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Feo Aladag • Director

Powerful images and colors

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- Already working on a new film, Später im Sommer, director Feo Aladag looks back to the success of When We Leave

Feo Aladag • Director

When We Leave [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Feo Aladag
interview: Feo Aladag
film profile
]
 began its triumphal progress in February 2010. The first feature film by Feo Aladag, it made such an impression at the Berlinale that a total of 120 other national and international festivals adopted it onto their programs. On six continents and in no less than 73 countries, viewers hoped and trembled with the film’s heroine played by Sibel Kekilli, a young German-Turkish woman who rebels against tradition while struggling for the love and loyalty of her family at the same time. They all together fail tragically.

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“It was the same everywhere: audiences felt empathy with the characters and were deeply moved by the story,” says Feo Aladag when describing the international audience response. When We Leave also created a sensation in Turkey, where the distribution rights had already been sold even before its premiere at the Berlinale. “There, the film was launched with more copies than in Germany,” the filmmaker reports. “It was particularly gratifying that it was not only shown in the big cities but also in rural areas.” Overall, Aladag notes, “there was an over whelming international echo.”

Not a bad summing up for a quiet drama, which deals with its central dilemma – the clash between family constrictions and individual self-realization – in a very differentiated way, remaining free of clichés. “It is a story in which no one is morally judged, although we are able to follow emotionally the limitations and conflicts, and the associated tragedy for all the characters,” says Aladag, who was behind the film as director, author and producer in one person. It offers an inside view “beyond media prejudices and social role images, as well as racist condemnation”, and its aim is not to give simple answers to difficult questions but to generate empathy. The characters feel torn and this should be “emotionally tangible for the viewers”.

The film was shot on slightly rough-grain SUPER 35 3perfformat. Aladag: “The choice of format and its somewhat raw surface quality was part of the concept from the beginning, just like a clear idea of the colors – the color patterns and spectrums of the film. When I write I already have a strong sense of the future realization, I see images and colors very powerfully.”

There is a need for some freedom to entertain such a concrete vision; Aladag created this in 2005 by founding the film production company Independent Artists, based in Berlin. When We Leave was its first project. She does not view artistic pretensions and commercial orientation as opposites but as two sides of one and the same coin. Overall, Feo Aladag believes, “Sometimes German film could and should just be a bit more courageous. We should never forget that cinema films are not made exclusively to satisfy the viewers’ needs but are a creative process first and foremost. Occasionally, it seems as if far too many instances want to get a word in, always seeking to influence things. This means that a director rarely has the freedom to plan the creative process of production and therefore the film itself exactly as he or she wants to.”  Which makes it even better when someone succeeds in using this freedom now and then.

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