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A film by Marcus Vetter & Ariane Riecker

A search for family roots

A film by Marcus Vetter & Ariane Riecker

A search for family roots

“A great mix of contemporary history and generational portrait.”

TV Today

“Meaningful, moving trace search”

TV Spielfilm

“A highlight on a piece of contemporary history, on the German-Turkish relationship”


My father the Turk

A search for family roots

It all starts with a love story between the Turkish man Cahit Cubuk and a German woman. He is a cook, a first generation guest worker in Germany. She studies German language and literature, but is forced to quit her studies prematurely under pressure from her family because she allegedly had too much to do with men. To escape her family’s conservative worldview, she falls in love with the handsome Turkish cook Cahit, who works in the canteen of the German Federal Railways. Only when she is pregnant does she find out that he is already married and has two daughters in Turkey. He leaves Germany and leaves her alone and pregnant.

Her family also abandons her. Until shortly before the birth she has to work for her own living as a very pregnant woman. She has a son, Atilla Marcus. When Cahit hears about this, he tries to get in contact with her again. She has finally “given” him the son she longed for. His dream has come true. He tries to bring Atilla to Turkey, but the way to his son remains blocked forever.

38 years later. Atilla Marcus sets off for a small Anatolian mountain village to understand his father and the story of his origins. When Marcus Vetter registers for a visit to Turkey, the feelings of all the family members run high. The whole family is eager to meet the unknown son, brother and uncle.

But what he encounters is much more. He meets two of his half-sisters who saw him, the brother, as the unreachable star in the sky all their lives – two of five sisters who all grew up without fatherly love because they are only daughters. Marcus’ sisters openly talk about their disappointed expectations of their parents in childhood and about the lack of recognition of their father, who never stayed home for long and was always on the road. With the help of the longed-for brother, they confront the father with their feelings for the first time. Why are sons more valuable than daughters? The father first escapes the questions. But once they are asked, they expect an answer.

It is a film about the meeting of two very different cultures, in which the parent generation lives according to different ideas. The siblings, on the other hand, find that they ultimately share the same ideas of an intact family and love. But also Cahit Cubuk finally faces the questions of his son, which have occupied him all his life. My father, the Turk, was awarded Best Documentary Film at the 12th Film Festival Turkey/Germany. In 2006 he received the Prix Europa, as well as the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco InternationalFilmfestival 2007.

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A film by Marcus Vetter

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 “I wonder why it’s taken me so long to get in touch with him. Was it because of the postcard he sent me when I was 18, showing a half-naked Turkish blonde and the lottery numbers he wanted me to play? The certainty is growing in me that I will finally visit my father in Turkey, who is now 72 years old – even if the fact that I myself am part of this story is rather scary to me.

Marcus Vetter in the SWR interview

The letter

from Marcus cousin to his father

Dear Father,
I am writing to you because this year I have firmly resolved to visit you in Turkey. As my mother told me, you always spend the summer in your home village in Anatolia. She says you think I am a cook like you. How little we know about each other. I became a journalist and I make documentaries.

The only thing I have of you are two photos, a postcard and the memory of how you suddenly stood before me one day. You’re going to wonder why I didn’t contact you sooner. It’s not easy having a Turkish father you don’t know. That’s why, as a child, I sometimes told you that you were French.

Now I want to meet you at last. Gulay, our neighbour, could come and translate. If you agree, I would bring a camera. Because I have an idea to make a film about you. You should know that my mother never got over you leaving. Some time ago, she gave me her diary entries. She wrote everything down. How you two met. It touched me deeply.

Give my regards to your wife and sisters.
Your son

(From a letter by Marcus Attila cousin. In: “My father, the Turk”)


Sentence by sentence and frame by frame, a highly emotional family history unfolds, which would also have what it takes to become a great feature film melodrama, and along the way it takes a revealing look at half a century of work emigration in Europe and its consequences. The only one who seems a little uninvolved in this dramatic event, wavering between his roles as neutral observer and emotional centre, is Marcus Vetter himself. How close he was to the loss of his father only becomes clear in one of the final sequences: There you see the old man on his new moped riding in circles – in contrast to a Super-8 shot of his still very young son alone in a meadow.

Southwest Press 01.11.207

Outstanding documentary film that gets under the viewer’s skin – and which is more than just a personal search for clues every second. My father the Turk’ highlights a piece of contemporary history, German-Turkish relations and the change in social values.

Bernhard Nellessen, Broadcasting Manager

Marcus Vetter and Ariane Riecker have created an outstanding documentary film that gets under the viewer’s skin – and which is more than just a personal search for clues every second. My father, the Turk’ highlights a piece of contemporary history, German-Turkish relations and the change in social values.


The film’s production does not lead to a leaden melancholy in the face of fate. The film is bursting with vitality: the charm and liveliness of the father, his wife resting in her religiousness, the daughters freed to speak. And at the end Marcus Vetters gives his father the real present: a scooter, which they practice driving together. What the son and father did not experience in Marcus Vetters’ childhood: a father who teaches the son to ride a bike, they now do it with great fun and in reverse roles. A deeply touching film, which allows the conciliatory and the disturbing to stand side by side, reconciles through the humanity of the look with which the director looks at himself and his fellow men. In the end, a moving and impressed audience: through the film and the convincing poetics of his filmmaking, which Marcus Vetter conveyed to us.

Lorettina Tübingen

“Best documentary film”

Prix Europa

“Best documentary film”

 Golden Gate Award

“Best documentary film”

Filmfestival Nürnberg

Festivals & Awards


2007Int. Flahertiana Filmfestival, Russland
2007Docupolis – Int. Filmfestival Barcelona,
2007Festival de Cine, Chile
20079th Annual New York Turkish Filmfestival
2007Göteburg International Filmfestival
2007San Francisco International Film Festival
2007International Filmfestival Ukraine
2007International Filmfestival Ecuador
2007Bellaria Filmfestival Italien

Awards & Nominations

2006Prix Europa
2007Golden Gate Award San Francisco
2007Best Documentary – Filmfest Nürnberg
2007Audience Award Filmfestival Vera Finnland
2007Nominated for Adolf Grimme Preis
2007Nominated for Baden-Württemberg. Dok. Filmpreis
2007Joris Ivens Ccompetition“, IDFA

Broadcast dates

A production of ARD, SWR and ARTE

06. August 2010

at 10:40 pm

26. August 2007

at 10:10 pm

10. June 2007

at 9:15 pm

1. August 2006

at 9:15 pm

Available on VOD


A production of ARD, SWR and ARTE

Year of production2006
Lenght89 Minuten
FormatHD/35 mm
A production ofARD, SWR, ARTE
In cooperation withFilmperspektive GmbH
DirectorMarcus Vetter
Co-DirectorAriane Riecker
Director of PhotographyDragomir Radosavljevic
EditingSaskia Metten

In co-production with film perspective

SoundChristian Lackner
Wolfgang Orth
StoryMarcus Vetter
Ariane Riecker
SpeakerCorinna Harfouch
Commissioning EditorGudrun Hanke-El Ghomri
World salesTelepool
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