Screening of the film Rheingold and Q&A with Fatih Akin

The screening of the film Rheingold took place, in the presence of the famous director and lifelong friend of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Fatih Akin, on Saturday, November 5th, at the packed Olympion theatre. Director Fatih Akin, actor Arman Kashani and the rapper Giwar Hajabi, whose experiences are the main story of the film, honoured with their presence the screening. Initially, Orestis Andreadakis, the Artistic Director of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, took the floor by saying. “He is one of the most important contemporary directors. He is persistent, bold, passionate, but also immensely tender. In his films he touches all the great problems of our world – very often through the power and magic of music. I’m talking about our neighbour, our friend, Fatih Akin”.

Orestis Andreadakis welcomed Fatih Akin, who was warmly applauded. “Thessaloniki has always been there to embrace me and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I hope you enjoy watching the film that will soon be released in theatres by Rosebud 2.1. This film turned out to be a great challenge for me. During the shootings I lost my father and this was just one of the obstacles that came up. However, I also made very close friends, Arman is one of them. This is his first feature film. Actually, my wife as a casting director with a sharp eye discovered Arman. I would also like to refer to one more friendship that I was blessed with. Emilio Sakraya, the protagonist of the film, would not be able to be here with us tonight due to scheduled shootings in Budapest, he nevertheless enacts a real character, a man whose life is genuinely cinematic, because it is tragic, comical, violent, but also very tender and deeply human. He is the one who inspired this story, Giwar Hajabi,” the director explained and wished the audience to enjoy the film. As he humorously said, “if you like it, tell all your friends and if you don't, tell all those you do not like”.

Q&A with Fatih Akin, Arman Kashani and Giwar Hajabi followed the screening. When asked on how the project was initiated, Giwar Hajabi took the floor. “While I was still in prison a lot of production companies reached out to make a film. Seven years later, when I was released from prison, I talked to my lawyer and asked him to find someone to take over my biography project. When Fatih Akin, of whom I am a big fan, got interested in this project, I couldn’t believe it. What came out is a project that my mother is also very proud of”.

Fatih Akin answered, in another question about his relationship with rap music: “I had been listening to hip-hop in the 80s. I also learned English through hip-hop, as a collector of vinyls that had the lyrics printed. Some years later, a kind of gangster rap, I wouldn’t understand, began to develop in Germany. I thought of the generation gap as for example in the case of the parents of children, who listened to Beatles. These parents wouldn’t understand the kind of music their children were listening to. So, I made use of my desire to learn about this kind of music in order to explore these changes. Gangster rap develops in places where social upheaval occurs, in the favelas and in all parts of the world where there are social inequalities. It reflects the gap between the rich and the poor”.

Afterwards Fatih Akin referred to the last scene of the film that contains imaginary elements contradictory to the realism of the rest of the film. “It was the first scene I thought of, quite demanding — the producers asked me several times to cut it —but it was quite important to me. Giwaris, being so popular, even to eight-year-old children, has already been a kind of a myth. Therefore, the mythical element was as much associated with him from the very start, as it was with the German identity”.

Sibylla Bendig, the General Consul of Germany in Thessaloniki, then took the floor. Ms. Bendig thanked Fatih Akin as he reflects in his film contemporary Germany, including many cultures and identities. When asked if he regrets anything in his life, Giwar Hajabi replied: “If I went back in time and was in the same position again, I would probably do the same. We take life as it comes, make choices and go on with them. But let us not take all this as examples to follow. The most important thing is that we should all take care of ourselves”.

Fatih Akin, when asked about how they worked on the main character of the film, noted that it was a very difficult task because the man the film is based on is alive and involved in the whole process. “If it was a film about Napoleon, he wouldn't be able of course to get up from where he is and intervene,” the director said. For his part, Arman Kashani, speaking about the character he plays, said: “In my own encounter with the person my role is based on, I discovered that I would never imagine that such a person could exist, so my inability to crystallize him led me to a more rationalised performance of the role”.

Fatih Akin, when asked on whether he faces problems while shooting a biopic, he replied: “There were certainly technical difficulties. I wished to get the positive opinion of the people portrayed in the film, as well as to maintain some space for creative freedom”. As for whether there is anything he is proud of about his work, Fatih Akin explained that: “I am a pragmatist. I want to know that my film is working and this was really a difficult film, with shootings in the midst of a pandemic. I sponsored my film and yet I had many more problems to get solved. I finally got over them and I'm proud of having been able to accomplish this task. I always bear in mind that I am still learning from cinema”.