On the Other Side of Monolingualism: Fatih Akın's Linguistic Turn(s)1


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    For their thoughtful and timely feedback on this piece, I am grateful to Deniz Göktürk, Emre Can Sertöz, Claire Kramsch, Ahmet Gürata, Kata Gellen, and the participants in my honors seminar on multilingualism at Bilkent University in Spring 2010.


The German filmmaker Fatih Akın has garnered acclaim over his fifteen-year career for directing intricate narratives of migration, mobile cultures, multicultural communities, and transnational subjectivities. Akın's volatile and evolving cinematic approach to language and multilingualism, however, has attracted little critical attention—mirroring a scholarly predilection for “culture” over “language” in research on transnationalism since the 1990s. This article analyzes Akın's recent feature film The Edge of Heaven (2007) as a retrospective and critical meditation on translingual dilemmas and identities in his preceding features—from Kurz und Schmerzlos (1998) to Im Juli (2000), Solino (2002) and Gegen die Wand (2004)—and on multilingualism in global-release feature film generally. As a counter-point to Chris Wahl's conception of polyglot film in Das Sprechen des Spielfilms (2005), Akın's features collectively offer a test palette for a new set of subgenres for multilingual cinema: the lingua franca film, the translatability fable, the undubbable film, the interlanguage film, and the semiodiverse film. The article concludes with some observations about the potential import of Akın's multilingual representations for twenty-first century German Studies.