Movie Review: A Regular Woman (Nur eine Frau)

With Germany seeing its population age as more people delay marriage (if they’re getting married at all) and have fewer children, the government has imported labour, mostly from Turkey, to fuel its economic growth. That policy, along with its very generous policy of allowing in tens of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and other Muslim countries, has resulted in a host of social problems as it struggles to integrate these people into its culture. One of those problems reared its ugly head on February 7, 2005, when a 23-year-old woman was executed on the street by her youngest brother in what was deemed to be an honour killing. Her crime was being too German and not Muslim enough for her traditional and devout family.

The German film, A REGULAR WOMAN, recounts that shocking and horrific event from the victim’s perspective. Hatun “Aynur” Sürücü (Almila Bagriacik) and her ethnically Kurdish family of 11 arrived in Germany in the 1990s from eastern Turkey, eventually settling into a cramped three-bedroom flat in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. When Aynur was 16, her parents married her off to a cousin in Turkey but two years later she was back in Berlin, heavily pregnant, having divorced her husband who had repeatedly beat her during their short time together. Made to feel unwelcome at home and under her family’s thumb, she eventually moved herself and her baby to a home for teenage mothers. She got a job in a supermarket and went back to school to learn to be an electrician. None of this sat well with her family who saw Aynur drifting away from their control. Aynur, however, pressed on with her goal of being free and self-reliant, eventually removing her hijab and finding a German boyfriend. Her life came to an abrupt end at the age of 23 when her brothers, and quite possibly even her parents, could not take the dishonour anymore.

Told in a near-documentary style, American-German director Sherry Hormann intersperses her film with images of the real Aynur both prior to and after her death if only to remind us that honour killings are a real thing. Hormann is no stranger to tackling heady issues. Her 2009 film, DESERT FLOWER, dealt with female genital mutilation. In A REGULAR WOMAN, Aynur tells her own story from the grave, informing viewers at the outset that she could have been any modern Muslim woman in Germany today if it weren’t for her family. Rather sadly, we see with 20/20 hindsight that her demise may have been averted had she completely severed her ties with her family or if the German police would have been interested in protecting her safety when she went to them after one too many threatening phone calls from her brothers. Aynur, unfortunately, lived in hope that one day her family would accept her for who she had become — a good German.

While some justice was meted out in the aftermath of Aynur’s murder, Germany still has much more to work do to ensure that this doesn’t happen again to one of its own.

A REGULAR WOMAN will be screened as part of the Kino/19 German Film Festival organised by the Goethe-Institut Hong Kong. This year, the festival runs from October 11 – 20, and will feature ten films representing the best of German cinema from the past year. I’ve always enjoyed this event because their selection of films is always diverse, with both topical and thought-provoking films, and some comedic fare thrown in for good measure. You’ll have two chances to catch A REGULAR WOMAN — once on Sunday, October 13th, at 7:30 pm at the Louis Koo Cinema located at Hong Kong Arts Centre in Wanchai, and again on Friday, October 18th, at 7:30 pm at Premiere Cinema in Elements. For more information, visit their website here.

Definitely go see this film! It’s both tragic and powerful.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, October 11th, 8:30 am HK time!

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