In a memorable scene in his cross-Balkan road movie Im Juli/In July (Germany 2000), the director Fatih Akin cast himself as a gum-chewing, chess-playing customs officer at a makeshift Hungarian-Romanian border, who would not let his protagonist Daniel pass the toll-gate: ‘No passport, no Romania!’ At this moment, Daniel’s lost travel companion Juli surprisingly appears out of a little hut on the other side of the border. Their unexpected reunion culminates in a strange rite of passage. The border guard/director conducts a wedding ceremony at gunpoint, declares them married, and opens the toll-bar — not before acquiring Daniel’s vehicle as a ‘present’. In this absurdist enactment of border control, the director’s cameo appearance and mockery of his own role introduce a moment of authorial self-irony, implying a tongue-in-cheek complicity with an initiated audience. Such ironic moments have become a trademark for Hamburg-based Turkish German director Fatih Akin’s film style. For his award-winning film Gegen die Wand/ Head-On (Germany 2004), he also acted in a short cameo scene as a drug dealer in Istanbul, but he ultimately decided to cut the scene,2 as he wanted to avoid replicating the brief role that he had previously played in his debut feature Kurz und schmerzlos/Short Sharp Shock (Germany 1998). In the following, I will argue that dramatic irony in Head-On operates on a different level than authorial self-insertion.
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