Interview with Mehmet Kurtuluş and Anatole Taubman on “The Young Chief Winnetou”, cultural appropriation, “redfacing” and our fear society.
Frankfurt/Munich – Mehmet Kurtuluş also buys the single-parent Apache chief Intschu-tschuna from “The Young Chief Winnetou” (nationwide theatrical release: August 11) in an elegant light-blue jacket. He enters the interview room with a relaxed step, exuding an aura of dignified, friendly authority. At the beginning of our meeting in Munich’s Hotel Bayerischer Hof, Kurtuluş, who had his acting breakthrough in Fatih Akin’s crime film “Kurz und achelos” (1998) and later became Hamburg “Tatort” commissioner Cenk Batu (2008 – 2011), first of all my Siberian wolfhound husky Felix, who clearly enjoys being stroked.
When his colleague Anatole Taubman (“James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace”) – again the villain in the film as face-twitching gang leader Todd Crow – joins us, we talk about serious topics such as cultural appropriation and belonging, “redfacing” and our fear society.
“The Young Chief Winnetou”: Interview with Mehmet Kurtuluş and Anatole Taubman
Karl May’s novel “Winnetou I”, published in 1893, begins with the words: “Whenever I think of the Indian, the Turk comes to mind; strange as it may seem, this has its justification.” You are of Turkish descent, Mehmet. And you, Anatole, of British-Swiss descent. What relation do you have to Karl May?
Anatole Taubman: For me – we’re all about the same age – Karl May films and radio plays were my first major audiovisual journeys in the 1970s. I haven’t read the books at all. I only later got into James Fenimore Cooper’s “Leather Stocking” with “The Last of the Mohicans”. The first films I was allowed to see were “Der Schatz im Silbersee” and “Winnetou I und II”. I have a deep, emotional and nostalgic relationship with Karl May through this, especially through his characters Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. They are part of my DNA, so to speak.
Mehmet Kurtuluş: It’s similar for me. I haven’t read the books either. But I agree with Anatole on the audiovisual experience. Seeing those horses, the prairies, because of course it didn’t look like that where you lived. Those were the classic Sunday afternoons when a Karl May film was on. You quoted a very interesting sentence at the beginning. Maybe you felt something like there was a connection to these people, because as a child I liked to jump and climb. Today I’m a bit further on the subject and I feel like there really is a connection between Native Americans and the culture I come from. If you want, we can do two or three things.
Friends for life thanks to Winnetou
Interview with Mika Ullritz, Lola Linnéa Padotzke and Milo Haaf, the young stars from “The Young Chief Winnetou”.
And which would be?
Mehmet Kurtuluş: If we imagine that at that time this people came from the Altai Mountains in Mongolia and some of them rode to the left and got stuck in today’s Asia Minor, and the other part migrated over the Bering Strait to Utah, it seems to have things in common. That doesn’t mean that man descended from apes, but I do believe in a common origin in this regard. For example, I saw a vacation ad from Utah on television in America: “Come to the Hava Su Creek!” (“hava”: Turkish = air, “su”: Turkish = water)
Anatole Taubman: I love my intelligent, friend! It’s so exciting to listen to Intschu-tschuna, meaning you! I’m a big history buff.
Mehmet Kurtuluş: Now I’ll lean out the window: If you look at the word Eskimo, it almost sounds like “old Mongolian” to my ears. (“eski”: Turkish = old, “mogollu”: Turkish = Mongolian)
“The Young Chief Winnetou”: Kurtuluş and Taubman talk about “Redfacing”
You can also see features of this Asian face in the American Natives. But are you still allowed to have Turkish or Croatian actors embody the original inhabitants of the USA these days? When Orson Welles played Othello “The Moor of Venice” in 1952, nobody got upset. Today it’s called “blackfacing” and you have to be careful what you say.
Mehmet Kurtuluş: Caution means being afraid of something. What are you afraid of? Why do we have to be careful? From the state we don’t want? understanding or understanding?
How do you see the “redfacing” specifically in your role as chief Intschu-tschuna?
Mehmet Kurtuluş: I think it’s a topic that you MUST question and also about yourself. I had suggested “What are we actually afraid of?” because we are now a society of fear. This makes us tend to form cliques. And also for isolation. We are currently living in a pandemic that has brought us more apart than together. I would like to work against all these impulses: isolation, isolation. that one says; “You stay here! You won’t come to us!” Those are themes that we can hopefully undermine a little with “The Young Chief Winnetou”. If you ask me, Karl May’s Winnetou is not an adult story. I want to send a heartfelt shout out to all the Pierre Brice fans here, but this is a Mika story – a story about an eleven-year-old boy impersonating young Winnetou. When we talk about xenophobia, the fear of the stranger, it is unfortunately better off with our children than with adults. That’s why I was really happy to make this film and to be able to take this topic a little further. If we can teach someone that, or even shape someone – children can (still) be shaped – then let’s do something like that!
Anatole Taubman: We are a human race. For me, actually for all people, it is about principles and that all people are categorically treated equally with respect, decency and tolerance, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or religion. That’s the only way togetherness can work. There is a common spirit. We are not a one man or one woman show. Not in a family, not on a film crew, not in a company, nowhere. And especially as a family man, it is important to me that the reality is explained to children realistically and authentically and that these years from 1850 to 1855 are not glossed over. These are not easy times either. There’s a lot of war, it’s being waged almost more brutally than it was back then. Back then the whites came to America and said: “We need gold. You have such a big country. We’re going to build a few trains there. Anything that stands in our way, we’ll clear out of the way!” Whether we’re looking at Syria or Ukraine today, it’s all even more brutal.
|Mehmet Kurtulus||Anatole Taubman|
|Birthday: April 27, 1972||Birthday: December 23, 1970|
|Place of birth: Usak, Turkey||Place of birth: Zurich|
How do you mean?
Anatole Taubman: It’s no longer about principles, it’s about personal feelings. To get back to your question before that, the line about the white Indian that Todd Crow doesn’t like is absolutely true: “One arrow can be broken quickly, many arrows can’t.” If we’re producers or directors, we know Wir: Acting is a profession. There is a role and it’s my job to find the person who best fits the role and can play it most authentically. And I also know from the production company that they were looking for Native Americans, but couldn’t find them in Germany. And then you decided: OK, now there are no Indians who speak German. Then we’ll take a look. Then the Germans come. There is this Mika Ullritz. Well, this is our Winnetou. We don’t find Sitting Bull as an Indian chief. Look, this is Mehmet Kurtuluş with his looks and inner strength! I’m getting goosebumps right now! I really mean it. (turning to Mehmet Kurtuluş): How you wear that! You are the backbone of this movie with this weight single dad! I believe you 100%. However, the film is not about race and racism, but about personal values such as tolerance. acceptance and togetherness. And I find it very well done that the young Winnetou and the young Tom Silver are really given enough space and respect for these two cultures to come closer together. You can also show this message from the film in Mongolia, in Turkey, in Utah with the Mormons, they will believe it, also in Switzerland or Peru. The message is global.
|movie title||The young chief Winnetou|
|script||Mike Marzuk, Gesa Scheibner|
|production||Ewa Karlstrom, Andreas Ulmke-Smeaton, Christoph Fisser, and Bernd Schiller|
|music||Wolfram de Marco, Fabian Roemer|
“The Young Chief Winnetou”: Kurtuluş and Taubman on Cultural Appropriation
Do you still say Indians? Or should one say American Natives?
Mehmet Kurtuluş: Ultimately, you should ask someone from the culture what they would like to be called, because then you treat them with respect instead of quoting Christopher Columbus. My claim is always when I meet someone I ask: “What’s your name? And how does your mother pronounce you?” I could say “A-na-to-le” to Anatole and he would be happy about that too, but it wouldn’t be right. “So Anatole, what does your mom say to you?” “A-na-tol!” That is to be taken as a benchmark.
Anatole Taubman: I’m basically with him there, but I realize that too much weight is given to that. I just noticed myself in the interview: I wanted to say Indians, then I slipped into English. It’s a very fine tightrope walk. I grew up just like you. I understand why the discussion is going on. But I would automatically say Eskimo first and certainly not Inuit. Above all, I want to treat everyone with respect, but it’s a thin balancing act when you’re 51 like me and have treated everyone with respect for 45 years, and you suddenly have to use a different vocabulary because, thank God, some things are finally on the platform that are overdue to be addressed. You also have to be careful what you say with gender people, for example in England. You shouldn’t say “she” about a man who feels like a woman, but paraphrase it: “What they are thinking about”.
Mehmet Kurtuluş: There is currently a discussion about cultural appropriation. This is also a perspective story. Let’s not only talk about cultural appropriation, but also about cultural belonging. I have friends who have long grid braids. Do we have to discuss whether they should go to the hairdresser or not? Or do you ask him, for example, whether he as a person feels closer to the Rastafari culture than to the Turkish one? What is the focus I ask myself – shell or content? body or soul?
I liked how the romanticism of the grown-up Winnetou films was carried over to yours with the children as the main actors.
Mehmet Kurtuluş: It’s an analogue film. When you put your kids in front of the TV at six in the morning, you don’t want to see what’s on there… (laughs) I think ours can be shown to them with a clear conscience.
Anatole Taubman: As I said, it’s about global values, but the attitude is romantic.
Interview: Marc Hairapetian