Nov 2013

Britta Kallin

Presenting Alterity in Angelina Maccarone’s Fremde Haut (2005) and Tatort: Wem Ehre gebürt (2007)

The spaces in contemporary German narratives that were assigned to minorities such as German Turks and Jews have changed over time and “a pivotal shift in the ‘configuration’ of cultural alterity” has taken place, according to Leslie Adelson (2005, 23).[1] The self-identity of the colonizing subject, the identity of imperial culture, is inextricably linked to the alterity of colonized others, an alterity determined, by the process of “othering.”[2] The literature that Adelson analyzes in her study is written by either first, second, or third generation migrants who live and work in Germany. Yet, she also mentions that the “literature of migration” as she calls it (in distinction to “intercultural literature,”) “is not necessarily written by migrants alone” (23). Therefore, the logical extension is that “native” German writers (as Tom Cheesman calls them) partially contribute to a literature of migration. Tom Cheesman calls Turkish German literature a “literature of settlement” which sprang from and accelerates the “cosmopolitanization” and the “globalization” of Germany. In his study, he discusses “‘native’ German or Austrian writers who have created Turkish protagonists” in order to offer a broad view of changing topics, themes, and spaces in literature for Germans and migrants alike (13).

Likewise, in his analysis of the movie Journey of a Lion (1992) by Fritz Baumann, Lutz Koepnick argues that a range of German moviemakers have vastly contributed to the discussions of the representation of the “foreign” in Germany. Koepnick contends that movies by directors such as Percy Adlon, Doris Dörrie, Harun Farocki, Werner Herzog, Ulrike Ottinger, Heiner Stadler and Wim Wenders “clearly seek to engage with geopolitical or neocolonial negotiations of alterity” (66). Yet, he also reminds us that when trying to evaluate the role of alterity, difference, and hybridity today, we must remember to account for the historically contingent institutions, traditions and power relationships that help to determine the vectors of political, economic, social, and cultural globalization (68). Other scholars, among them Arlene Teraoka, Paul Michael Lützeler, and Monika Shafi, to name but a few, have examined how German writers and artists create fictional characters from ‘Second and Third World’ countries while trying hard to avoid stereotypical depictions.[3]

While the main object of the analysis in this article does not display a Turkish or Jewish German, I would argue that the shift to which Adelson refers can also be seen in a film that depicts a non-Turkish Muslim “Other” in Germany. In her film Fremde Haut (Unveiled, 2005), the white, lesbian German filmmaker Angelina Maccarone speaks up for queer men and women who are persecuted around the world. Maccarone’s film is a plea for justice and civil rights of minority groups who cannot survive in cultures that suppress those that are ethnically, religiously, or sexually different. In Fremde Haut, Angelina Maccarone presents a visual narrative in which she presents an outsider who is more than a mere catalyst for a German national narrative. Maccarone examines an encounter between a heterosexual Germany and an Other whose sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, and cultural upbringing are different. She points to weaknesses in the German legal system when it comes to asylum seekers and the Iranian legal system when it comes to sexual orientation. In Fremde Haut, Maccarone displays the conflicts that arise when an Iranian lesbian is denied asylum in Germany. According to Islamic law in Iran, women and men who have same-sex relationships can be punished with 100 lashes at the first offense. On the third offense, they will be executed, sometimes stoned to death.[4] Fearing deportation, the protagonist Fariba Tabrizi cross-dresses as a male Iranian friend who was granted asylum in Germany but has committed suicide. This act of changing genders presents a collision of gender roles and expected sexual behavior. As Yentl (Barbara Streisand, 1983) and Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce, 1999) have shown, women who trespass into roles of men often encounter traumatic experiences once their disguise is uncovered. The movie director Maccarone shows how the main character crosses gender boundaries to survive in a world in which her sexual orientation is at stake. The story becomes a plea for changing asylum laws and a plea to change Iranian social laws. It is also a tale about gay sexual orientation, a delicate theme in Germany and a taboo theme in Iran. In Fremde Haut, the German small-town girl Anne falls in love with the illegal immigrant she believes to be a man.[5] Dana Stevens comments in her review of the movie that the protagonist “embarks on a lonely life in a strange country that is often just as intolerant as the land she has fled” (n.pag.). Maccarone shows in the film how both Iran’s and Germany’s customs and laws benefit the majority and put restrictions on minorities.

Autobiographical aspects of Fremde Haut include that Angelina Maccarone considers herself a “Gastarbeiterkind” who frequently had to explain her Italian, non-German last name because her parents immigrated to Germany in the 1960s and she has also had to explain her lesbian sexual orientation. In an interview with Simon Kingsley for the website, the director explains:

I like the themes of absurdity, the absurdity of norms, and of crossing borders, of overstepping the line. I cross them every day. Just to try things, learn new things, understand and confront the things I’m scared of. Even as a child I had to explain my name. Then I had to explain myself as a lesbian. Things always had to be explained. I think that is so absurd.[6] (n. pag.)

In an interview with Shauna Swartz, Maccarone describes why she chose Iran as the country of origin for the protagonist: “Iran is one of four countries in the world were homosexuality stands under death penalty” (n. pag.).[7]

The plot of Fremde Haut can be easily summarized: Fariba Tabrizi is a young, female, middle-class translator from Teheran who is fluent in Farsi, German, and English. She arrives in Germany by plane and seeks asylum based on political persecution and does not reveal the true reason to the German authorities that she was sentenced to death in Iran for being a lesbian and that she had to flee to Germany. Fariba is aware that German asylum laws do not recognize asylum seekers whose claim is persecution based on sexual orientation. Another Iranian asylum seeker, Siamak, learns that his brother was killed by the Iranian government as a retribution for Siamak’s role in a student organization that was critical of the Iranian government. Fariba takes on Siamak’s identity after he commits suicide while he was waiting to hear whether he was granted asylum. With this new identity as Siamak, Fariba can live in a refugee camp with a temporary permit to stay in Germany. She is not allowed to work, nor can she leave Siedlingen, a small town ten kilometers southeast of Stuttgart in Baden-Württemberg.

The Iranian heroine then manages to work illegally in a cabbage processing plant and falls in love with her co-worker Anne, who realizes very late that Fariba is a woman. Fariba tries to get a German passport illegally but lacks the money. She is informed that she will be sent back to Iran because the Iranian government no longer prohibits Siamak’s student organization. After telling Anne about her situation, Anne agrees to help Fariba get the money she needs by stealing a car. After their successful endeavor, they are physically intimate. Anne’s sexual identity is at stake while Fariba has reasserted hers. However, Anne’s ex-boyfriend Uwe and his male friend unexpectedly enter Anne’s house and find Fariba in her underwear. The men verbally and physically attack Fariba for having disguised herself as a man and for luring Anne away from the group of heterosexual friends. It becomes evident that the catalyst for their aggression is that their sense of a safe heterosexual, ethnically homogenous German identity is threatened by Fariba’s act of crossing into their “male territory” and by her act of cross-dressing. Anne’s 10-year old son calls the police after he hears fighting and on their arrival Fariba is arrested and finally deported to Iran. The last shot shows Fariba in the airplane changing her female gender identity back to that of the male Siamak in order to avoid reprisals from the Iranian government on her return. The movie shows how the gender bending is perceived as threatening for those who insist on traditional gender roles and who are against integration and cultural exchanges.

Maccarone depicts Fariba to be more knowledgeable about German culture and literature than the native German authorities. For example, an ignorant German policeman interrupts her conversation to ask if she knows a German Romantic author starting with “N” for a crossword puzzle. Fariba supplies him with the name Novalis but the German wonders if it is written with a “w” after which Fariba corrects him.[8] Another male German bureaucrat who interviews her asks if she has a notarized copy of her death sentence for the files. In this scene, Maccarone pokes fun at the bureaucratic Germans who do not comprehend that the persecuted asylum seekers usually cannot provide written proof of their persecution. The film represents an educated Iranian woman as more civilized and enlightened in comparison to her German co-workers at the cabbage plant and the German bureaucrats who have not acquired much knowledge about German literary history.[9]

Fariba’s transitional state of being is underscored with the imagery of the film that shows dozens of asylum seekers killing time being stuck in limbo: waiting, playing table tennis, smoking cigarettes, and kicking empty beer cans as if they were soccer balls. Their temporary shelter borders a Frankfurt airport runway and the view of the planes landing and taking off mirrors the feeling of the status of “in-between” worlds and homelands of the refugees and asylum seekers who experience homesickness and the desire to start a new life. Maccarone shows the German audience something they have heard about but not too many have seen the inside of an asylum shelter.

In “Against between: A Manifesto,” Leslie Adelson writes against the image of “in between” for cultural studies that concern themselves with migration literature. She asserts that the images of “border” or “bridge” on which Turks are suspended or stuck on the way to integration into German culture should be replaced with the image of a “house” or “threshold to the house” in which Turks and Germans meet and interact. Drawing on Yoko Tawada’s vision of breaking down cultural borders and finding a common space, Adelson employs the image of a “building” or “house.” Tawada does not see a border but a threshold for the newcomers, a transitional space. Adelson clarifies these changing spatial assumptions:

If spatial relations have figured prominently in many discussions of center and periphery, metropolis and margin, West and East, North and South, and Self and Other, the prevalence of border metaphors speaks to the need for a critical language that could explain how and why it is that individuals, groups, nations, and cultures seem to rub each other raw with the friction of difference. (248)

Using Adelson’s imagery as a backdrop, we could explain how Maccarone tries to come up with a critical cinematography, a language of the visual arts that could explain “the friction of difference.” The director highlights that sometimes there is no friction because difference is not seen as a threat but as a chance for positive change. The crossing of borders in Fremde Haut even features into the imagery of the house in which Fariba and Anne finally come together. The wide-open lonely scenes shot outside in the countryside where Fariba digs out the cabbage in the field contrast with the domestic scenes where Fariba and Anne are safe and free to exchange words and feelings.

In line with Adelson’s imagery, Deniz Göktürk has argued against the passive, silent victim role of Turks (in particular Turkish women) and other migrants in movies and literature from the 1980s and 1990s. Göktürk argues “for a moving beyond the whining rhetoric of being lost ‘between two cultures,’ commonly indulged in by politically engaged Germans as well as self-pitying Turks” (136). She is in favor of cultural representation that underscores “pleasures of hybridity by envisaging broader, less provincial horizons and embarking on mutual border traffic” (ibid.).[10]

Fremde Haut does not show many lengthy conversations, its narrative style is kept to a minimum of verbal exchanges but focuses more on the visual aspects of cinematic representation. What adds to the portrayal of the characters in the movie and makes them very convincing, are the conversations and voice-overs in Farsi, a language that not too many Germans have heard spoken in a movie. The German audience has to read the German subtitles to understand the dialogue. After Fariba changes her identity and buries Siamak’s body, she writes to Siamak’s parents because he had asked her for this favor before his death. She sends them money after she starts working illegally. The letters that Fariba sends to Siamak’s parents in which she pretends that Siamak is still alive mirror the narrative of the cinematic images. In her handwritten letter, she ironically describes Germany to the Iranian parents with exaggerated praise: “Deutschland ist schön” and “Die Deutschen sprechen leise und sie machen viel sauber.”  Fariba narrates these descriptions in her mother tongue, while German sub-titles translate the Farsi voice-over. The letters she writes to Siamak’s parents express her dreams of a welcoming atmosphere in Germany, the exact opposite of what she feels, and thus her descriptions subvert the positive images.

Neither Maccarone nor Fariba hold the Muslim faith in Fremde Haut responsible for the restrictions that Fariba faces back home. In an interview with Michelle Kort, Maccarone explicates her project: “We wanted to tell a story about someone who loses basically everything that makes a person a person: her work, where she lives, who her friends are, her family, her language, and her sexual identity” (n. pag.). Yet, Fariba has not lost her religious faith. Her religious background is highlighted when she prays at Siamak’s grave and when she takes off her shoes in a German church as if it were a Mosque. Fariba pays respect to her faith despite the fact that her home country’s laws deny her the right to live her lesbian identity openly. The German Iranian actress Jasmina Tabatabai who came to Germany in 1986 when she was twelve years old added to the film script and the lead role in order for Maccarone and Judith Kaufmann to develop a culturally sensitive tale that was written by two German women as a team. The director presents alterity as an essential part of a forward-looking, culturally diverse Germany.

By featuring ignorant, xenophobic rednecks like Uwe, Maccarone employs the stereotypical image of small-town Germans in the Swabian countryside as eating Sauerkraut, the stereotypical German food. The stereotype of a German, the Kraut, tries to evoke the image of the penultimate German. Here, the Germans are depicted in a clichéd manner while the outsider Fariba is drawn out more carefully, in a three-dimensional manner and not just in a simplistic, two-dimensional way. In a scene in which all employees of the plant sit around a large dinner table eating piles of the affordable sauerkraut, Anne’s German friends are represented as simple-minded and racist when they make fun of foreigners. Uwe and Sabine call Fariba names such as “Ayatollah” and “Salmiak” (ammonium chloride) or “Salmi” (licorice). They inquire about her life back in “Tajikistan,” and Uwe uses a towel and puts it around his head imitating turbans and Islamic head covers. This scene in which Uwe acts out “ethnic drag,” to borrow the term from Katrin Sieg, shows how this group of Germans is indifferent to the customs of foreigners and refugees, and Maccarone ridicules their ignorance. The movie also highlights the lack of communication and lack of understanding on Uwe’s side who is not interested in learning more about Siamak’s past and home country. In Fremde Haut, it is the foreigner who is represented as shy and who at first does not want to intrude into the circle of the German friends. When Fariba walks along the streets in Germany, for example, the camera takes in the graffiti and writing on the walls of houses, which read “Kanaken Raus,” representing xenophobic sentiments in Germany, an attitude with which Uwe fully identifies.

Before the climax of the plot, Anne and her friend Sabine talk about Fariba/Siamak and Sabine asks: “Was willst du denn mit dem? Das hat doch null Zukunft,” to which Anne replies: “Zukunft? Was ist denn mit jetzt?” and Sabine responds: „Jetzt ist der Typ ein Saisonarbeiter, dem mein Vater vier Euro die Stunde zahlt. Das reicht nicht mal fürs Jetzt.“ Anne states: „Vielleicht will ich einfach nur jemand kennen lernen, der anders ist, der woanders herkommt und anders denkt.“ Anne voices her desire to meet someone different who thinks differently and is of a different origin. She feels this way because Siamak seemingly offers freedom from the small-town restrictions and the narrow-mindedness of her circle of friends. She rejects the provincial milieu with her homogenous group of German friends and longs for a more cosmopolitan, open-minded environment. Fremde Haut thus undermines restrictive identity politics by visualizing the experiences of people crossing boundaries, by offering glimpses into Fariba’s displacement and exile. Anne yearns for a space of cultural hybridity and cultural alterity.

In his study Cosmopolitical Claims, Venkat Mani emphasizes the relationship between a sense of freedom, cultural hybridity, and immigrant communities or those who are considered “others”, namely representatives of alterity:

Cultural hybridity situates itself in movement; it locates itself in the act of dislocation; it abandons the hitherto inhabited in order to strive toward newness. All these elements make the idea of hybridity extremely useful – after all, it offers itself the most dynamic, fluid, and motional modality and therefore promises high degrees of freedom, emancipation, and perhaps even creative autonomy. It is, therefore, not too difficult to understand hybridity’s appeal for otherwise marginalized, subjugated, neither-here-nor-there, dislocated and displaced immigrant communities and their artists. (123-24)

In Fremde Haut, hybridity is represented by Fariba who has already learned about German culture before coming to Germany. Maccarone does not only portray a migrant character, Fariba, drawn to a hybrid environment but also a non-immigrant German woman, Anne, with an interest in new, vibrant, and cutting edge cultural manifestations. Anne seeks out someone not rooted in her homeland, but someone in “dislocation,” a hybrid character in a space to meet in which the two can engage with each other to create a new form of multicultural community against the mainstream within Germany.

In his analysis of Fatih Akin’s Kurz und schmerzlos and Maccarone’s Alles wid gut, Gerd Gemünden convincingly asserts the importance of transnational aspects in those movies by these two directors: “They understand themselves as part of an alternative cinema that gives voice to minorities and indeed shows the centrality of the margins” (184). One of the few moments in Fremde Haut when the women Fariba and Anne are free and when they can express their feelings of joy about the newly formed relationship is when they drive off into the countryside with the stolen Mercedes. The cinematography reminds the viewer of the road movie Thelma and Louise (1991) where the wide-open spaces captured through long-shots recall the freedom of the road and the protagonists’ (even though temporary) success as a lesbian couple that overcomes seemingly insurmountable hurdles.

The sexual and cultural alterity of Maccarone’s vigorous lesbian protagonist emerges as a sight where Fariba’s identity is in double exile: first, repressed sexual orientation in Iran, then repressed gender identity and forced denial of her sexual identity in Germany. Nevertheless, her existence under a repressed gender identity was only made possible through a deus-ex-machina coincidence of Siamak’s suicide, which prompted Fariba to seize the opportunity and change identities, thereby also deceiving others like Siamak’s parents, her roommate, and the German authorities, among others. The end of the movie is to some extent hopeless as the relationship between Fariba and Anne comes to an abrupt end. Nonetheless, there is a paradoxical end to this part of her story that can be read as both optimistic and pessimistic: the viewer watches Fariba reenter her home country in disguise, which might help her conceal her true identity. However, this can also be interpreted as pessimistic because she continues to be forced to hide her true sexual identity. In the last camera shot, Fariba is in the bathroom on the airplane switching back from being a woman with a headscarf into the man Siamak whose Iranian passport she pulls out of her shoe where she kept it as a backup. Fariba’s cross-dressing technique here is an act of survival and a cover for her vulnerable, forbidden sexual identity.

Besides Fremde Haut and her other important films Alles wird gut (1998), Verfolgt (2006), and Vivere (2007), Maccarone has received the most, albeit negative, attention for her one installment of the German detective series Tatort, titled Wem Ehre gebührt (Who Deserves Honor, 2007), a series that is aired weekly on the public TV station ARD.[11] The network commissioned the Tatort installment and Maccarone wanted to write a script highlighting the heterogeneous Turkish minority in Germany. Therefore, she featured Sunni and Alevi Turks in the plot. The overarching theme of Wem Ehre gebührt is an incestuous relationship.

The story line starts when Afife Özkan, a Turkish German woman, is found dead. While at first it is believed that she committed suicide, her sister Selda insists that Afife was killed. Selda is pregnant and afraid that someone may kill her as well. The superintendent working on this case, Charlotte Lindholm (Maria Furtwängler), takes Selda in to stay with her for a while. Lindholm assumes that Afife’s death was an honor killing but she does not know the motif or the murderer’s identity as yet. In the meantime, Selda becomes a suspect in her sister’s murder. She leaves Lindholm’s house and tries to commit suicide but her father finds her in time to rescue her. Selda survives but loses the unborn child. Finally, Lindholm and her colleague Cem Aslan (Mehmet Kurtulus) find out that the father killed Afife because she found out about her father’s abuse of her younger sister.[12] Afife wanted to go to the police and report the incestuous relationship when her father panicked and strangled her.

Incest has been used as a cliché over the past centuries by the Sunni majority against the Alevi minority, which makes up approximately one tenth of the 3 million Turks in Germany. This minority is among the most moderate groups within the Muslim faith, a group that allows men and women to pray together. The liberal approach of this group gave rise to the stereotype that the Alevi are also more tolerant in terms of sexuality and the myth of incest evolved. The most central point of criticism that was brought against Maccarone was that Selda was featured as the only family member who wears a headscarf. The movie implied that Selda was trying to escape the incestuous relationship by finding refuge in an orthodox Islamic faith and by covering her hair. Ali Ertan Toprak, the head of the Alevi Community in Germany (Alevitische Gemeinde in Deutschland, AABF) proclaimed that the movie supports and functions as propaganda, “Schleichwerbung” (surreptitious advertising), for the orthodox Sunni faith and that the more liberal and secular Alevi faith is depicted as hurting women.[13] After the screening of this Tatort installment, there were demonstrations in all major cities in Germany. On December 30, 2007, more than 20,000 people attended the protest in Cologne.[14]

An important step towards the integration of migrants with a Turkish background was the promotion of Kurtulus to superintendent in Tatort in 2008, making him the first Turkish German actor to star in this lead role on TV. When asked whether it is a stereotype to think of honor killings when a Turkish German woman is found dead, Kurtulus replies that only multiculturalism can overcome existing prejudices: “Ich glaube bei Vorurteilen im Allgemeinen, dass man dieser Kurzschlussreaktion der geistigen Einfalt mit Vielfalt begegnen sollte. Bei der Inflation von Vorurteilen klingt das fast schon wie eine Plattitüde” (n. pag.). Stereotypes can only be countered by including a greater ethnic and religious diversity of German characters. Maccarone makes this clear, for example, in a scene when Lindholm’s mother visits her at her office. The mother meets her daughter’s colleague and she remarks: “Du hast gar nicht erzählt, dass du einen türkischen Kollegen hast.” Lindholm sets the record straight: „Herr Aslan ist Deutscher.“ Yet, the mother adds to the awkward situation: “Aber er ist charmant.” The daughter only responds with: “Warum ‘aber’?” to show her mother that the ‘aber’ here implies that usually the mother does not consider German Turks charming. Throughout the installment, Maccarone plays with stereotypes and mocks them as inappropriate.

To overcome these stereotypes, Maccarone lets her characters argue them out. In a brief conversation between Lindholm and Aslan on the street, his superior reminds him that the death of Afife is more important than Aslan’s investigation into her brother’s participation in pirating CDs and DVDs and selling them in Turkey. The stereotype of Turks as machos is at stake here and Aslan’s reaction is defensive: “Unterstellen Sie mir Sexismus, nur weil ich Türke bin?“ to which Lindholm replies: “Ich finde Sie ziemlich deutsch in Ihrer Karrieregeilheit.“ Maccarone was praised for the subtle exchanges between the two lead characters in Wem Ehre gebührt. The praise from mostly German critics without migratory background, however, did not save her from the legitimate criticism of Alevi Turks living in Germany.

After the controversy about the portrayal of the Alevi family in this installment broke out, Maccarone apologized and assured the representatives of the Alevi organizations that she did not mean to reinscribe old stereotypes of the community in the TV installment.[15] The Alevi organizations charged the Norddeutsche Rundfunk with sedition and the charges were dropped in the summer of 2008 when the NDR officially apologized and assured the Alevi communities in Germany that they would run journalistic features about the community in order to change the wrongly made impressions. The weekly Spiegel reports Maccarone’s reaction: “Wer ihre anderen Filme kenne, wisse, dass ihr daran gelegen sei, ein differenziertes Bild von Minderheiten zu zeichnen, sagte Maccarone” (n. pag.). While some of Maccarone’s films have been praised for the depiction of characters that are of non-German origin such as Fremde Haut, the Tatort installment Wem Ehre gebührt received such negative publicity that Maccarone promised the organizations to investigate other communities more thoroughly before venturing into new projects on non-Germans.[16]

Both Fremde Haut and Wem Ehre gebührt are vital contributions to the national narrative of Germany in which a film director tries to overcome blind spots in society. While successful in Fariba’s case, Maccarone experienced what it feels like when good intentions are not enough but rather complicate the situation of migrant families whose status she attempted to highlight as an integral and accepted part of the changing cultural, ethnic, and religious make up of German life. In both movies, Maccarone disrupts notions of cultural purity. In Fremde Haut, she shows psychological and physical manifestations of the process of exclusion in terms of asylum laws and the reaction regarding Fariba’s lesbianism and gender crossing. The feature movie speaks about heterosexuals and Germans as much as about lesbians and asylum seekers and turns the mostly ethnographic, homophobe gaze of the viewers around. In both movies, the director offers a celebration of hybridity when featuring Jasmina Tabatabai as Fariba in a role that represents a possible way out of restrictive German cultural seclusion for Anne and featuring the Turkish German actor Mehmet Kurtulus as Cem Aslan as an educated, good-looking, well-integrated, and charming law enforcement official with an equal status to the Germans without migratory background around him in the police force. Both movies encourage an inquiry on the audiences’ part into what exactly is sexual, ethnic, cultural, and religious alterity and how it has become part of Germanness and how it positively affects everyday life in a changing Germany.




[1] A similar quote occurs in Leslie Adelson, “Touching Tales of Turks, Germans, and Jews: Cultural Alterity, Historical Narrative, and Literary Riddles for the 1990s.” New German Critique, No. 80, Special Issue on the Holocaust (2000): 93-124. “Senocak’s touching tales of Turks, German, and Jews suggests a pivotal shift in the ‘configuration’ of cultural alterity and historical narrative in contemporary German literature” (124). The usage of the noun “alterity” dates back to 1642 and its etymology goes back to the Latin “alter-“ meaning “different” orother”; “specifically: the quality or state of being radically alien to the conscious self or a particular cultural orientation.” Merriam-Webster Online. 8 February 2010.

[2] Othering is a term used in cultural studies and post-colonial studies and a popular definition is: “Othering is a way of defining and securing one’s own positive identity through the stigmatization of an ‘other.’  Whatever the markers of social differentiation that shape the meaning of ‘us’ and ‘them,’ whether they are racial, geographic, ethnic, economic or ideological, there is always the danger that they will become the basis for a self-affirmation that depends upon the denigration of the other group.”

[3] For an analysis of other German authors who are describing minorities, compare Arlene Akiko Teraoka, “Gastarbeiterliteratur: The Other Speaks Back.” Teraoka, “Talking Turk: On Narrative Strategies and Cultural Stereotypes.” Teraoka, East, West, and Others: The Third World in Postwar German Literature. Paul Michael Lützeler, ed. Schreiben zwischen den Kulturen: Beiträge zur deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur. Lützeler, ed. Der postkoloniale Blick: Deutsche Schriftsteller berichten aus der Dritten Welt. Lützeler, ed. Schriftsteller und ‘Dritte Welt’: Studien zum postkolonialen Blick. Monika Shafi, “Gazing at India: Representations of Alterity in Travelogues by Ingeborg Drewitz,Günter Grass, and Hubert Fichte.”

[4] Great Britain is among the few countries that have recently accepted lesbians who fled Iran as refugees because they would face the death penalty on their return. See Robert Verkaik. “Asylum for Lesbian on the Run from Iran.” The Independent 16 February 2009. news/uk/home-news/asylum-for-lesbian-on-the-run-from-iran-1622991.html

[5] Compare Eva Eusterhus, “Einfühlsame Grenzgängerin: In ihrem jüngsten Film Verfolgt bringt Angelina Maccarone ihrem Publikum das Fremde überraschend nah.” Die Welt 20 January 2007.

[6] Compare the interview with Ross van Metzke in wich Maccarone insists that crossing borders has always been an important aspect in her work.

[7] Right before making the movie Fremde Haut, Maccarone spent time “concentrating on educational and social spots for the cinema, such as on AIDS education” (n. pag.). Featured on the DVD with the English version Unveiled is also the short trailer, “Everyone, Everywhere,” directed by Renee Rosenfeld, which describes how gay and transgender men and women in all countries around the globe are harassed, tortured, and murdered for their different sexualities. The sponsor of the short clip is the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which exists since 1990, whose goal is to help in cases where sexual minorities are in danger. The spot highlights threatened human rights for people with different gender identities, sexual orientation, or HIV status.

[8] The lingua franca in the refugee camp is English, the asylum seekers communicate with each other to exchange basic information about their home and current status. Fariba helps a boy learn words in English, as everyone’s dream there is to immigrate to the United States. When Fariba teaches the boy the English word “bird” the German official reprimands her and asks that she should teach the German “Vogel” instead.  American popular culture also influences the desires of the asylum seekers. The little boy shows Fariba a drawing on which a tall and a small Spiderman are depicted as images of heroes that solve the transient immigrants’ problems.

[9] Abbas Maroufi, an Iranian author who came to Germany as an asylum seeker in 1996, wrote an open letter to Günter Grass that was published in Die Zeit in 2000, in which he criticized Germans for their ignorance in regard to other cultures, particularly Iran: “We [the Iranians] know Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll and Nietzsche well, we have made them our own, but do you know anyone in Iran besides Zarathustra? Perhaps Hafis?” In Deniz Göktürk, David Gramling, Anton Kaes, ed. Germany in Transit. Nation and Migration 1955-2005. Berkeley: U of California P, 2007. 418. While Maroufi argues that Iranian intellectuals are familiar with authors from the West, it is not the same the other way around.

[10] Yet, it seems that in Fremde Haut Fariba is not an immigrant but a would-be-immigrant whose legal status keeps her in a position of “in-between” national boundaries and countries.

[11] Tatort: Wem Ehre gebührt, dir. Angelina Maccarone. Aired on 27 December 2007 on ARD.

[12] The actor has become well-known in Germany through some of Fatih Akin’s movies (such as Kurz und schmerzlos 1998, Im Juli (2000) and Gegen die Wand (2004).) Fatih Akin is also an Alevi German Turk.

[13] See Sibylle Ahlers, “Aleviten sehen Tatort als Werbung für Orthodoxe,“ (n. pag.). The Alevi Community has been watching the Islamicization of Muslim groups in Germany that are partially sponsored by organizations outside of Germany.

[14] Scott Roxborough, “Muslims Protest Incest Plot on Germany’s Tatort,” (n. pag.). Some links claim there were as many as 30,000 demonstrators.

[15] Compare Klaus Uhrig, “Ich wollte etwas Komplexes. Sie wollte Klischee aufbrechen, sagt Tatort-Regisseurin Angelina Maccarone. Das Inzest-Stereotyp habe sie nicht gekannt.” Tageszeitung 28 December 2007.

[16] “Aleviten lassen Vorwurf der Volksverhetzung gegen Tatort fallen.” ddp 20 Juni 2008. Maccarone also explains that some of her friends are Alevi but that she did not send them the script before the show was filmed and that she was unaware that incest is an old stigma for the group. The director acknowledges that she did not research this project well enough as an outsider of the Alevi group and agrees that she should have been more sensitive to the history of the Alevi community within and outside of Turkey. “Tatort-Regisseurin Angelina Maccarone. Das ist ein ziemlicher Hammer.”



Works Cited
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