One of the greatest archive clips in Cem Kaya’s documentary film Liebe, D-Mark und Tod – Aşk, Mark ve Ölüm, which is rich in great archive clips, is Cem Karaca’s performance at the festival of political songs in East Berlin in the 1980s . Karaca, who died in 2004 and had long been a rock star in his home country, was one of the most dazzling figures that German-Turkish pop culture has produced: a dandy, a flamboyant crooner who released the album “Die Kanaken” in 1984 and with lyrics like “Komm Türke – drink German beer/then you are also welcome here” dressed supposedly striking political statements in the seductive guise of great pop music to elegant bobbing sounds.
Fled from the military junta to West Germany
The fact that Karaca, who emigrated to West Germany in 1980, was part of the line-up of a prestige FDJ event says something about the space that pop stars like him were given in Germany. For the GDR, Karaca was particularly presentable as a victim of a right-wing military junta that took power in Turkey after the 1980 coup. In the West, on the other hand, the artist was only supposed to function as a keyword for the problems that the Federal Republic had with “foreigners”; a circumstance that “Love, D-Mark and Death” acknowledges with a decisive cut when a moderator wants to ask Karaca the always stupid question about “xenophobia”, which he should actually address to white German society.
On the other hand, the short excerpt from the performance in front of the GDR flags is proof of how deep Cem Kaya went into the archives for the work on “Love, D-Mark and Death” (he wrote the book with Mehmet Akif Büyükatalay). If you want to get an idea of the marginalized history of Almancı pop culture from Metin Türköz to Haftbefehl, you have to look a long time.
The film is Cem Kaya’s third contribution to a history of Turkish popular culture. The (internal-Turkish) migration as the basis of a specific music genre was already the subject of “Arabesk” from 2010. “Remake, Remix, Rip-off” in 2014 was dedicated to the diligently and enthusiastically producing Yesilçam cinema, which has been producing since the 1960s used to appropriate the stories of Hollywood (“Wizard of Oz”, “Rambo”, “Star Wars”) through cheap remakes.
In “Love, D-Mark and Death” German-Turkish pop music from the 1960s to the present is followed. And it’s brilliant how effortlessly Kaya manages to master the narrative centrifugal forces of his exuberant material in 90 minutes. The film is a stunner, but it doesn’t sweat. With each interview – with Yüksel Özkasap, the “Nightingale of Cologne”, or Cavidan Ünal, the “Diva of Europe” – an entire episode of a ten-part documentary series could be contested.
The dramaturgy is based on the eponymous song by Ideal based on an Aras Ören text. The story is about poverty and being an outsider in the early years after the recruitment agreement, which culminated in the deportation movements of German politics during the recession. The second step is about the economic arrival in a subculture that celebrates its inner independence from white German attention at lavish wedding celebrations.
The third part deals with right-wing violence that led to terrorism in Solingen and Mölln beginning in the 1980s. Just the way Kaya switches from the daily news reports of the alleged individual cases to images of rebellion and resistance from the community opens up a new understanding of the ignorance of white Germany after the attacks. An awareness that seems to have reached a larger media audience only after the Hanau attack.
(In nine Berlin cinemas, OmU)
But “Love, D-Mark and Death” does not just want to show white Germany social connections. Kaya’s film is also the glamorous stage on which Almancı pop culture can understand itself: as a story that has not yet been written and passed on. The fate of many marginalized stories, which is why every musician mostly had to assume that they were doing pioneering work on their own.
Imran Ayata, co-editor of the “Songs of Gastarbeiter” compilations, says that all of the people who helped shape German-Turkish pop music were bound by the experience of racism. What this circumstance has achieved in terms of musical and everyday creativity can be marveled at in a euphoric way in “Love, D-Mark and Death” – and be it in the detailed memory of the Turkish bazaars at the closed Bülowstrasse underground station. And despite all the politics, Kaya’s film simply works about how happy it is to be able to make music.
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