“Love, Deutschemarks and Death” is a documentary which chronicles the flow of Turkish guestworkers into West Germany (BRD), the music that followed them and the music they created in Germany from 1955 to the present day.
It was in 1955 that the BRD called its first guestworkers to come and work in many of the jobs the Germans simply did not want to undertake or didn’t have the manpower to fuel its economic boom. It was in 1961 that a “recruitment agreement” was signed between Turkey and the BRD. The Turkish workers were to stay for a limited time and then return home to Turkey but family members were eventually permitted to join their male guestworkers swelling Germany’s Turkish population. Could Germany have foreseen there would be 3 million people of Turkish descent today in Germany? It is worth noting that similar agreements were signed with Portugal, Greece, Spain, Italy and Yugoslavia. The lure of riches and the almighty deutschemark attracted a large influx of guestworkers. They came by the trainloads into the BRD.
As immigration brings hardships, discrimination, loneliness, racism and despair the Turks were not spared. The Turks created their own music industry in the BRD but it took decades before it was made available in the German retail network as opposed to Turkish grocery stores and import-export businesses. The Turkish music created in Germany evolved from traditional, rock and roll, hip hop, rap and punk. It was rap and hip hop that created the beginning of cross-cultural pollination between Turks and Germans. Hip hop and rap can be seen as a reaction to attacks on Turks by skinheads and racists as it drew out their anger and frustration into artistic expression. In fact in 1973 Chancellor Willy Brandt of the BRD said about a strike at a Ford plant in the BRD where police arrested Turkish strikers that Germans did not have a hostile attitude to foreign workers but in “this particular situation we must think of our own citizens first”.
A skillful use of archival footage and musings of musicians, poets, vintage film and news footage.
While you might conclude this is a Germancentric documentary it is really a common history of immigration from poorer countries to a perceived land of milk and honey. I think the documentary will be a strong calling for lovers of Turkish music but there is enough history outside of the music to satisfy many viewers. It is dense and what a task to get all the material into 90 minutes. Winner of the Panorama Audience Award at Berlinale 2022.
In Turkish and German with English subtitles. Directed by Cem Kaya.
You can catch the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkbGt1Vbums
RKS Film Rating 88/100.