Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul
THE MOVIE Your attention might wander during the early minutes of this documentary, and who could blame you--after all, who wants to devote an hour and a half to finding out that there are crappy rock bands in Turkey, too? But as director Fatih Akin (2004 German/Turkish cult fave Head-On) and on-screen narrator/recording engineer/protagonist Alexander Hacke (bassist for German industrialists Einstürzende Neubauten and past Akin collaborator) delve deeper into the music of the ancient continent-straddling city of Istanbul, they unearth treasure after treasure: a glimpse of Turkish rock pioneer Erkin Koray, balding but unbowed, still psych-ing out onstage; a fire-hot a cappella session from Asian-side hip-hop MC Ceza, whose Twista-like speed-rapping flashes dervishlike intensity; a riotous, beer-fueled Roma music jam featuring clarinet motherfucker Selim Sesler. Even random busker group Siyasiyabend impresses with its ragged charisma and not-a-single-thing-better-to-do-than-belt-it-out brio. By the time Akin and Hacke roll around to performances from Orhan Gencebay (a Turkish film and music legend who has never sung live) and Kurdish songbird Aynur (delivering a heart-piercing, once-banned dirge inside the acoustically ideal dome of a centuries-old hammam, or bath), you may find yourself wondering how you lived so long without this music. The film flounders/skimps a bit in offering context for the city and its sounds, but by the time it concludes with a hotel-room performance from Turkish diva Sezen Aksu (the equivalent of having Madonna show up and croon a solo acoustic "Live to Tell"), it hardly matters. And if anyone ever wants to bankroll a whole series of films like this, they could do far worse than hiring the avuncular, ever-eager Hacke to smoke and clap along through them all.
THE DISC Nothing but the usual low-budget lack of options here. Extended and additional performance footage would have been ideal, not to mention a godsend, but all you get is the trailer and some previews.