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Culture

Berlin Film Festival Winner Hits Theaters

"Head-On," the much talked-about German film which won the Berlin film festival's highest award, opens in theaters in Germany on Thursday. The movie gained notoriety when its female star's porn past came to light.

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Kiss my troubles away -- Sibel Kekilli with Birol Ünel in "Head-On."

"Head-On" by director Fatih Akin has seen some turbulent times in the weeks before its official release.

It was first hailed by the media for putting German film back on the map when it won the coveted Golden Bear at last month's Berlinale, being the first German film to take top honors there in 18 years. Barely a week later, the mass-circulation tabloid Bild revealed that the film's female star, 23-year-old Sibel Kekilli, had made pornographic films in the past.

Critics might argue that either way the film has benefited from the wave of publicity, but now German viewers will get the chance to cut through the sensationalism and make up their own minds about "Head-On" when it opens across Germany on Thursday.

Sex, drugs and violence

The story tells of the painful emancipation of a young German-Turkish woman played by Kekilli, who lands in a psychiatric clinic after a suicide attempt. There she meets a Turkish-German alcoholic punk Cahit, played by Birol Ünel (photo, right), who is twice her age.

Sibel Kekilli und Birol Uenel

Turkish-born actors Sibel Kekilli, left, and Birol Ünel

Anxious to escape the clutches of her conservative family, Sibel convinces Cahit to enter into a marriage of convenience with her. Their wedding marks the beginning of a life of freedom for Sibel, who's eager to try out parties, drugs and lots of sex.

As Sibel and Cahit live it up and indulge in separate sexual affairs, the two eventually fall in love. The love story ends, however, when Cahit kills one of Sibel's lovers in a jealous rage.

Controversy among the Turks

Fatih Akin mit dem Goldenen Bären, Berlinale 2004

Fatih Akin, German director of Turkish origin

Hamburg-based director Akin (photo), 31, is the son of Turkish immigrants. He is aware that the German-Turkish love story is bound to spark controversy among the more conservative members of Germany's 2.5-million-strong Turkish community.

Even before the film has been released to the wider public, the director has been accused of exploiting the problems facing Turkish women in Germany in his film.

"There's already a discussion on the Internet calling for a boycott of the film," Akin said in an interview with Deutsche Welle.

But the director, whose has in the past explored the issue of young Turks in Germany straddling two cultures, says the release of the film will straighten out things. He has won critical acclaim for his previous films, "Short Sharp Shock", "Solino" and "In July." "Those who've seen the film, whether it's been poor people or rich, whether conservatives or left-leaning people, women or men -- all were pretty convinced so far," Akin said. "Let's see what happens when the film hits the theaters."

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