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Umay flees from her abusive husband in Istanbul and returns to her family in Berlin with her young son. She hopes to find a better life there, but instead she encounters intense conflict with her family's old world traditions. When she overhears them secretly plotting to send her son back to Turkey, Umay is left with no choice but to flee again. As she struggles to build a future, she refuses to accept her family's rejection, which ends up making matters much worse than she ever imagined.
"Astonishing…a powerful film" -- Matthew Hays, THE MONTREAL MIRROR
"Gripping and sincere" -- A. O. Scott, THE NEW YORK TIMES
"The film grips from the first scene and never lets go" -- Jeff Heinrich, THE GAZETTE
Best Actress (Sibel Kekilli); Best Narrative Feature (World Narrative Competition) -- Tribeca Film Festival
Winner- Prix Lux, Best European Film of the Year -- European Parliament
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
high emotional impact, as concept of honor is exploredJune 7 2011
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I saw this film when it was in the cinema a few months ago. I'm a big fan of foreign films and this one literally left me breathless....not with excitement , but because I felt like all the air had been knocked out of my body by the plot twists. Just when one thinks s/he has figured out the plot... beware! The elliptical plot slowly unfolds as the main character, Umay, a Turkish woman raised in Germany, decides she has to leave an abusive husband. She flees Turkey and takes their son, and heads back to her own family, who are Turkish gastarbeiter/guest workers, living in Germany. It isn't long until she reveals that she's not just there for a vacation or brief visit. The reaction of her various family members and that of her husband's family represent a cultural difference that Westerners find incomprehensible. It is as if Umay is going against all the powers of the universe, but her strength and persistence represent a female character that one rarely sees in cinema these days, whether the film is made in Hollywood or anywhere else. I wont spoil the plot , but will say it's not going to end like one might imagine... and the film is a very important one for the statement it makes about the concept of family honor and its limits ought to be, and the clash of cultures, effects of and resistance to assimilation of immigrants in a foreign country. Ultimately, it also raises the question of where these values come from... do they come from Islam itself, or from tribal traditions formed over millenia? My friend who saw the movie with me is a social anthropologist and she said she will require this film to be viewed by all her students in the coming academic year. Any film lover should see this movie. The lead actors do a terrific job , and they're probably unknown to American audiences. It's refreshing to see new faces, especially when they communicate such powerful messages to the audience. I highly recommend this film.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
When happiness is irrelevantNov. 27 2011
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I am generally speaking a buff of foreign and indie movies, and when I saw this in the foreign movie section at my local library, I picked it up, knowing very little about the movie. I must say I was unprepared for what I was about to watch.
"When We Leave" (terrible movie title; originally titled in German "Die Fremde" or "The Alien"; originally releases in 2010; 119 min.) brings the story of a Turlish married woman getting out of a domestic abusive relationship. She takes her young son and moves back to Germany, where the rest of her family is (Turkish immigrants in Berlin). You might think that seeking help from her family would be a good move, but you might be wrong. Because she is considered to "belong" to her husband, no matter what, she brings dishonor on her own family. Things get from bat to worse: she is beaten, harrassed, threatened, etc. Not to mention that her son is also deemed to "belong" to his father, and so she needs to protect him from being kidnapped BY HER OWN PARENTS AND SIBLINGS. With family like that, who needs enemies? I won't spoil the outcome of how it plays out, but I'm not spilling any secrets that this is not your typical Hollywood fare, where you just know there will be a happy ending. Doom and gloom persist throughout.
This is one of the best movies that I have seen this year, and I've seen quite a few. I can't help but feel so sorry for millions of women whose happiness apparently is utterly irrelevant, and where the family's "honor" takes precedence over anything and everything, This movie won a bunch of awards in 2010-11, although amazingly it was not nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film. Lead actress Sibel Kekilli is simply outstanding (shw won the German equivalent of the Oscar for this performance). By all means, do not miss a chance to see this movie! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Die Fremde: The stranger or the foreignerJune 5 2013
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The cover of this DVD release of Die Fremde (When We Leave) says a lot about the film' the Turkish (or Muslim) way of saying hello or goodbye to an elder is kissing the hand and touching the hand to the forehead. It introduces the fact that this two hour film deals with ancient thought patterns about the slavery of a wife to her husband and the inability to place the welfare and happiness of a family member above the outdated and cruel concept of `family honor' in a community. It is a harsh film to experience but a significant reminder of how retrogressive so much of our society remains. Sadly, the film is based on a documented case of an honor killing in a Turkish community in Germany.
In awarding the film Best Narrative Feature Award, and Best Actress Award for Sibel Kekilli, the Tribeca Film Festival Narrative Jury said of the film: "WHEN WE LEAVE examines one woman's struggle for personal freedom. It is a riveting and heartbreaking story of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship, who must not only free herself from that marriage, but also the cultural prejudices and judgments that would keep her there. Writer/director Feo Aladag built the nuances of her film over a six year period. She rehearsed her actors for seven months. She immersed herself in every detail of a culture that is revealed to us in remarkable detail. The result is a film that balances complex social issues with honest human yearnings. Through the brutality, WHEN WE LEAVE is also a story of tenderness, the struggle for compassion, the inexorable pull of family and the need to love and be loved." German-born Umay (Sibel Kekilli) flees her oppressive marriage in Istanbul, taking her young son Cem (Nizam Schiller) with her. She hopes to find a better life with her family in Berlin, but her unexpected arrival creates intense conflict. Her family is trapped in their conventions, torn between their love for her and the traditional values of their community. Ultimately they decide to return Cem to his father in Turkey. To keep her son, Umay is forced to move again. She finds the inner strength to build a new life for herself and Cem, but her need for her family's love drives her to a series of ill-fated attempts at reconciliation. What Umay doesn't realize is just how deep the wounds have gone and how dangerous her struggle for self-determination has become.
Despite a fine cast of actors (Derya Alabora as Halime (Umay's mother), Settar Tanriögen as Kader (Umay's father), Tamer Yigit as Mehmet (Umay's older brother), Serhad Can as Acar (Umay's younger brother), Almila Bagriacik as Rana (Umay's sister) and the brilliant Florian Lukas as Stipe (Umay's new boyfriend in Berlin) the movie's pace is so very slow that it cries for editing. Just when we feel that enough is enough there is an abrupt and tragic final ending that throws a new light on the film's significance. In Turkish and German with English subtitles. Grady Harp, June 13
a must seeJune 12 2012
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This movie explores so many issues and the acting, directing, soundtrack are all incredible. The main star is Sibel Kekilli, also from the movie Head-On, and she is outstanding, as usual, in this role. I was riveted to this movie from beginning to end.
Quiet, determined and heart wrenching...March 5 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Sibel Kekilli. What else can I say? I mean, she completely took over all of my senses and delivered such a stroke of magnificence in this crushing film that I'm still awestruck at what she was able to accomplish. In fact, she reminded me of Jean Do-Yeon in the marvelous `Secret Sunshine'; two equally heartbreaking performances that play so well to the small, subtle details that helps flesh out the emotional outcries.
That wedding scene, snot in her mouth and pain in her eyes; just UGH!
`When We Leave' tells the story of a young Turkish woman named Umay who leaves her abusive husband and flees home with her young son to seek refuge with her parents. Her parents, stained by the critical eye of society and their demeaning eye, condemn their daughter's choice and threaten to send her son back to his father. She defies their efforts and seeks an independent life on her own in Germany. Feeling disgraced, her family disowns her and seeks alternate methods to reestablish their honor within the community, to devastating effect.
Watching film's dealing with common issues so foreign to our own lives here in the States can be frustrating. About halfway through I wanted to personally assault half of Umay's family because, to me, their actions were so extreme and so unfair. That comes from seeing a culture outside of our own scope of understanding. This is not only common in foreign lands, but it is understood by many.
This film does not condone it at all, in fact it highly condemns it.
Sibel Kekilli is flawless. The way she quietly festers inside her own head as to her predicament and the pain it is causing her and her young son is sincere and earnest and believable. When she does breakdown (the aforementioned wedding scene for one) she does so in such a bleeding way; her soul crushing outwardly to expose so much internalized torment. She pleads, seeking a reestablished relationship with the family she loves so much. Sadly, the eyes of others mean more to them than their daughters very safety. Derya Alabora is also quite convincing as Umay's soft spoken mother, and Settar Tanriogen is crushingly honest as her `hard to love' father.
My only quibble is the seemingly unnecessary love interest angle taken when Umay meets Stipe. I understand the contrast between her previous relationship and the new one, but it felt underdeveloped and really it wasn't needed at all.