‘Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush’ Review: Real-Life Drama Made Comic – What We Know!

Turning a deeply severe, controversial incident in current German historical past right into a bouncy, beat-the-odds character comedy is a courageous transfer. Thanks largely to the extrovert likability of German-Turkish star Meltem Kaptan — well-known in Germany as a comic and TV presenter — Andreas Dresen’s “Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush” nearly will get away with it. However that’s so far as its bravery goes. Having expended all its inventive vitality on that one tonal dice-roll, the movie proceeds by the numbers, with the messy, provocative real-life miscarriage of justice it chronicles tamed to march to the merry beat of the inspirational true-story style.

The motion begins one October morning in 2001, within the bustling Bremen family of the Turkish-immigrant Kurnaz household. Brassy matriarch Rabiye (Kaptan) — perpetually cheerfully cooking, cleansing and washing up for her brood — goes to name her eldest son Murat (Abdullah Emre Öztürk) down for breakfast and discovers he’s not solely not residence, however en path to Pakistan. Murat, anxious to reaffirm his religion previous to his imminent organized marriage to Fadime (Safak Sengul), desires to enroll in a middle for Quran research there. However this being mere weeks after the 9/11 assaults, his actions are deemed suspicious. He’s arrested, detained with out trial and finally despatched to Guantanamo.

Initially, Rabiye solely is aware of her son has disappeared, and turns into more and more frantic in her makes an attempt to search out him. When she and her husband Mehmet (Nazmi Kirik), a employee on the native Mercedes manufacturing facility, are lastly knowledgeable of Murat’s destiny, Rabiye units about securing his launch, little realizing this course of will take years.

The movie retains us conscious of the timeline with common “Day 1,” “Day 5,” “Day 92” titles — markers that get dismayingly additional aside — whereas Rabiye and Bernhard Docke (Alexander Scheer), the lawyer she principally bulldozes into taking Murat’s case, attempt to navigate the labyrinthine workings of post-9/11 worldwide politics. Among the many obstacles standing between her and her beloved son are stonewalling German officers, unhelpful Turkish representatives (regardless of being born and raised in Germany, Murat is technically a Turkish citizen) and, lastly, the complete Catch-22-style equipment of the U.S. judicial system because it pertains to Guantanamo.

David-and-Goliath tales abound in Hollywood cinema, a lot so there’s even a subgenre that includes indomitable girls, usually moms, tenaciously refusing to pipe down and settle for the injustices of the established order. As with essentially the most celebrated exemplars, like “Erin Brockovich,” “The Blind Aspect” and “Philomena,” “Rabiye” largely exists as a showcase for its main girl, and Dresen’s movie duly introduced Kaptan an performing award on the Berlinale.

Arguably much less well-deserved, nonetheless, is the movie’s Greatest Screenplay win. Laila Stieler’s script is considerably sharper and richer for an area viewers who can decide up on its subtler swipes, however non-German viewers are left with a broader, baggier film, during which the filmmaking — particularly, the flat, overlit handheld camerawork — hardly ever rises above the extent of an old-school TV film.

Dresen, whose 2011 movie “Stopped on Monitor” introduced him the Cannes Un Sure Regard prize, made his title with punchy dramas marked by deeply genuine performances. Working in an entire completely different register right here, the director feels noticeably much less at residence, most palpably so than when actually not at residence: The U.S.-set sections, when Rabiye and Docke take their battle to Washington D.C., are among the many movie’s most unconvincingly synthetic. For instance, Rabiye’s trigger is taken up by a U.S. human rights group headed by a “well-known Hollywood star,” and Rabiye’s failure to acknowledge him is performed for gentle laughs in a celebration scene. However when this star is revealed to be Tim Williams, an American actor recognized nearly completely for his work in German TV and right here cameoing as himself, non-German audiences are more likely to be as nonplussed as Rabiye herself.

“Rabiye” will not be with out its humorous moments, largely stemming from Kaptan’s amiable means with fish-out-of-water comedy, and the light buddy dynamic that emerges because the stiff, severe Docke begins to heat to his outspoken, charismatic consumer. On the uncommon event when the movie permits for a second of introspection, Kaptan’s portrayal finds transferring notes beneath all of the gregariousness.

However the film additionally runs the danger of trivializing the politics of the state of affairs, within the title of humanizing harmless victims whose humanity ought to absolutely, by now, not be some extent that wants making. It delivers ample warm-fuzzies in admiration for this genial, beneficiant, larger-than-life character. However “Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush” additionally represents a frustratingly baby-steps contribution to a social justice dialog that’s too essential, and too intricate, to be boiled right down to a mom’s-love-conquers-all bromide.

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