The best new film from Germany is Turkish. Kutlug Ataman’s Lola and Bilidikid takes place in the gay and transvestite subcultures of Berlin’s immigrant Turks. Its protagonist, Murat (Baki Navrak), a German-born Turkish teenager, alienated from his repressive traditional family, is hesitantly experimenting with his sexuality in parks and bars. He’s drawn to nightclub performer Lola (Gandi Mukli), who turns out to be his older brother, thrown out by the family years before. Lola is in a stressful ménage with ultramacho Bili (Erdal Yildiz), who, fed up with being “a fag living with a fag,” is pressuring Lola to undergo a sex change so they can get married, return to Turkey, and “live like others.”
Ataman skillfully interweaves Murat’s voyage of self-discovery with a number of other story lines involving neo-Nazi punks, seamy gigolos, and German aristocrats who have fallen on hard times. The ending is a shocker, but leavened, as is most of the movie, by mordant humor. One droll subplot is a lopsided triangle concerning Eili’s male whore best friend, the middle-aged German architect he hustles, and the john’s mother, a dowager-from-hell, impeccably played by octogenarian stage diva Inge Keller. Although Ataman’s heartfelt, handsome drama took top prize at this year’s Istanbul Film Festival, the openly gay director was obliged to flee his homeland to escape the death threats that followed its release.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 16, 1999