Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul Fateh Akin

The director of Head-On and the bassist of Einstürzende Neubauten join forces for a documentary that lacks the trail-blazing energy of both of their day jobs.

The subject is the encounter of Alexander Hacke (that’s the bassist) with the music of Istanbul after producing the score for the aforementioned Fateh Akin film; he serves as narrator and guide through the startling array of music that’s grown up in this crossroads between Western Europe and the Middle East. From rock to hip-hop, classical Arabesque to Romany and Kurdish sounds, the city serves as a hotbed of musical activity that’s supremely hard to pin down. Thing is, nobody really tries: the film isn’t so much an analysis of how the music works as a showcase for a few performers.

I’m not sure if this would bother an expert but this novice found it a tad bewildering to ricochet from various representatives of the scene with only the most cursory explanations as to how the music works. It’s an excellent showcase film but not a very good documentary; though several Turkish luminaries share their time and talents (and various others make their cases for their forms), one gets the sense that both their personalities and the cultures from which they spring are being severely truncated.

Though Akin and Hacke quote Confucius to the tune of "if you want to understand a culture, study its music,” they don’t give enough of a sense of the latter to truly illuminate the former. What’s here is a series of loose ends and random objects that simply don’t cohere to the point of being compelling, and one watches, vaguely interested, but largely unmoved. (Mongrel Media)