Yilmaz Arslan's "Fratricide" explores tensions between communities and within families that reveal unholy and disastrous compromises. Almost the flip side of helmer's "Yara," here classical tragedy is used to highlight the alienation of the immigrant experience. Neither preachy nor simplistic, pic will do well in fests.
A hard-hitting, ultimately tragic tale of the struggle for identity among Kurdish emigres in urban Germany, Yilmaz Arslan’s “Fratricide” explores tensions between communities and within families that reveal unholy and disastrous compromises. Almost the flip side of helmer’s “Yara,” in which an integrated Turkish woman is forced back to her native land, here classical tragedy is used to highlight the alienation of the immigrant experience. Neither preachy nor simplistic, pic will do well in fests, but the inevitable downward trajectory may hamper Stateside arthouse play beyond bicoastal hot spots.
Teenager Azad (Erdal Celik), a shepherd in the expansive landscape of Turkish Kurdistan, receives money from his emigre older brother, Semo (Nuretin Celik), to come to Europe. Once in Germany, Azad learns Semo is working as a pimp. The discovery doesn’t sit well with the proud, honest Azad, and he prefers to sleep in a refugee shelter rather than associate with Semo’s tainted lifestyle.
Azad takes new arrival Ibo (Xewat Gectan), an 11-year-old orphaned Kurd, as his assistant and they cut hair in a small Kurdish-run cafe. The two youngsters struggle to do right, clinging to each other as a way of maintaining their values in the seemingly valueless German city they’re living in, but aren’t a part of.
An act of pent-up frustration against a couple of street toughs takes on tragic consequences for the brothers and the orphan, and results in a spiral of violence and revenge best stomached by those comfortable in butcher shops. It’s a jolt after having seen the warmth and integrity of Azad and Ibo.
Still, helmer Arslan provides lighter moments: There’s a delightful chalkboard animation sequence when Ibo, his first time in a classroom, becomes the child he should be. It’s a joyous moment, painfully contrasted with the tragedy to come.
Keeping his sympathies for individuals rather than movements, Arslan points up the hypocrisy within immigrant communities, here represented by Zilan (Taies Farzan), a community worker who urges the kids to go to school, yet stokes nationalist flames.
The only character who doesn’t fit is Azad’s Albanian g.f. Mirka (Xhiljona Ndoja), introduced late in the story and functioning more as a plot device than a full-blooded person. Otherwise, despite a structure that borrows from Greek tragedy, including a chorus of Kurdish women, the cast of mostly non-professionals, carry a veracity that doesn’t feel stylized.
Strong visuals by d.p. Jean-Francois Hensgens enrich Arslan’s deep sense of place. Especially noteworthy are panoramic shots of the Kurdish landscape, where people seem to move through the territory in symbiosis with the land, contrasted with tighter lensing in the spiritually bankrupt inner city.