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Mind the gap

No talking heads,no boring longwinded interviews and no badly shot footage...

Written by Georgina Maddox |
January 7, 2009 2:15:33 am

Fatih Akin’s Crossing the Bridge has politics,culture and music blend into one gorgeous canvas

No talking heads,no boring longwinded interviews and no badly shot footage. Only pulsating music,soul-wrenching discussions by artists and performers set against aesthetic shots of the city that borders two Continents. Faith Akin’s Crossing the Bridge:The Sound of Istanbul,proves that documentary is a genre that has not been fully explored to its full potential. Arguably the subject itself is so vibrant that it would be difficult to make a boring film about it. However,Akin has a flair for charting out a remarkable journey made by characters that moves beyond the ordinary.

Whether it is his poignant masterpiece Head On or his revolutionary Edge of Heaven,this surprisingly young director manages to hook onto his audience and take them with him as he discovers the hidden facets of music,life and the complexity of human relationships. This ability doesn’t change whether it is a short film and fiction feature or a documentary.

Crossing the Bridge began when Alexander Hacke,a musician and bass player,met Akin on the sets of his previous film,Head On. Hacke was in a spiritual journey to discover the music of Istanbul,Turkey,and jam with its musicians. However,with Akin in tow,the journey becomes a visual diary of sounds and sights that are as diverse as they are beautiful.

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The duo makes their first stop at a garage pub where young rockers are jamming a eulogy of Istanbul. Their grunge music derives its inspiration from European rock but moves beyond aping as they draw from traditional percussion and blend Eastern chants with gritty lyrics. A pioneer rocker,Erkin Koray tells us how this kind of music was once banned in Istanbul while the younger generation demonstrates how their kind of music lacks an international audience.

Next,we stop over at the house of a hip-hop artist,whose sister and brother are all into the act of rapping about politics,gender and tradition. Rapping and break dancing are originally from the ghettos of coloured Americans but teens from Turkey turn it around by rapping about their own issues.

Hacke pays tribute to the popular legend Orhan Gendeby whose ‘arabesque’ music could be construed as Turkish pop,while a soulful rendering of Kurdish music in an old church stirs the soul and explains the silence imposed on such music-making. Politics, culture and music all blend into one gorgeous canvas.

In Special Features,we watch an alternate documentary titled Under the Bridge,which not only takes us behind the scenes to meet Hecke and Akin but also gives viewers full performances from bands that had to be edited off while making the film. Akin shares stories of how difficult it was to cut things down since they had so much good footage while Hecke talks of his role as film-narrator and musician. “There were times when I just wanted to be part of the music but I had to maintain my objectivity,” he says. We also get a peek at some of the legendary musicians in more candid moments as a series of stills taken by the on sets photographer adds a little humour to the otherwise serious film.

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