Memory and Migration: An Analysis of Identity and Nostalgia in Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven and Head-on

October 10, 2017 1:31 pm

In this essay I examine the effects that the experience of migration has on memory and how this matter is portrayed in two movies directed by the Turkish German film director, screenwriter and producer Fatih Akin. His parents, originally from the Trabzon Region in Turkey, moved to Germany in the late 60s and settled in Altona, known as one of the most multicultural districts in the borough of Hamburg.

Fatih Akin at Berlin Film Festival

Akin’s filmography interestingly brings to light his Turkish origins and focuses on the traditional features of his parents’ country, analysing the complicated but at the same time intriguing situation of being a migrant. In fact, it comes as no surprise that the Turkish German film director feels affinity to Martin Scorsese who, when titling Italianamerican[1], removed the hyphen to strongly remark the fusion of his parent’s and his own cultural identities. It becomes apparent that Akin’s production fits perfectly in a transnational context as his films also depict the relation between migration and memory, emphasizing the blur of Turkish and German identities.

To understand Akin’s production I will also be referring to Homi Bhabha’s concept ofvernacular cosmopolitanism’.[2] In fact, as the social anthropologist Pnina Werbner highlights, this oxymoron ‘joins contradictory notions of local specificity and universal enlightenment’[3] focusing on the concept of hybridity and consequently bringing together elements of the diaspora with the reality of the globalized cosmopolitanism. This extremely complex concept focuses on the importance that transcultural and transnational influences have on rooted and traditional elements, which creates a blurred coexistence of the different translocal elements. Bhabha’s innovative theory encloses the key meaning of globalisation.

Therefore, Akin can be identified as a globalised artist who aims to build cultural bridges through a transcultural vision. As Ana Sobral explains, global artists, with particular attention to musicians, aim to connect cultures through their work:


This is the attitude adopted by global musicians: while they promote the musical features of their countries and cultures of origin, their work also serves as a bridge between cultures.[4]


Similarly, Fatih Akin in his movies focuses not only on the features of his country and culture of origin but he also attempts to articulate the ‘in-between’ identity of his characters, who belong ‘neither to the country or the culture of origin nor to their new location’.[5]


This particular aspect is present in the first two films of Akin’s trilogy Love, Death and the Devil, namely the German-Turkish dramas Head-on (2004, original title Gegen die Wand) and The Edge of Heaven (2007, whose title in German, Auf der anderen Seite, means literally On the Other Sides).[6] The third movie, The Cut (2014), which will not be subject of my analysis in this paper, deals with the life and experiences of a young Armenian in the light of the Armenian Genocide as well as some of the latter’s repercussions in different parts of the world.


The plot of The Edge of Heaven is not entirely based on a precise character but it is rather divided into three different chapters with six different characters whose life paths cross throughout the movie and who become linked to one another. It is particularly interesting how its non-linear narrative structure highlights the mobility of the characters. Their complex identity is enriched by their lives criss-crossing. Cultural encounters stem from these intersections of lives, as Barbara Mennel explains in her analysis of The Edge of Heaven.[7] Akin’s idea to blend the Turkish-German relationship through the consistent interaction of the six characters is what characterizes the film and will be the object of my analysis in this paper.

The plot of Head-on deals with the story of Cahit Tomruk, a Turkish immigrant to Germany in his 40s who has given up on life and seeks solace in drugs and alcohol. He eventually meets Sibel Güner, a Turkish German who apparently does not feel Turkish at all and who asks Cahit to carry out a civil marriage with her so that she can escape from the strict rules of her conservative Turkish family.

Similarly to The Edge of Heaven, Akin’s astute technique of erasing cultural and identity matters through human encounters is featured in the film, which ends with Cahit on a bus, travelling to Mersin, the city where he was born.[8]


Music and Traditions as Memories building Identities


Analysing The Edge of Heaven it becomes apparent that there are a series of different methods that Akin employs to underline the attachment of immigrants such as Ali, Yeter and in a certain way Nejat to the Turkish motherland. In fact, the German Turkish film director consistently inserts throughout the movie a series of meaningful traditional elements and experiences, which enable the characters to (re-) discover their origins thanks to ethnic-group-related history and memory, which act as a bond between the ‘eternal present’[9] and traditions. For instance, when Ali first meets Yeter in the brothel, the radio is playing Turkish music and as Ali hears the traditional song Son Hatira by Neşe Karaböcek[10] he immediately asks Yeter: ‘Are you Turkish?’.[11] He suddenly stops talking German with her and instead switches to speaking Turkish. As Ana Sobral observes ‘in oral culture, singing is one of the leading forms of preserving and transmitting information about a community’s collective past.[12] Therefore, music and especially traditional songs function as ‘memory engine’[13] becoming a medium for individuals to identify with a specific community. Music plays an important role in Nejat’s itinerary in search for his identity. In fact, Nejat while travelling to Trabzon decides to stop at a small shop where the song Ben Seni Sevduğumi by Kazım Koyuncu[14] is playing. Nejat, having lived in Germany for his entire life, has never heard about the popular Turkish singer and questions the shop assistant who answers quite surprised ‘Don’t you know him? His music is very popular here on the Black Sea Coast’.[15] This scene underlines the fact that even though Nejat is of Turkish descent and speaks Turkish fluently, his knowledge of Turkish traditions lacks of details and he cannot fully identify himself in a Turkish community as his German side has taken over for many years. Even though it seems contradictory, Nejat’s separation from his origins leads him to a sense of willingness to return to his roots and contributes to forming his identity. This specific matter will be explained further on in this essay. Similarly, in Head-on, Fatih Akin includes a specific scene of a traditional Turkish engagement and consequently of a wedding ceremony celebrating the ‘commodity marriage’[16] between Cahit and Sibel. With regard to this matter Daniela Berghahn highlights that the consistent presence of folk music, popular songs as well as wedding ceremonies in Akin’s films contributes to reawaken the mechanism of remembering the traditions of people’s roots, bringing them into a new and different context. In her words:


[They] bring customs, traditions and the music from the Heimat to life in the context of the adopted culture and thus creates a sense of nostalgia and collective identity.[17]


With regard to this last point made by Berghahn it is interesting to focus on the nostalgic feeling that memory installs in immigrants when they try to establish a bond between their hosting home and their motherland.


Nostalgia: Memory and Displacement


Primarily, as Julia Creet explains, the sense of sadness is due to a general condition of memory amplified by physical dislocation that leads to a ‘melancholy of no return’[18] typical of the migratory experience. Particularly, this condition causes a sense of estrangement, sadness, loss of purpose in life and most significantly a veritable loss of identity. Therefore, as Zofia Rosińska underlines, memory plays a triple role when inserted in a context of migration. If on the one hand, as we have analysed in the previous passages, memory is identity-forming by maintaining the original identifications and it is community-forming by creating a bond among those recollecting together, on the other hand ‘the experiences of all the other elements of emigration are intensified by the final shared characteristic: an inability to return’[19] that instils a sense of melancholy in the emigrant. This aspect is well represented in Akin’s Head-on, where both Cahit and Sibel try to commit suicide as a result of their instability and of their circumstances. Cahit has lost hope after his wife died and, despite his efforts to integrate in the German society (e.g., he speaks the language fluently) and his casual sex encounters with a German woman, he is unable to forget his roots. He works with his best friend Seref who, too, is Turkish, as an evening cleaner in the cultural centre The Fabrik, and he frequents Turkish restaurants and clubs such as the Taksim Club. His consistent violent attitude and irritation, along with his willingness to die, manifest an incessant dissatisfaction due to a sense of estrangement and loss. This state of mind is clarified by Rosińska who affirms that ‘the emigrant […] struggles for survival amidst new customs, new people, new language’.[20]

Sibel’s attitude towards the new country is different from that of Cahit, even though elements of melancholy and nostalgia are present throughout the film. Her attitude of rebellion and rejection of traditions leads her to leave her conservative family and to consider Germany as a place where she could potentially express her identity more freely. As she states during a confrontation with Cahit:


I want to live, Cahit. I want to live, dance, fuck. Not only with one. Do you understand?[21]


In regard to this matter it is necessary to quote Rosińska’s statement that clarifies Sibel’s character and explains her choice:


We may decide to leave the country, group, or language with which we identify ourselves, in the hope that elsewhere it will be easier for us to realize our needs and desires that we consider as more important to our sense of identity than what we are leaving behind.[22]


At this point it is relevant to highlight that rebellion and rejection of the status quo may lead to an ‘endless soul-searching’[23], considering the impossibility to give up all the aspects of identity entirely. In fact, despite leaving behind her family and traditions, Sibel cooks for Cahit a typical Turkish dinner, which includes Raki, a popular alcoholic Turkish drink, and Gaze cheese. This scene is particularly meaningful as at this point Cahit’s memory of his Turkish heritage re-emerges and he affirms ‘after all it wasn’t a bad idea to marry you’.[24]

Therefore, it becomes clear that a sense of nostalgia has taken over and the memory of Sibel’s mother’s recipes is still impressed upon her mind. Consequently, the love for otherness expressed by Sibel, who aims to be someone else through distancing herself from her roots, creates a stronger bond between her identity and her origins instead, and intensifies her desire to return. Despite trying to detach herself completely from her traditions in a rebellious way, doing things her family would never permit such as clubbing, dating different men, having a piercing done on her navel, Sibel gradually discovers her Turkish side. In fact, during a dispute between Sibel and her lover Marc she affirms to be a ‘Turkish married woman’.[25] This statement underlines the fact that her being Turkish becomes now a source of pride rather than a limitation.

The subject of nostalgia is also well represented in The Edge of Heaven with a slightly different hint typical of illegal immigrants like Ayten. Her complete rejection towards her country’s traditions and social norms drives her to become a member of the political resistance in Turkey and subsequently she is politically persecuted. Therefore, she flees her country of origin due to the inability to realize her potential and ideals with the hope to express her values and beliefs elsewhere. Her experience in Germany as a political refugee seeking asylum is accompanied by a sense of estrangement and loss due mainly to the fact that her undocumented presence on German soil puts her in a position of exile, which is a ‘vacuum form of existence’[26], with no references, no criteria of definition, no models of identification. Therefore, in Makaremi’s terms, she ‘exists without having any official existence’.[27] Ayten’s feelings towards her unstable situation become clear when Susanne addresses her saying ‘I don’t want you to talk like that in my house. You can talk like that in your house’[28]. At this point Ayten’s sense of nostalgia is aggravated by the memory of her mother and in a moment of tragic sadness she realizes that the only way to feel home is to find her. Unfortunately she will be arrested, taken to the ‘waiting zone’[29] and finally deported to Turkey.

Similarly, Yeter experiences a moment of melancholy in remembering her daughter, who leaves in Istanbul, far from her. This memory arises as an epiphany while Yeter is eating a tomato in Nejat’s garden. He proposes to bring his father some tomatoes while he is in observation at the hospital and as soon as Yeter beats the tomato she starts crying and says ‘I miss my daughter’.[30]

In both circumstances the sense of displacement experienced by the two characters leads them to remember what they consider as their home: in this particular case being with their family members. Nonetheless, the impossibility to return and the inability to find them or see them arises the deep sense of nostalgia suggested by Rosińska.

It is worth lingering on the concept of home, which arises an intriguing debate concerning the feeling of liminality, being between two worlds, that the emigrants experience.


In Between two Worlds and the Heimat


          Despite Akin tends to reject the label of a ‘hyphenated-identity’[31] film director, his filmography clearly shows an inclination to what has been called ‘cinema of hybridity or accented cinema’.[32] In fact, the Turkish German producer mainly focuses on the migrants’ experience of living between two worlds with the consequent effect of challenging the definition of home. With regard to this matter the theme of Heimat[33] becomes particularly interesting. Despite it being a quintessential German concept, it can be easily adapted to Akin’s filmography while analysing the ‘double occupancy’[34] of the characters. The German film director Edgar Reitz defined Heimat as a nostalgic memory, ‘something lost or very far away, something which one cannot easily find or find again’[35] that accentuates the feeling of being in-between and is particularly present in Akin’s production.

Focusing on The Edge of Heaven we can take Nejat as a perfect example of living between the German and the Turkish culture, as represented several times throughout the movie. For instance, Nejat’s choice to buy a German bookshop in Turkey is a clear result of his dual identity that cannot be separated. In fact, the owner of the bookshop does not hesitate to express his surprise, stating: ‘A Turkish professor of German from Germany ends up in a German bookshop in Turkey’.[36] Moreover, the song playing in the bookshop strengthens the meaning of this scene. In fact, as Silvery notes ‘the music of Bach is heard in a banjo arrangement that styles the composer as a German contributor to the world’.[37] Therefore, Akin’s soundtrack choice creates a fusion between the German composer and the traditional Turkish music, underlining the hybridity not only of the character but also of the film’s own director.

It is also worth mentioning the scene where Nejat explains to Susanne the meaning of Bayram, a three-day feast of sacrifice celebrated in Muslim countries. He tells her the story of Ishmael, whose father Abraham was prepared to sacrifice in obedience to God. Susanne responds that the story exists in her culture, too. Through this enlightening and meaningful scene Akin cleverly intensifies the feeling of hybridity, inserting it in the wider context of religion, with the result of blurring the boundaries between Germany and Turkey. As Silvery and Hillman interestingly note:


Akin’s film comments on and inverts traditions of the representation of Turkish-German relationship, repositioning Turks and Turkish-Germans as constitutive of German culture and vice versa.[38]


Accordingly, Sundholm comments on the same scene and suggests Akin’s intention to create an affinity between two different cultures on a transnational level starting from the ambivalence:


[Akin shows] how translocal people find a momentary place and identity and, therefore, a memory practice by relating to each other.[39]


Akin during an interview with DW World in 2004 explains that he also feels in between and that immigrants are in a way dropping their traditions, yet they keep and integrate them in a new society. In fact, he affirms:


The answer is somewhere in between. Me personally, I stand in opposition of tradition, but I am also loyal to tradition. I don’t say everything is wrong. I don’t believe in that. I would like to keep a lot of stuff from the Turkish heritage, some things I would not like to keep because I don’t accept them. I was born in Germany, went to German school.[40]


Through this statement Akin appears to be well aware of the situation of hybridity an immigrant experiences and he stresses that he would like to keep both cultures together by somehow finding a harmony between them. Therefore, he suggests that there might be a way of finding a compromise to their hybrid (co-) existence. The implicitly suggested path would be that of accepting the new society, while integrating in it traditional elements that belong to the country of origin, and so creating a transcultural bridge between the two realities. It becomes apparent that this last concept is a key point that allows the public to interpret the essence of Akin’s production; in fact, as the director of RUITS[41] Guido Rings notes, Akin in his films displays ‘transcultural tendencies’.[42]

This particular quality of the Turkish German film director produces characters in his movies, who are what the Indian Professor of English and American Literature Homi Bhabha called ‘vernacular cosmopolitans’. In the latter’s words:


People are vernacular cosmopolitans of a kind, moving in between cultural traditions, and revealing hybrid forms of life and art that do not have a prior existence within the discrete world of any single culture or language.[43]


Focusing on the last part of this statement it is particularly interesting to note how language is considered a very important facet of the characters’ condition of double occupancy, in particular considering the geographically-localised origin of a given language at the same time as the mobility of the characters. As Olivera and Pinto suggest in their essay, language is a constitutive activity that is subject to continuous changes within a determined time and ‘social-historical-cultural background’.[44] Therefore, it becomes clear that language is not simply an instrument of communication but it is understood as a medium of identification within a specific socio-cultural context. For instance, Nejat, Ali and Yeter often speak a mix of Turkish and German, switching between the two languages according to the context and the situation. In Ali’s case his strong Turkish accent underlines his inability to fully integrate with the German society as well as his belonging to the Turkish wave of Gastarbeiter that moved to Germany in the late 60s.

Similarly, in Head-on Akin employs a mixture of Turkish and German spoken by the characters, but this time highlighting Cahit’s German accent when he speaks Turkish. In fact, during the engagement ceremony that sees Cahit asking Sibel to marry him, her brother states ‘Your Turkish is rubbish’.[45]

Nonetheless, Cahit seems minimally interested in the quality of his Turkish and answers bitterly ‘Well, I don’t care’.[46]

This scene is particularly meaningful because on the one hand it underlines how Cahit’s roots have been clearly influenced by the new culture he is living in on a daily basis. On the other hand it shows his willingness of giving up all the aspects of his Turkish identity even though it is impossible, as the Turkish language still remains part of his heritage and will never be completely forgotten. On the contrary, as Bhabha explains, his traditions in a certain way complete his German side and contribute to create the hybridity typical of the so-called vernacular cosmopolitans. In this specific case the two languages at first sight play antagonist roles and one tries to dominate the other. Cahit struggles with his Turkish, superseded by his more fluent German, but at the same time both languages coexist in Cahit’s mind, as he did not completely forget how to speak Turkish. Therefore, it becomes clear that the transnational clash experienced by Cahit positions him between the two realities.

As Naficy argues, films by exiled movie directors in the diaspora are characterized by an accent that refers to the ‘displacement of filmmakers and their artisanal production modes’.[47] Accent in Akin’s filmography is not the specific characteristic of a figure but is rather related to the mobility of the characters and results from their being in-between, highlighting movement in geographical coordinates. In fact, accented films are often bi- or multilingual with the result of reflecting the ‘double consciousness’[48] of their characters.

Consequently, it is particularly interesting to analyse Sibel’s behaviour while being in Istanbul. It becomes apparent that despite her being of Turkish origin, she is not aware of the customs and traditions of Turkish people living in the city. In fact, very late in the evening she decides to stop at a Turkish fast food restaurant to eat and sits on a table with two unknown men. As soon as she sits and starts eating one of them irritated affirms ‘You’re not from here, are you?’[49] Clearly, he was expressing his surprise in seeing a girl wondering alone late at night and sitting next to two male figures she is not familiar with. Unaware of the dangerous situation and the trouble she is putting herself in, she goes on asking where she could find a drug dealer. At this point the men visibly bothered whisper ‘You are completely crazy’[50] and force her to leave the restaurant.

The unfamiliarity towards Turkish traditions that Sibel is dealing with while living in Istanbul along with her incapability of staying in Germany, due mainly to the fact that she is unable to give up her being Turkish, challenges the concept of home. Similarly, the in-betweenness that Akin’s characters experience throughout the movies calls into question the effective feeling of being at home both in The Edge of Heaven and Head-on.

Analysing the end of the two films we can see that all the characters return to Turkey, where their roots are. Nejat leaves his occupation as a German professor and settles in Istanbul for an undefined period; Ali, once released from prison in Germany, is deported to Turkey and goes back home to the Black Sea Coast. Yeter’s coffin is also sent back to Turkey and buried by her family following the Muslim ritual. In Head-on Sibel flees Germany after Cahit is imprisoned charged with murder. Once released he will decide to go back to Mersin, the city where he was born.

Getting back to the German concept of Heimat as nostalgic memory, in Kaes words ‘the site of one’s lost childhood, of family, of identity’,[51] we could consider Akin’s characters’ choice as a journey, hoping to attain a sense of selfhood and identity. Akin during an interview expresses his personal point of view about the return back to the homeland featured in Head-on stating:


[Cahit] is trying to find himself. [Sibel] is trying to find herself. And the moment when the film stops, it is just the moment, where the film stops. We don’t know what happens next. […] He goes back to his roots, to the place where his parents come from, where he was born.[52]


Yet, the hybridity of the characters and their double occupancy complicates the view of home and poses some more questions, especially considering that both Cahit and Sibel are German nationals. As Akin affirms:


The tricky thing about all the stuff is that the personal home is Germany. She was born in Germany. He grew up in Germany. He is so German that he does not almost speak Turkish anymore. He does not look even Turkish anymore. They go somehow to a foreign country, or to a new country. Not to their home.[53]


It is clear that Akin’s characters are looking for ‘something experienced in the past or in [their] childhood that has been irretrievably lost’.[54] In fact, Akin comments on the impact the Turkish landscape and people left on him and how this contributed to raising lost memories of his childhood:


When I went to Turkey— […] in search of my grandfather—I saw some faces of kids and I saw my own face in them. I saw some behaviors and I saw my own behaviors in them, but I’m not living there. I live so far away. I won’t move there or stay there, but it’s enough to find these similarities.[55]


Akin compares his experience to Nejat’s soul-searching journey featured in the last scene of The Edge of Heaven, where he is travelling to the Black Sea Coast to find his father. The director underlines the very deep meaning of his character’s return back to Turkey, emphasizing once again the theme of the hunt for a personal and cultural identity:


Same with Nejat; he goes to find it. It’s where he is coming from.[56]


Through the analysis of the Turkishgerman artist’s films it becomes apparent that, despite memories inserted in a context of migration on the one hand contribute to form a collective identity, on the other hand they have the contradictory function of separating individual identities. Therefore, memories contribute in creating awareness in the immigrant, who starts building an identity through an introspective journey of the self between memories and present. The end of The Edge of Heaven and Head-on in a certain way suggests that the soul-searching that immigrants experience in their lives, as mentioned by Rosińska, will probably never end. Quoting Akin’s words, ‘The quest still continues’.[57]








Berghahn, Daniela, ‘No place like home? Or impossible homecomings in the films of Fatih Akin’, New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, 3 (2006)


Bhabha, Homi ‘Looking back, moving forward: notes on vernacular cosmopolitanism’ in The Location of culture, (London: Routledge, 1994)


Biró, Yvette, Six Characters in Search of the Other: The Edge of Heaven, Rouge, 2008 <>


Creet, Julia, ‘Introduction: The Migration of Memory and Memories of Migration’ in Memory and Migration, ed. by Julia Creet and Andreas Kitzmann (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014)


Elsaesser, Thomas, ‘Double Occupancy and Small Adjustments’ in European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005)


Elsaesser, Thomas, ‘Ethical Calculus’, Filmcomment, (2008)                                           < >


Gungor, Mark, Commodity Marriages, (2013) <>


Head-On, dir. By Fatih Akin (Timebandits Films, 2004)


Kaes, Anton, From Hitler to Heimat: The return of History As Film (London: Harvard University Press, 1989)


Laacher, Smaïn, Après Sangatte, … nouvelles immigrations, nouveaux enjeux (Paris: La Dispute, 2002)


Makaremi, Chowra, ‘The Waiting Zone’ in Memory and Migration ed. By Julia Creet and Andreas Kitzmann (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014)


Mennel, Barbara, Criss-Crossing in Global Space and Time: Fatih Akın’s The Edge of Heaven, TRANSIT, 11 (2009)


Nora, Pierre, ‘Between memory and history: Les Lieux de mémoire’, Representations, 26 (1989)


Oliveira, M. and Pinto, R., ‘On the Relation between Memory and Language from a Cultural-Historical Perspective in Neurolinguistics’, Southern Semiotic Review, 2014 <>


Rings, Guido, ‘Blurring or Shifting Boundaries? Concepts of cultures in Turkish-German Migrant Cinema’, GFL, 1 (2008)


Rosińska, Zofia, ‘The melancholy of no return’ in Memory and Migration, ed. By Julia Creet and Andreas Kitzmann (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014)


Silvery, V. & Hillman, R., ‘Akin’s Auf der anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven) and widening periphery’, GFL, 3 (2010)


Sobral, Ana, Fragments of Reminiscence: Popular Music as a Carrier of Global Memory in ‘Memory in a Global Age’, ed. by A. Assmann (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies, 2010)


Sundholm, John, ‘Visions of transnational memory’, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, 3 (2011)


Tehrani, Bijan, ‘An Interview with Fatih Akin, director of “The Edge of Heaven”’, Cinema Without Borders, 2008 < >


The Edge of Heaven, dir. By Fatih Akin (Corazón International, 2007)


Volodina, Eleonora ‘Interview with Fatih Akin’, DW World, 2004 < >


Werbner, Pnina, ‘Understanding Vernacular Cosmopolitanism’, Anthropology News, 47 (2006)


Zuberi, Nabeel, Sounds, English: transnational Popular music (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001)





[1]Italianamerican is a documentary directed by Martin Scorsese in 1974 featuring his parents. The Scorseses talk about their experiences as Italian immigrants in the United States while having dinner at home.

[2]Homi Bhabha, ‘Looking back, moving forward: notes on vernacular cosmopolitanism’ in The Location of culture, (London: Routledge, 1994), p. XIII.

[3]Pnina Werbner, ‘Understanding Vernacular Cosmopolitanism’, Anthropology News, 47 (2006), p.7.

[4]Ana Sobral, Fragments of Reminiscence: Popular Music as a Carrier of Global Memory in ‘Memory in a Global Age’, ed. by A. Assmann (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies, 2010), p.201.

[5] Ibid. p. 201.

[6]Yvette Bíró analyses the meaning of the German title in Six Characters in Search of the Other. She explains that Akin’s astute work gives voice to many other sides, that is, to truly different and yet inevitably intertwined courses of life. I am particularly interested in the sense of otherness that develops in the single individual, as suggested by the title. The existing dichotomy provokes in the movie’s characters the feeling of being between two sides or two Worlds.

[7]Barbara Mennel, Criss-Crossing in Global Space and Time: Fatih Akın’s The Edge of Heaven, TRANSIT, 11 (2009), pp. 3-4.

[8]The final part of The Edge of Heaven shows Nejat sitting on the beach waiting for his father to come back from fishing, in the Black Sea coast, his place of birth. I am particularly interested in the evoked matter of going back to the roots, which will be discussed in the final part of my essay.

[9]Pierre Nora, ‘Between memory and history: Les Lieux de mémoire’, Representations, 26 (1989), p.8

[10]Neşe Karaböcek was born 1 April 1947 in Istanbul and is considered one of the main artists of Turkish Arabesque music of the 90s, a fusion of traditional Turkish and world music influences such as Balkan, Middle Eastern and Ottoman forms of music. She is also known for having starred in a great number of Turkish films. Her first release Artık Sevmeyeceğim won multiple gold and platinum certifications.

[11]The Edge of Heaven, dir. By Fatih Akin (Corazón International, 2007).

[12] Ana Sobral, p.203.

[13]Nabeel Zuberi, Sounds, English: transnational Popular music (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001), p 5.

[14]Kazım Koyuncu, who was born in a village of the eastern Turkish Black Sea Coast, is a well-known songwriter and singer. He recorded songs in a number of languages spoken along the north-east Black Sea coast of Turkey, as well as the language of Laz, an ethnic group native to the Black Sea Coast.

[15]The Edge of Heaven.

[16]Mark Gungor, Commodity Marriages, (2013) <> [accessed 10 April 2017].

[17]Daniela Berghahn, ‘No place like home? Or impossible homecomings in the films of Fatih Akin’, New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, 3 (2006), p.147.

[18]Julia Creet, ‘Introduction: The Migration of Memory and Memories of Migration’ in Memory and Migration, ed. by Julia Creet and Andreas Kitzmann (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), p.11.

[19] Zofia Rosińska, ‘The melancholy of no return’ in Memory and Migration, ed. By Julia Creet and Andreas Kitzmann (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), p.39.

[20]Ibid., p.30.

[21]Head-On, dir. By Fatih Akin (Timebandits Films, 2004).

[22]Zofia Rosińska, p.33.

[23]Ibid., p. 34.



[26]Smaïn Laacher, Après Sangatte, … nouvelles immigrations, nouveaux enjeux (Paris: La Dispute, 2002), p.86.

[27]Chowra Makaremi, ‘The Waiting Zone’ in Memory and Migration ed. By Julia Creet and Andreas Kitzmann (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), p.75.

[28]The Edge of Heaven.

[29]Chowra Makaremi in her essay The Waiting Zone describes it as a zone of detention, where undocumented aliens are held from a few hours to several weeks while they await decision on their entry to a given territory or recognition of their refugee status.

[30]The Edge of Heaven.

[31]Thomas Elsaesser reported in his article Ethical Calculus that Akin categorically refused the hyphenated identity label and at the time of his first success, Short Sharp Shock he affirmed: “If I can’t be Fatih Akin, I’d prefer to be known as the German Martin Scorsese.”

[32] Daniela Berghahn, p.142.

[33]Heimat is a German concept for that people are bound to their Heimat by their birth and their childhood, their language, their earliest experiences or acquired affinity. Heimat is a trinity of ancestry, community and tradition that highly affects a person’s identity.

[34]Thomas Elsaesser, ‘Double Occupancy and Small Adjustments’ in European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005), p.108.

[35]Anton Kaes, From Hitler to Heimat: The return of History As Film (London: Harvard University Press, 1989), p.163.

[36]The Edge of Heaven.

[37]V. Silvery & R. Hillman, ‘Akin’s Auf der anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven) and widening periphery’, GFL, 3 (2010), p.103.


[39]John Sundholm, ‘Visions of transnational memory’, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, 3 (2011), p.3.

[40]Eleonora Volodina, ‘Interview with Fatih Akin’, DW World, 2004 < > [accessed 19 March 2017].

[41] Research Unit for Intercultural and Transcultural Studies. The Unit explores the dynamics of language and identity, culture and identity, group mentalities and communication patterns, aiming to facilitate the international communication.

[42]Guido Rings, ‘Blurring or Shifting Boundaries? Concepts of cultures in Turkish-German Migrant Cinema’, GFL, 1 (2008), p.32.

[43]Homi Bhabha, p. XIII.

[44]M. Oliveira, R. Pinto ‘On the Relation between Memory and Language from a Cultural-Historical Perspective in Neurologistics’, Southern Semiotic Review, 2014 <> [accessed 1 April 2017].



[47]Hamid Naficy, An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), p.4.

[48]Ibid., p.22.



[51]Anton Kaes, p.165.

[52]Eleonora Volodina, ‘Interview with Fatih Akin’, DW World, 2004 < > [accessed 19 March 2017].


[54]Daniela Berghahn, p.148.

[55]Bijan, Tehrani ‘An Interview with Fatih Akin, director of “The Edge of Heaven”’, Cinema Without Borders, 2008 < > [accessed 20 March 2017].


[57]Eleonora Volodina, ‘Interview with Fatih Akin’, DW World, 2004 < > [accessed 19 March 2017].


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