest accent. When customers ask on the phone where the call centre is located, they answer: “We’re based down south.” Martina Priessner observes her four protagonists at work and in their private lives in Istanbul, and follows Fatos Yildiz and Murat Demirel on a short trip to Germany.

For the time being, Bülent Kubulu has almost no chance to return to the land of his dreams; the young man from outside Frankfurt got into trouble and was deported – to a country he hardly knew. On finding work at a German firm, he must have felt like he was entering an oasis: “I felt right at home!”

After twenty years, Fatos Yildiz, divorced with two children, still dreams of her old home; her father saw to it that her German passport was stamped “expired”. She repeatedly tried to get a tourist visa for Germany. In vain. But now, finally, it’s been granted: she laughs and cries with joy, explaining: “I may have Turkish blood in my veins, but I have Germany in my soul.”

Murat Demirel also longs for the haunts of his childhood and youth – and, as a gay man, for a society more tolerant than Turkey’s. Only Cigdem Özdemir, who, after working for the call centre, is now opening her own company, feels at home in Istanbul. She doesn’t want to create a “surrogate” for Germany.

Martina Priessner does not use any commentary, which calls for viewers to be alert, especially at the beginning of the film. German reactions were extremely positive. The Süddeutsche Zeitung judged it “A must see!” The taz wrote: “Germany as the longed-for land? German Turks who don’t get anything out of living in the south present an unusual point of view – and that makes this gentle, almost elegiac documentary film by Martina Priessner worth seeing.”

ARD television’s cultural magazine Titel, Thesen, Temperamente commented: “While politicians go on and on about migrants who supposedly don’t want to integrate, the film’s viewers experience Turks who have long been German but aren’t permitted to live in Germany... We see people who grew up among us but who have to live outside.”

The screening will be held with personel presence of leading Czech arabist and islamist, profesor of Charles University, Luboš Kropáček! The screening is in partnership with Goethe-Institut Prague.


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