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Director Fatih Akin on Returning to Cannes With Competition Film ‘In the Fade’

German filmmaker Fatih Akin returns to the Cannes competition lineup with “In the Fade,” a contemporary drama about a woman who takes revenge after her husband and son are murdered by the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground (NSU).

Is the NSU still active in Germany?

We have this very strange case, a scandal right now, involving neo-Nazis and right-wing extreme right groups in the German army. German soldiers, whose political background is extreme right, created fictional personalities. Pretending to be Syrian refugees, they were planning bomb attacks, in order to blame the refugees as terrorists, so the state wouldn’t let refugees in anymore. That was their aim. These things are happening right now, this week.

In what ways is this a personal film for you?

I am somehow “the other” in this country with my background. I have black hair, my parents are from Turkey. Somehow, I’m the perfect target for these xenophobic attacks. A couple of years ago there was a list, a website called Nuremburg 2.0, and they listed politicians, artists. My name was on the list as a target for neo-Nazis. That’s what drove me to write it and shoot it because I am a possible target for these groups. What I did with this film was kind of like a strike back.

You are known for having really great music in your films. How did the collaboration come about with Josh Homme of the American rock group Queens of the Stone Age, who provided an original score?

That was a big surprise. When I was writing this, I was listening to a lot of music by Queens of the Stone Age. I had the feeling that this could be the music that the character was listening to, It has a self-destructive attitude and somehow the film is about self-destruction. I sent him a very early version of the film. He immediately called back saying he loved it and was blown away and that he would like to put his hands on it. We phoned maybe four or five times, sent 10 emails back and forth and then I had the music. It was a very uncomplicated, fast and very clean process of working.

It’s surprising to learn that this is German-born actress Diane Kruger’s first German-language film. How did you come to cast her?

I met her in 2012 at the Cannes Film Festival. We liked each other. In Germany, she’s not known as an actress. In Germany, she’s more like an “It” girl, a Karl Lagerfeld model. Casting her here in Germany was a very unusual act. Although she’s German, she’s like an outsider here, so it was attractive to have this for my cast, to make people here in Germany curious. I like the way she looks. I like the way she has this real German face; blonde, blue eyes, this Aryan face. I like the idea that a real Aryan fights against Nazis. Somehow it adds another layer.

Do you ever have time to see other movies in Cannes?

I like to watch other movies, they always have a certain meaning to me. I remember in the competition 10 years ago, my film “The Edge of Heaven” was with the Coens’ “No Country for Old Men” and with “Zodiac” by David Fincher. I saw them both. It was an honor to be in competition with those films.

What is coming up next for you?

Well, if I don’t get an offer that interests me from abroad, I will work on three films in Germany.  One is a slasher movie. It’s based on a novel; I bought the rights last year. It takes place in my hometown, Hamburg, about a notorious serial killer in the 1970s. Somehow, it’s a horror movie and on the other hand it is very funny and on the other hand it is very sad. And I’m working on a martial arts film, because one of the main actresses in “Tschick,” the “Good Bye Berlin” film, she’s an 18-year-old girl, and the third best kickboxer in the world. Me and a friend of mine will write a martial arts for her. And I’m doing something about the war in the Middle East. If I don’t get sidetracked by an offer, I will do them one by one.

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