Shirin’s Wedding / Shirins Hochzeit
Year of release: 1975
Directed by: Helma Sanders-Brahms
Set in 1971, the film centres on Shirin, a young woman from a poor family in rural Anatolia, who elopes from a marriage with a local administrator arranged by her paternal uncles while her father is in prison. Despite its pertinent title, the film does not actually feature a wedding ceremony.
instead, foregrounds the deal Shirin’s uncles strike with the groom in exchange for Shirin. The local administrator places a bundle of bank notes on the table, offers a piece of land to one uncle and a necklace with gold coins to Shirin, before taking her away on a pickup truck, as if she were cattle or another commodity. The wedding referenced in the title refers both to the arranged marriage and to Shirin’s desire to get married to Mahmud, a man from her village to whom she was promised when she was still a child and long before Mahmud went as a guest worker to Germany. The wedding to her childhood betrothed remains a fantasy and the chief motivation for Shirin’s migration to Germany, where she searches for Mahmud. Having been raped by her boss and lost her employment, Shirin’s desperation drives her into the arms of a pimp, another male exploiter and oppressor. Selling her body in the dorms of guest worker hostels, she chances upon Mahmud, but the ‘wedding night’ in the arms of the man she longed for turns out to be one he must first pay for. She is shot dead by one of the pimps as she tries to run away soon after. Shirin’s Wedding was made at a time when the women’s liberation movement conceived of the institutions of marriage and the family as instruments of patriarchal oppression, and Sanders-Brahms seems less interested in the cultural specificities of Shirin’s fate, instead using the wedding motif as a trope for the oppression of all women in patriarchal societies.