The Meeting of Two Cultures

in 6th International Film Festival Bratislava

by Emília Kincelová

The German contribution to the competition of first and second features was Fremder Freund (The Friend), the début of director Elmar Fischer. It was the one film which aroused extra attention at the 6th International Film Festival in Bratislava. Although objections emerged that the film rather suits the TV screen than that of cinema, I should not apply such a strict classification concerning the importance of the subject, because maybe the very objection will draw the film closer to a wide public.

Flatmates Chris (Antonio Wannek) and Yunes, from Yemen, (Navid Akhavan) are close friends and their relationship is sincere; they make trips with their girlfriends, they talk about every possible subject; they simply live in a complete harmony and understanding. Until one day Yunes disappears after Chris’s birthday party without even saying goodbye and apparently without leaving a trace. The boy and his girlfriend, also a former lover, recall the particular behaviour of the appealing boy from Yemen and finally arrive at a cruel conclusion that they actually know about him. As a matter of fact, Yunes disappears on 7 September 2001 and four days later the New York Twin Towers were attacked. The September Eleventh has certainly offered the author a good pretence to contribute a warning voice to the discussion about the spread of terrorism.

However, perhaps the second underlying plan of the feature is even more eloquent.

The narration is non-linear – the essence of the story appears progressively in fragments – a digital camera was used for shooting. Wars, religious or ethnic conflicts have always existed in history but, in my opinion, unfortunately the 21st century will probably bring a serious confrontation of two different cultures – Christian and Moslem. Christian culture is perhaps more tolerant but it makes no difference that any attempt to reach understanding will be difficult. Yunes (represented by Navid Akhavan with utmost mastery) is an educated young man, his friendship is sincere, nevertheless he is different: his relationship with woman is unwavering, he does not pardon betrayal, he is mysterious, reserved, but also impulsive and sometimes also a bigot. Chris is transparent and sincere, more tolerant and sensitive, although feelings are on both sides of the friendship. Why Yunes was probably a terrorist remains a mystery. We do not understand the essence of the revolt. Are we to blame? — is one the questions posed by the film. Yunes also offers a partial answer in his responses to what is going on around him. But the question — Shall we tolerate each other or shall we meet in a tragic conflict? — remains open. This is the dilemma of the film, which inspires consideration.

Emília Kincelová