The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Director Fatih Akin confronts Turkey's taboo, mass killings of Armenians, in 'The Cut'

  • Print

VENICE, Italy - Fatih Akin's "The Cut" is the first movie by a director with Turkish roots to tackle an issue long taboo in the country: the early 20th-century mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

The movie caused a stir in Turkey even before its Venice Film Festival premiere, bringing the German-Turkish director criticism and threats. But Akin insists he's not a pioneer, or a provocateur. He's simply trying to bring the topic into the open.

"There (was) a trauma 100 years ago and — you know this from individual analysis — if you don't confront yourself with the trauma you will never get cured," the director said during an interview in Venice, where "The Cut" is one of 20 films competing for the Golden Lion prize.

"I think what counts for an individual counts also for society."

Historians estimate that as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in 1915, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first 20th-century genocide. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated, and that people died on both sides as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated during World War I.

The killings remain an inflammatory issue for Turkish nationalists. Akin and an Armenian-Turkish newspaper received harassment and threats after he gave an interview recently about the movie.

But Akin said Turkey has begun to debate the issue more openly. Earlier this year, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country was ready to "confront" the ethnic slayings, though he didn't use the word genocide.

"There is a process of analyzing this trauma in Turkey, and I am part of the process," Akin said.

"The Cut" confronts the story through the tale of an Armenian blacksmith — the Biblically named Nazaret, played by "A Prophet" star Tahar Rahim — who is torn from his family amid the killing and spends years searching around the world for his daughters.

Criticism of the film in Venice has been more artistic than political.

In the screenplay by Akin and Armenian-American scriptwriter Mardik Martin (who co-wrote Martin Scorsese's "Raging Bull"), the Armenian characters speak in English and the others in their own languages. Some reviewers found that gave the film a stilted air.

And some felt Rahim's performance was hampered by the decision to have Nazaret rendered mute by a knife to the throat early on.

Akin was stung by the negative reviews, but said the most important audiences for the film will be Turks and Armenians.

Shot on 35-millimeter film stock, rather than digitally, and using widescreen Cinemascope lenses, it takes visual cues from the likes of Sergio Leone and Terrence Malik, offering stunning panoramas as the lonely figure of Nazaret travels from Turkey to Syria, Cuba, Minnesota and North Dakota.

"When I was reading and analyzing about the genocide, I discovered quite early that the genocide is not just about killing," he said. "It's also about the diaspora, the spread of the Armenian folk all over the world."

"All my films are about migration," said Akin, who was born in Hamburg in 1973 to Turkish parents.

Akin has called "The Cut" the final chapter in a trilogy he's named "Love, Death and the Devil." The two earlier instalments, "Head-On" and "The Edge of Heaven," both dealt with tangled identities and moved between Germany and Turkey.

The director said all three films explored his relationship with his ancestral land. Now he's ready for a change.

"I am done with Turks," he said. "I want to work with blonde people called Hans, eating sausages."

Follow Jill Lawless at

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Christmas Cheer Board hamper kickoff

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A nesting goose sits on the roof of GoodLife Fitness at 143 Nature Way near Kenaston as the morning sun comes up Wednesday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 07- Web crop-May 09, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Should the federal government force band chiefs and councillors to disclose their salary information?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google