I Am My Mother’s Daughter / Ich bin Tochter meiner Mutter
Year of release: 1996
Directed by: Seyhan Derin
In this autobiographical documentary Seyhan Derin, who was born in Turkey and grew up in Germany, explores her parents' migratory history, focusing in particular on her mother's experience.
The film attempts to construct a feminist counter-narrative to Turkish patriarchal discourses on the family in which the birth of a son is perceived as a far greater blessing than that of a daughter. The saying ‘You are the daughter of your father’ – to which the film title obliquely refers – asserts an ambiguous claim, representing, on the one hand, a tender affirmation of family resemblance (i.e. ‘you take after me, your father’), while, on the other hand, stressing the dominance of the male lineage and the patriarch’s authority especially over female family members. Yet Derin challenges the father-daughter bond by making explicit through an accusing letter addressed to the father and read out by her in the film’s opening sequence that it was he who severed this bond: Derin’s father emigrated to Germany in the mid-1960s and subsequently asked his wife and children to join him. But family life was not happy, the father took to drinking and gambling and finally had a disabling accident in the coal mine where he worked. When the father tried sending back his daughters to Turkey, Derin and her sisters resisted and stayed in Germany, which resulted in the break up of the family. Contrasted with the daughters’ act of defiance is the mother’s repeated acknowledgement of her husband’s unquestioned authority: ‘I don’t know. You must know best’, she keeps saying to her husband despite the fact that he has made a number of wrong decisions. Derin’s film is an attempt to redress this imbalance, the complete subordination of her mother (and that of other Turkish women) under Turkish patriarchy, by unearthing her mother’s story, by lending her a voice and by privileging her vantage point – an opportunity with which the reluctantly speaking mother is obviously struggling to come to terms.