Polluting Paradise, a documentary by Fatih Akin

Photo of the film © RR

With Polluting Paradise, German film-maker Fatih Akin takes up residence “on the other side of heaven”, in Turkey, the country his family originated from. Over a period of five years there he filmed the struggle of a village against the construction of a public garbage dump.

Among the green hills beside the Black Sea in north-eastern Turkey lies a vast open air garbage dump; tons and tons of rubbish, syringes, animal carcasses, a sickening stench, with stray animals gorging themselves on the waste.

This place is Çamburnu, the village where Fatih Akin’s grandparents were born. It was a little piece of paradise when the film-maker first went to visit in 2005. But even as he was falling in love with the site, deciding to shoot the final scene of On the Other Side of Heaven there, he learnt that the state was intending to build a garbage dump just next door. He started to film, thinking “naively” that this would deter the planners. But the construction went ahead under the eye of his camera. Fatih Akin continued to film, without for a single instant imagining that he was getting into a project that would last five years. He ended up recording the construction of the dump as it advanced side by side with the struggle of the mayor and his residents. It was a long-haul project made possible by local colleagues, in particular Bünyamin Seyrekbasan, a photographer in the village, who filmed the combat on a day-by-day basis and who is one of the characters in the movie.

Fatih Akin was born in Hamburg to Turkish parents. His movies show his constant interest in the themes of multi-culturalism, immigration and the crossing of frontiers (Short Sharp Shock, Head on, On the Other Side of Heaven, Soul Kitchen ) as in his two previous documentaries: Denk ich an Deutschland – Wir haben vergessen zurückzukehren and Crossing the Bridge, a voyage of discovery of the sounds of Istanbul with German bass player Alexander Hacke, who wrote the music for this film. With Polluting Paradise, he places himself fully in Turkey for the first time.

B. de M.

The movie is screening in the Salle du Soixantième, Friday 18 May at 2.30 pm.