My objective is a universal, emotionally comprehensible father-son story that describes a social milieu from the inside rather than the outside Umut Dağ talks about the shooting of his second  feature Cracks in the Concrete

Can you briefly summarize the story of Cracks in the Concrete, your second fiction feature?
Umut Dağ: It’s about the relationship between a father and his son, which isn’t obvious from the beginning, but develops gradually in the course of the film. After a decade the father’s released from prison, and the son moves in similar circles as his father did when the older man was young. The father tries to help his son, who doesn’t realize that this is his father, as he doesn’t want to reveal his identity. That’s the basic plot. At the same time both protagonists have their own stories. The son’s pursuing his dream of making money with rap music and takes every day as it comes. He doesn’t care about school, teachers, etc., and tries to make some kind of future for himself with drug dealing and rap. Ertan, the father, has to deal with his own problems, such as his brother and mother, with whom he’s always had a difficult relationship. So we have two parallel stories with a number of secondary figures who have their own stories. The father-son story represents the core. Around this an extremely complex web develops in which everything’s interconnected - which is our ideal. We’ll see whether things can be realized this way. My objective is a universal, emotionally comprehensible father-son story that describes a social milieu from the inside rather than the outside.

Did you develop this screenplay with Petra Ladinigg too?
Umut Dağ: We developed the story together, Petra did the writing and we polished it together. I won’t be credited as the screenwriter this time or in the future, because I don’t see myself as a writer, but as a script advisor and developer.

Who are the two leads?
Umut Dağ: The father’s played by Murathan Muslu, who was the main character in Papa and Hasan in Kuma. The son’s played by Alechan Tagaev, a 16-year-old street kid from Chechnya. We cast him as Milan after a long search involving several hundred boys.

How are you approaching your second fiction feature after your experience with the first one? Is the experience you had with Kuma helpful?
Umut Dağ: Cracks in the Concrete isn’t a simple shoot. This time we have more amateurs than the last time. In Kuma we had two wonderful, professional actors as the leads, and they carried the film. They were so good that all I did was stand aside and provide a little guidance. Amateurs were cast in only supporting roles. After his two parts in my films, Murathan Muslu isn’t an amateur anymore, but he still wasn’t trained as an actor and everything comes from his gut. All the 16 year olds are talented, fortunately extremely talented, but they’re still unpredictable. They’re not kids from middle-class neighborhoods that we turn into “tough guys,” they are tough, with criminal records, and have been expelled from a number of schools. They are what they are, and have their code of honor and their own ideas about respect and discipline. Those are unpredictable factors. We have amateurs for the supporting roles, in addition to a few pros, and you have to be very careful with a mixed ensemble like this so that it doesn’t show. That, in combination with my shooting style, by which I mean that I resolve scenes, have closeups, try to cut into the emotions, don’t use sequence shots, and end scenes with medium shots, all that makes things really difficult because we have to repeat a lot, and not just once or twice, but all day. That’s rough. The final result should make all this effort and stress worth it, because I’m convinced that this will prevent the theme from stumbling into clichés.

The scenes include a rap concert filmed in documentary style, and you work primarily with amateurs. Could we say that you’re making this film closer to the reality than Kuma in spite of the resolutions?
Umut Dağ: That question implies that I didn’t in the past. I have a problem with saying “yes” to that, because that would mean I didn’t do it in the past, which isn’t the case. For Kuma I consciously chose a different style because I wanted to give that film a different form due to the content. There was something sensitive about the story that I didn’t want to damage with documentary rigidity. Cracks in the Concrete is set in an extremely rough social milieu where I think trying to smooth out all the wrinkles would be wrong. I see that as my challenge, that the hard documentary character does justice to the content. That should go hand in hand.

What role does this rap concert play in the story?
Umut Dağ: The boy’s story is based on the fact that he raps himself. Milan hopes that this concert, given by a well-known German rapper, will be an opportunity to give the other man his tape. The boy believes in himself and his music, he believes that he has to make it to this concert. Things don’t go as planned there, and the house of cards he constructed in his mind collapses. The concert represents a climax for him and the film.
We’ll shoot with the actual rapper, Azad, who’ll play himself in a few scenes. We really hope that we’ll be able to shoot with a real audience that’s there for the show rather than extras. We don’t know what’s ahead for us, but it definitely won’t be an easy adventure. It’s essential for the film that we maintain a mixture of documentary and fiction. I don’t want to wear out the term “documentary,” we won’t just point the camera and shoot. It’s planned out. I see myself in the same tradition as Mike Leigh and Jacques Audiard. Everything’s in an unambiguous language that can’t develop randomly.

Shooting started in March. Spring started much later than expected this year. Did the unseasonable weather make work more difficult?
Umut Dağ: That was actually great for us. We were working under pressure, because we couldn’t shoot in the middle of winter but needed winter’s barrenness, and were afraid that we had started too early. If everything had begun to blossom too quickly, we would have had a real problem. We’re some of the few people who hope that no buds come out in the next few weeks, that would be good for the film.

Interview: Karin Schiefer
April 2013