German-born Turkish director Fatih Akin’s Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul is a snapshot of the multifarious and undulating music scene in a city that is both the symbolic and literal nexus of East and West. Akin follows German rock musician and music producer Alexander Hacke as he checks into the Grand Hotel de Londres in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul with the intention of finding and recording all manner of Turkish musicians.
And find them he does. From the self-described neo-psychedelic band Baba Zula to the grungy punk outfit Duman and political rapper Ceza to Istanbul’s 86-year-old grand dame, Müzeyyen Senar, Akin pays a great deal of attention to the performers’ backgrounds, opinions and concerns, but also films substantial sections of performance. The result is a long, multi-faceted film that’s part social observation, part music video.
The music itself ranges from the traditional to some extremely western-sounding rock ‘n’ roll. This cultural overlap, and the tensions between Eastern and Western sensibilities are at the heart of the film. Akin’s Istanbul is a city in limbo, a place that’s proud of the cultural diffusion with the EU and the US, but that’s vary wary of losing too much of itself to the West.