PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

Kebab Connection (2005)

Shaun Huston

Kebab Connection takes a refreshingly low-key approach to the questions of difference, and underlying issues of prejudice and discrimination, that drive its narrative.


Kebab Connection

Display Artist: Sinan Akus / Anno Saul
Director: Anno Saul
Cast: Emmanuel Bettencourt, Numan Acar, Nora Tschirner, Hasan Ali Mete, Kida Ramadan, Denis Moschitto
Studio: Valuefilms Licensing
Distributor: Lifesize Entertainment
MPAA rating: Unrated
First date: 2005
US DVD Release Date: 2006-12-05

Kebab Connection is a bright, funny, if conventional ethnic romantic comedy co-written by Fatih Akin (Head On, 2004, and Crossing the Bridge, 2005), and four collaborators, including director Anno Saul. Centering on the life of aspiring film maker and German-born Turk Ibrahim, “Ibo”, (Denis Moschitto), Kebab Connection weaves observations about immigrant life in Germany, youth culture, and globalization into a familiar narrative about love and responsibility and the differences between generations and cultures. Little in the film is likely to surprise, but its good nature, winning cast, and fundamentally positive outlook on the ability of people to be decent to each other makes it enjoyable and satisfying to watch.

Kebab Connection begins with a voice over, in German, of two men attempting to order doner, a Turkish meat and flatbread sandwich. The film cuts from black to an overhead shot of the sandwich and a woman’s voice informing the two men that there is only one doner left. The camera pulls back to reveal the counter on which the sandwich rests, and two men squaring off, clearly with the intent to fight over it.

In medium close-up, one man appears to be of African descent, and the other of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean background. The film cuts to close-ups of their hands as they draw swords (while a customer in a back booth considers ducking out). What ensues is a two minute, 30-second version of just about every wire fu movie you can think of, including a scene of flying “leaves”, (napkins in this case), and the decapitation of one of the combatants. By the end it of its running time the audience learns that this little drama is actually an ad for Ibo’s Onkel Ahmet’s (Hasan Ali Mete) restaurant, “King of Kebab”, and Ibo is its auteur. The ad serves as an introduction to Ibo’s polyglot world: one where German-born Turks become obsessed with Hong Kong cinema, where Turks and Greeks play out ancient rivalries in fluent German, and aspiring actresses rehearse Romeo and Juliet for a school audition.

After scene setting, Ibo’s German girlfriend, Patricia, “Titzi” (Nora Tschirner) begins the main narrative by announcing that she’s pregnant. This news gives rise to both drama and comedy. Ibo is tossed out of the family home for getting a German girl pregnant. Titzi holds Ibo at arm’s length, worried that he is not up for this responsibility. This idea partly comes from her mother (Marion Martienzen), who, upon hearing that it is Ibo’s baby, asks, “Ever seen a Turkish guy with a baby carriage?” Much of the comedy comes from Ibo’s superficial attempts at proving his worth: pushing a stroller in public, changing a diaper, attending a Lamaze class.

The film takes a refreshingly low-key approach to the questions of difference, and underlying issues of prejudice and discrimination that drive its narrative. Ibo’s family, and particularly his father, Mehmet (Güven Kiraç) end up “adopting” Titzi, even as they continue to keep their distance from Ibo. Titzi’s doubts about Ibo are clearly more related to Ibo as an individual, and his particular readiness for fatherhood, than his Turkish-ness, which is not terribly pronounced. Tangential stories, particularly those involving familial relations, also display a similar tendency to see individuals rather than groups.

While eschewing deterministic views of identity, Kebab Connection does represent its younger generation as being generally unconcerned with the boundaries of ethnicity. Ibo, with his fixations on Hong Kong action cinema and the martial arts -- to the point of being guided in a dream by Bruce Lee, and not Mohammed, Allah, or Kemal Atatürk -- personifies a circle of young Germans who seemingly construct their identities more through the things and images of global pop culture than through their family lineages or tribal-esque blood ties. This is not to suggest that Ibo's friends reject their ethnic heritages, but that they do not appear to be particularly moved to either assert or reject those aspects of themselves. Indeed, despite the Romeo and Juliet allusions, Ibo and Titzi never seem all that star-crossed as lovers. Doubts about Ibo's ability to commit and to share needs and dreams with Titzi and a new baby are what keep the couple apart far more than their different ethnic backgrounds.

An argument can be made that the film soft pedals anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany, particularly that directed against Turks. However, Kebab Connection is at heart a romance, and the openness of the younger generation and the fundamental decency of their elders are necessary to make the eventual, and inevitable, reconciliations credible. If the film has any notable flaw, it is that it weights itself down with too many complications. The rivalry between “King of Kebab” and the Greek taverna across the street seems to exist almost solely to provide the final block, and lowest point, in the road that Ibo travels towards getting his act together. Another subplot involving a trio of mobsters is even less consequential. It's possible that one or both of these storylines could have been more tightly integrated into the main narrative, but I would have preferred more time with Ibo and Titzi's friends and families and fewer extraneous hijinks.

The pleasant predictability of Kebab Connection is a reminder that conventionality is not always a curse. Certain kinds of stories get told over and over again because they express optimistic sentiments that are likely to appeal to a wide audience. The pleasure here lies not in shock or surprise, but in seeing just how the expected end is brought about. Kebab Connection's appealing ensemble and willingness to downplay its central tensions in favor of showing its characters, particularly its leads, as real people and not as stereotypes personified, delivers its conclusion in fine fashion.

Most importantly for a romantic comedy, the movie persuades you to root for Ibo and Titzi, knowing that their being together is better than their being apart. As a matter of philosophy, in a world riven by divisions, where identifications with religion and ethnicity are literally seen as life-and-death matters, there are far worse messages than Kebab Connection's humanistic one that love and decency can overcome barriers between people.

* * *

The Kebab Connection DVD has German dialogue with English subtitles. There are no additional features.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.