Like the food served up at the title bistro in his latest
release "Soul Kitchen" (opens August 27), German-Turkish Fatih Akin's work is a
fusion of tastes and traditions. As might be expected, in previous films like his
much-lauded "Head-On" (2004) and "Edge of Heaven" (2007) he shows elements of Turkish directors such as Niri Bilge Ceylan
and of German directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder
and Wim Wenders.
But those influences came later. His first love was for the
good old meat and potatoes of Hollywood genre filmmaking. It inspired him as a kid to
write the screenplay for his first film "Short Sharp Shock" (1998)
and since then he has made movies at a deliberate pace and established himself
as one of Germany's leading directors. Or is that Turkey?
And maybe Hollywood
will be next in line. A broad, zesty comedy, "Soul Kitchen" might be his most accessible film to date. One can easily
imagine an English language remake. Could his own studio debut be far behind?
Some these questions get asked and answered when I talked to him recently.
PK: I read that this took five years for you to write the
script for "Soul Kitchen" and this may have been the most difficult movie for
you to make because it's a comedy.
FA: Yeah that's right. I never expected it would take so
long. The draft was so fast in 2003. Doing the editing, it was all within 5
days. And I had the idea to shoot this very fast. With a small crew, on video,
with no light. With Adam
Bousdoukos, and he had a restaurant, and we we're going to shoot in
his restaurant, and we would do it very easy, and very fast. I needed money at
that time. I was very broke. And the idea was like to do the film, so we would
have some feasts. I never expected it would be such a quest, and that it would
be the most difficult and expensive film of my career so far.
PK: So this is in 2003. What film were you working on then?
FA: That was the editing of "Head-On." That was before the Golden
Bear [First Prize at the Berlin Film Festival won by "Head-on"]. That was
before the whole circus started.
PK: So you were kind of running on empty and you had a fast
FA: Yeah, I came out of empty because I became one of the
producers for "Head On." To control "Head On" in an artistic way, like final
cut, to do the film the way I wanted to, I had to be the producer. And to do
that I had to put money into it. So I put a huge part of my fee into the
budget. I was out of money after it. Then it was actually "Crossing the Bridge"
(2005), the music documentary. Which was another film, which was really, you
know, it's a documentary. So I wrote the synopsis, which was like 14 pages, in
like 2 hours. It was very fast. It was there, I had to exchange the project. I
did this music documentary I always wanted to do. In 6 weeks we had half a
million Euros to do "Crossing the Bridge,"
we sold it to television in Germany,
and with that budget we did it. And so I could pay my rent, and we had this
transition film between "Head On" and
the "Edge of Heaven."
PK: And next the four-hour black and white American set period
FA: I don't think I'll make it in black and white anymore. (laughs)
PK: That's really taking a chance, black and white these
days. Why not 3-D?
FA: I would like to do a music documentary about prince in
3D. This is the only 3D project that would make sense to me, of all of my projects.
Because I think the visual deepness and focus of 3D could be interesting to
challenge yourself to photograph music. That could be interesting, because
music has so many dimensions. That's the only thing where it makes sense to use
PK: "Fantasia" with Prince instead of the dancing hippos.
FA: It would be enough to see the guy rehearsing and shoot
that in 3D.
PK: So he's one of your favorites? He's kind of, he goes in
out of popularity, but he seems to persevere.
FA: He was the first artist I really followed.
PK: What was it that first drew you to making movies?
FA: I think, I had a cousin, they used to like near us in
the 70s. Once a week we used to go there because they had a bathtub. We just
had a shower. And my cousin was 10, and he had a super 8 projector, and he had
one wheel of 15 minute films. The first film was "Fists of Fury," a Bruce Lee
film. For a kid, at the age of five, it was a big thing to close down the
curtain, you know, it's magic. The daylight has to stay out, and you project it
to a wall or part of furniture. And to see Bruce Lee whooping people's ass off
was a big thing, for 15 minutes. And what was even more interesting was the 15
minutes were over he had to rewind the whole thing, so the whole 15 minutes
went backwards. You have to do that. That was my thing. It had such a deep
impact on me. I think I knew at that time that I would end up doing films. So
anything after that time with film or television, I was really interested.
PK: Did you ever see the rest of the movie?
FA: Yeah but very late. After the DVD I guess.
PK: I'd think if you saw it forward and then went backwards
you'd be able to analyze it pretty well.
FA: And we were there every Sunday to watch it. So I really
analyzed those things. Later on when I saw on DVD I knew when would be the next
kick, the next punch, and so on.
PK: So you decided not to become a kung fu superhero but a
FA: I was practicing martial arts, but I wasn't good enough.
So I had to become a filmmaker.
PK: You also started out as an actor. I read that your dream
was to become your own Sylvester Stallone, and to write your own "Rocky" script
and star in it and direct it.
FA: That was the way I started, back in the 90s. I thought
about being a filmmaker then, but I thought maybe later, maybe I have to be in
my 40s to start doing films. I thought it was like that. That you needed
experience to do so. At that time, it was between high school and university,
at that time I find myself working for television shows. For cop shows. It was
always the same thing. So it was frustrating. So I wrote the first script. And
my idea was like, I do it like Stallone.
PK: And like him you get an Oscar.
FA: I wasn't thinking about an Oscar, I was thinking about
to get into the film business. And I found a production who had interest in the
script. And then almost two years to find the right director. And meanwhile I
had finished high school.
PK: You wrote that in high school?
FA: In the last year of high school. In '93. I could sell an
option for it in December '93 or January '94. And that was the big thing. I
thought, okay I made it. And meanwhile my mother really resisted. She said, "no
I want you to study. I don't care what you study but I want you to study." She
really insisted on that. So, I ended up studying film. You could study visual
communication in the university for fine arts. And they made a test, and I
solved that. I made a little film, it was the first I made really. I made other
shorts as a teenager, during the school, when we had projects. But that was my
first film of 10 minutes, based upon, it was not long after Kurt Cobain had
killed himself, and I wrote my, about the afterworld. It's about the kid who's
doing suicide and the bureaucracy of the afterworld. That was the thing I did
for 10 minutes. They liked the film. My producer liked the film too, the one
who bought my option for my first script. And he was like, "hey, instead of
looking for other directors, you should direct the film." In the beginning I
thought I could do both, to direct and act, but then I realized I had to make a
decision, and I decided to direct. I became I director because of this acting.
Now I don't act any more. It doesn't interest me. But it was a good school. It
was a good education of how to treat actors, knowing the fear of actors. That's
the only reason I would act again, just to know actors better.
Next: secrets of "Soul Kitchen's" aphrodisiac dessert.