Turn It Up: Our Review of ‘Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul’ on MUBI

Posted in What's Streaming? by - July 05, 2024
Turn It Up: Our Review of ‘Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul’ on MUBI

One of the first stops at Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul is at a local recording studio. These interior spaces show that Istanbul is just like every city now, where guys put on expensive gold watches. These men are listening to award winning rapper Ceza, delivering fast words and rapping something about, um, the Holocaust? These are just one of the awkward moments that need context in an otherwise insightful documentary from Fatih Akin. Here, he follows composer and actor Alexander Hacke as they showcase the hidden gems in Istanbul’s diverse music scenes. This documentary has its share of music studios and unplugged recording sessions but they also take their journey outside. Music, after all, is a populist artform, and Akin takes time to point his camera towards the local music fans.

Akin and Hacke, both German citizens, present the information in this documentary in ways I am still figuring out. At least they forego the obvious choice to showcasing Istanbul’s modern music scene in ways that feel more linear. If anything, they go back in time, going from modern to traditional, even if those labels feel reductive here. The ‘interviews’ with Hacke at Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul are interesting as he discusses information he discovers. There’s something refreshing about him guessing names of musicians while he’s riding a tour bus with some of them. Then again, this documentary tries and mostly succeeds to cover a lot of ground from rap to traditional. There’s studio level music and touring acts and buskers, there are ethnic Turks and Romani musicians and much more.

In searching for these bands and solo acts The Sound of Istanbul, Akin makes us feel this information’s importance. It’s missing a big get in the name of Selda Bagcan but most of the subjects here are rare finds. Ceza and his sister Ayden are big gets and so are multi-hyphenates like Orhan Gecenbay, Muzeyyen Senar, and Cezen Aksu. Both musicians, who come from different generations, barely perform publicly now but Akin got them to perform sessions we call ‘unplugged’. The interview with Gecenbay is equally insightful as he reminds viewers of a ban of Turkish music in Turkey. Attaturk’s ban, which took effect in the 1930s, still affected his career decades later when he was starting out. But he and musicians like him persisted, using their work to contribute to the mosaic that is Turkish culture.

Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul joins MUBI Canada’s retrospective of music that they call TURN IT UP: MUSIC ON FILM.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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