Crossing The Bridge: The Sound Of Istanbul
by Sheri Linden
posted August 1, 2008 10:00 AM
Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin follows up Berlin fest prize winner "Head On" with this valentine to Istanbul. The city's fusion of East and West, traditional and modern is evident in the assortment of musicians who perform for Akin's cameras. They all make vivid impressions in the exuberant "Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul," but the multi-subject approach dilutes the impact of the film.
German bassist Alexander Hacke, who fell for the Turkish city while recording songs for "Head On," is the tour guide on this musician's-eye view of the metropolis. The scruffy musicologist sometimes sits in with the groups he records, among them psychedelic underground band Baba Zula. More often than not he's beaming from the sidelines, whether at hip-hop artists, rock bands Duman and Replikas, anti-corporate buskers or veteran performers like chanteuse Sezen Aksu, who increasingly blends regional traditions into her pop brew. The marriage of European and Asian influences echoes throughout the film. Composer and onetime movie star Orhan Gencebay (seen in scratchy clips from '70s action flicks) alarmed conservatives when he incorporated Egyptian and Western techniques into the music he plays on the saz, a type of lute. Clarinetist Selim Sesler's reed wails with Romany-influenced plaintive joy, reminiscent of klezmer.
The film touches upon cultural and political issues, not least the Turkish government's recently lifted ban on the Kurdish language. Even so, "Crossing the Bridge" is resolutely celebratory. Varied settings--boat, café, park, ancient spa--provide a rich visual backdrop, and judiciously used vintage clips offer intriguing glimpses of Istanbul through the years. Directed and written by Fatih Akin. Produced by Fatih Akin, Klaus Maeck, Andreas Thiel, Sandra Harzer-Kux and Christian Kux. A Strand release. Documentary. Turkish- and German-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 90 min