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Fatih Akin's emotional cinema appeals to Hollywood

Jochen Kürten
January 8, 2018

By winning a Golden Globe, Fatih Akin has finally obtained Hollywood's recognition. The German-Turkish director of "In The Fade" fully deserves the award, says DW's film expert Jochen Kürten.

Fatih Akin Regisseur
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Kneffel

Whereas several thousand members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science decide on who wins the Oscars, only roughly 100 film critics of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have a say in the Golden Globes. These 100 Hollywood-accredited film journalists are true experts.

The fact that German-Turkish film director Fatih Akin was now chosen as the winner in the category best foreign language film was on the one hand a surprise, and a decision that could have been expected on the other hand.

Competing with 'The Square'

It's a surprise in the sense that Akin managed to win over a film that picked up many prestigious awards this year: "The Square" by Swedish director Ruben Östlund obtained the Palme d'Or in Cannes and the European Film Award in December.

Akin's film "In the Fade" was largely overlooked at the Cannes Film Festival where it celebrated its world premiere last May. Its "only" award went to main actress Diane Kruger.

Along with "The Square," the five nominated films in the Golden Globe category best foreign language film also included Angelina Jolie's Cambodian film "First They Killed My Father," the impressive transgender story "A Fantastic Woman" by Chilean director Sebastián Lelio, as well as "Loveless" by renowned Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev. All these films already have won major awards at important international film festivals in Berlin, Cannes and Venice.

Read more: 'The Square' wins top prizes at European Film Awards

Speaking Hollywood's emotional language

So Fatih's win does come as a surprise. However, there is an aspect of his work that has added to its chances. Among the nominees, "In the Fade" is perhaps the film that has the strongest emotional impact. Whereas many film critics praised "The Square," and "Loveless" for their artistic achievements, the journalists of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association decided to recognize the emotional depth of "In The Fade."

Jochen Kürten
DW's Jochen Kürten

Hollywood is the melting pot of American cinema. Nowhere else — apart perhaps from Bollywood — do emotions play such an outstanding role in movies, both on screen and during the production of a film. Hollywood aims to move people and to create emotions. And that's where Fatih Akin's "In the Fade" perfectly fits in.

There's hardly any other German director who is capable of expressing so much emotion in his films. That can also be said of Akin's first big success, "Head-On," released 13 years ago. In his best works, Fatih Akin manages to reach viewers in their innermost feelings, leaving them unable to distance themselves from the story.

That also holds true for "In The Fade" which, thanks to the performance of Diane Kruger,  tells of the suffering of the protagonist in an incredibly breathtaking way.

Read more: Germany's Golden Globe winner: Fatih Akin

Dealing with far-right terrorism

The film's last part, in which Akin turns his protagonists into an avenging angel, is not as strong as the rest of the film. The plot becomes a bit confusing and loses some of its credibility. This was criticized in some reviews in Germany. "In The Fade" is not a flawless masterpiece, but the Golden Globe film critics decided to overlook its weak points in favor of its strengths.

They were fascinated by a story that, after all, bears a lot of political weight.

Whereas "The Square" is all about the mechanisms of the art world, "In the Fade" grapples with a highly current issue, far-right hatred and terrorism, while being highly emotional and touching. And that's why Fatih Akin fully deserves his Golden Globe.