x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Documentary aims to save village from mountain of waste

We sit down with the filmmaker Fatih Akin to hear about his documentary Polluting Paradise that is now etched into his soul.

A scene from the documentary Polluting Paradise. Courtesy ADFF
A scene from the documentary Polluting Paradise. Courtesy ADFF

The Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin is talking rubbish. Or rather, he's talking about rubbish. And there is a lot of the rotting, stinking stuff in his heartfelt documentary, Polluting Paradise - the latest in a growing number of films concerned with the impact of what we throw away on the environment and people's lives.

It started by chance. While prepping his 2007 cross-cultural drama The Edge of Heaven, Akin discovered that the grandmother of one of his heroes, Bob Dylan, came from Turkey's Trabzon district, on the Black Sea Coast, where his own paternal grandparents' original village of Çamburnu was located. Intrigued because, he now thinks, he was on a "personal quest to know who I am, what I am and where I am going", the filmmaker decided to pay the village a visit for the first time.

He was so seduced by Camburnu's beauty that he considered buying a house. The locals admonished him to think again: a former copper mine a couple of miles uphill was being turned into a gigantic landfill site for the entire Trabzon region's waste. They were expecting the worst. Horrified, Akin became "part of the local resistance".

He started shooting footage in 2007, believing that the mere threat of making a movie would halt the site. Five years later, he was still documenting - with the help of a local photographer-turned-cameraman - the disastrous impact of the dump.

Every accident and environmental failure that occurs in Polluting Paradise is predicted at the beginning. "It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I always hoped the best for the village, more than thinking about the film," Akin claims. "But I didn't make the film; I was led doing this, like a marionette."

Although you can almost smell the putrid trash in some scenes, it wasn't the stench that Akin found difficult. "The biggest challenge was keeping patient," he says. "I'm not a very patient person, so it was a life lesson about patience."

He hopes that the film can help raise the profile of the villagers' ongoing struggle. However, it is unclear whether Akin will return to fight their corner on the ground.

"The film is like a tattoo. You never can get rid of it. So I am bound to this village, through the film, for the rest of my life." But, he adds: "New challenges, new adventures are calling for me. New films. New whatevers."

Polluting Paradise screens tonight at 9.45pm at Marina Mall's Vox 1 Cinema and on Thursday at 4pm at Vox 4 Cinema