Skip to main content

When We Leave

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

Book your place

When We Leave (Die Fremde)

Feo Aladag, Germany/Turkey, 2010, 119 minutes

Friday 28 October 6.00 pm                                                                                                                              

Presenters: James Brown & Daniel Monk (Birkbeck)

     Feo Aladag based this, her first film as director, on a report of a so-called ‘honour’ killing. Uday (Sibel Kekilli) flees an abusive marriage in Turkey, taking her son, Cem (Nizam Schiller), with her. She goes back to her Turkish family in Germany. But they are intent on returning her to her husband, and keep her a virtual prisoner. So, with the help of the police, Uday escapes and sets about making a new life for herself.

     The film’s English title glosses over an irony implicit in its German and Turkish titles which mean ‘The Stranger’ and ‘Separation’ respectively. While Uday does, indeed, leave her family, she can never bring herself to become a stranger or accept her complete separation from them. She hopes for reconciliation with her parents, if not with her husband. Her family, especially her older brother, has other ideas. But Aladag represents most of them as torn between their love for Uday and their need to conform to the customs of their community. There is seldom any doubting, for example, that her father, Kader (Settar Tanriogen) loves his daughter even as he rejects her. Though her older brother, Mehmet (Tamer Yigit), is intent on upholding his sexist version of family honour by sending his sister and nephew back to her husband, her younger brother Acer (Serhad Can) is more sympathetic.

     Uday is caught between different laws, cultures and codes. German law in principle will defend her right to self-determination, but she is wary of invoking it. She remains tied to the community that has turned against her. And her defiance of it has ramifications for all the members of her family. Her sister Rana (Almila Bagriacik) nearly has her own marriage cancelled because of the supposed shame that Uday has brought upon on the family by standing up for herself. Aladag takes pains to make it difficult to judge the family by the norms of the liberal democratic individualism of German society around her. That society provides her with refuge and the possibility of a new life, but, perhaps, without ever quite becoming home. However, the more insistently Uday seeks to re-open communication with her family, the greater the danger in which she places herself and her son.


Contact name: