(Madhurilata teaches Political Science at Gurudas College and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Director: Yilmaz Arslan
Cast: Erdal Celik, Nurretin Celik, Xevat Gectan
Running time: 90 mins
‘As moths drawn to the light, many took the road to the Promised Land’, hoping that, ‘at the end of the tunnel, shines the light of money…’
The movie Fratricide (Brudermode; Germany: 2005), tries to capture the aspirations of migrants in Europe, in this case an unnamed German city, their struggles at various levels— to have a life, to live with dignity and be accepted as well as the struggles of competing with other migrants for assimilation. Yilmaz Arslan's Fratricide, traces the journey of a young Kurdish shepherd boy, Azad (Erdal Celik), to Germany, with the help of his elder brother’s (Semo, Nurretin Celik) money, in order to support their struggling family.
When Azad is all set to leave in a truck full of teenage boys or young men from nearby villages, all suited up, Azad’s father picks up some soil and puts it in his shabby coat pocket. At that moment, the words of a fellow passenger that in a new land one might lose a brother to find another, might seem to be harsh, based on the timing, but as the film unfolds, it would seem that harsh is another name for the reality in Azad’s life. On arrival in Germany, Azad stays in some kind of a refugee shelter. He comes to know that Semo has become a pimp and he, unlike his brother, sets off to earn his living by shaving beards and trimming the nose hair of the customers from a neighbourhood hangout. It is at the shelter that Azad meets Ibo (Xewat Gectan), an orphaned Kurdish boy and forges a friendship and brotherly attachment towards him.
Azad doesn’t like the person Semo has turned into and maintains distance. At work, Ibo holds the mirror for him and Azad does a fair job at shaving beards. Plugging his nostrils to ward off bad smell from his customers, do tell us about his clientele. The urge to be accepted often clashes with his commitment towards the struggle for a free Kurdistan. Azad buying present for a girl he likes for Easter, participating in gatherings by fellow Kurds to pledge their commitment for a free Kurdistan, his attachment to Ibo, his relation with Semo leaves him torn and confused. After all, the journey had turned him into a new man and he doesn’t quite realise that he had left much of himself behind. That is perhaps true for all the refugees or migrants who have embarked on an unending journey, the distant destination being a ‘better life’.
Arslan’s choice to cast amateurs renders the film a raw touch to it and the use of grim colours makes it depressing at times. The movie subtly questions the role of host countries and forces us to take refugees or migrants not as a homogenous category but as categories with competing interests. The latter reality strikes us when along with his elder brother and Ibo, Azad crosses violent paths with two assimilated Turkish brothers Ahmet and Zeki. They are the relatively ‘richer lot’ and Azad and Ibo, the new ‘others’ in town, face harassment from the Turkish street thugs, who have tattoos, listen to hip-hop, have access to weapons and who would any day pass as gangsters in any western movie. Tensions exacerbate when one of the Turks gets killed accidentally. Survival in an alien land becomes more important for Azad and Ibo, promises made back home, their identities, all fade away.
At the end, one cannot help but remember the words uttered in one of the earlier scenes of the film:
‘When they take everything from you, when you have nothing left except memory…then is the time to be reborn'.
* A note on the subtitles, while the character is named Azad, curiously, the subtitles refer to him as Asad.