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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Fatih Akin at Goa

German director Fatih Akin’s Master Class at IFFI 2010

Heavy turnout greeted Fatih Akin when he arrived at the Marriott Hotel in Goa to conduct a Master Class. Indian director-writer Anurag Kashyap posed the questions, as Fatih shared his experiences of growing up as a Turkish boy in Germany, and traced the influences and incidents that led him to become a film-director. At 37, Fatih is a celebrated director and his work has been appreciated at many major film festivals. Fatih says he owes his big break to Marco Müller, director of the Locarno International Film Festival (in Switzerland), who saw his debut film Short Sharp Shock (1998), and found it good enough to be shown at the festival. Akin suddenly felt the gates of cinema opening on him. Akin had written the first draft in 1993-94, bunking the academically less important sports and religion sessions at school, to spend time on his passion. Inspiration had come from the works of Brian De Palma and Francis Ford Coppola. It took four years for his dream to turn into reality. He was just 25 when the film was released.

 Today, a Turk can survive in Germany without speaking a word of German, but things were a little different when Akin was growing up, he revealed. Sometimes, he felt as if he was an Apache among the ‘white men’! Turks were perceived as persons you could not talk too and if you got friendly with Turkish girls, their older brothers would beat you up. There was no Internet then and Turkish culture, including Turkish food, was practically inaccessible. His first experience of alienation came when he was taken to Turkey as a little boy, to his grandmother’s home. He kept asking her for potatoes in German, and she, who did not understand German and was therefore unaware of the German word for potatoes, kept offering him toys, clothes and sweets instead!

Back in 1979, the Akin family used to see Arabesque films, and Akin’s first taste of international cinema was courtesy a cousin, who had an 8 mm projector, on which he watched the first reel of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury. They had only one reel, and Akin enjoyed watching it backward too, while it was being rewound. When he graduated to VHS tapes, he developed an attraction towards Sergio Leone’s Italian ‘spaghetti’ Westerns. He still regards Once Upon a Time in the West as among the greatest films ever made.

While still a student, he bagged some roles in TV programmes, often playing an older brother or a Turkish baddie. The characterisation was all wrong, as Turks were not what they were portrayed to be in these scripts, but then “the scripts were written by Germans”! Reading books about Martin Scorcese, and seeing Mean Streets, helped him evolve a method of using his Turkish identity in his scripting, just as Scorcese used his Italian roots to good effect.

There was a clamour for invitations to the restricted screening of his latest feature, Soul Curry. “In Soul Curry, you’ll find influences of The Warriors (the 1979 Walter Hill directed cult classic) in the imagery”, Akin confessed.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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