Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sibel Kekilli spends a busy week in Santa Fe

After spending some time in Los Angeles the previous week, "Game of Thrones" actress Sibel Kekilli traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico where she spent the week of Thanksgiving as a guest of author George R.R. Martin. During her visit, she attended two screenings of her 2010 movie "When We Leave," and she also dropped by a couple of local radio stations and spoke with a member of the local Humane Society before sharing Thanksgiving dinner with Martin.

In "When We Leave," Kekilli plays a Turkish-German woman living in Istanbul that escapes her abusive husband. She returns to her family in Berlin with her five-year-old son, but thanks to social pressure from the local Turkish community, her family rejects her. The screenings of the movie were held at Jean Cocteau Cinema the Tuesday and Wednesday nights prior to Thanksgiving. With Martin serving as her moderator, Kekilli introduced her movie on both nights and conducted Q&A sessions afterward. Martin owns the theater and is close friends with Kekilli, so he has arranged for her to appear at the theater several times, either in person or via Skype.

At the Wednesday night Q&A, Kekilli revealed that "When We Leave" producer, writer and director Feo Aladag initially did not want her to play the lead role, thinking that Kekilli was too famous for an independent film, and that the part was too similar to the one Kekilli played in "Head On," which was also about a Turkish-German woman fighting against the cultural norms of her community. Kekilli won the 2004 Lola Award for Best Actress for her performance in "Head On."

"We're friends now," Kekilli said of the Austrian filmmaker. "But she didn't want me, then. When I first read the script, I was crying, so I really wanted this role. Only after she couldn't find anyone else, she called my agency and asked me to audition, and I thought, 'I'll show you!'"

Kekilli also discussed her five-year-old co-star Nizam Schiller, who played her character's son. The movie features several scenes depicting domestic violence, and according to her, Schiller became frightened while filming some of those scenes.

"Of all the boys that came to audition, he was the only one who made me cry, because of those big, beautiful brown eyes," said Kekilli. "But I felt guilty like I couldn't protect him. I couldn't make him understand that there was no need to be afraid."

Although she feels more German than anything else, Kekilli expressed a deep affection for her Turkish roots, but that won't keep her from criticizing aspects of Turkish culture that she feels are negative.

"I love Turkish culture. Turkish food, Turkish music, and the Turkish people are very passionate," said Kekilli. "But most people from Turkey don't seem to like me because they think a movie like 'When We Leave' puts them in a bad light. But the things we show in the movie are true, and I won't shy away from talking about them." For 10 years, Kekilli has worked with "Terre des Femmes," a human rights organization that fights against institutionalized violence toward girls and women.

Earlier in the week, Kekilli met with on-air personality Chris Diestler of Radio Free Santa Fe, and with Mary-Charlotte Domandi of Santa Fe Radio Cafe. In the latter interview, which was conducted at the Santa Fe Baking Co. & Cafe, Kekilli mentioned that her next film project is to direct a short documentary about Terre des Femmes founder Christa Stolle.

"(Stolle and I) will go to Bulgaria because she's supporting the Roma girls," Kekilli said about the documentary. "It's really sad there because they don't have anything. They don't have jobs, some of them have to be a prostitute, and they are 13, 14 years old."

After getting interviewed by Domandi, Kekilli met with Ben Swan, the Public Information Officer for the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society. In addition to being an activist for human rights, Kekilli is also an advocate for animal rights. After the Turkish city of Ankara was accused of killing hundreds of stray dogs and disposing the bodies in a garbage dump in 2006, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) asked Kekilli to pose for a poster which promoted the implementation of birth control for stray dogs in Turkey.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Los Angeles Turkish cafe Mama's Secret gets a visit from Sibel Kekilli

While spending some time in the Los Angeles area this week, Turkish-German actress Sibel Kekilli dropped by a family-owned bakery/cafe known as Mama's Secret to experience some Mediterranean cuisine. The Beverly Hills-based eatery serves a variety of Mediterranean food, but it is particularly well-known for its Turkish breakfast, Turkish coffee and Turkish black tea.

"Ms. Kekilli was extremely warm and kind," said Mama's Secret owner Alican Bayar. "I believe she found us online. In my opinion, Ms. Kekilli was one of the kindest and most humble celebrities to ever visit."

Mama's Secret opened four years ago and serves Turkish and American breakfast and lunch dishes. According to Bayar, Turkish cuisine is very popular on the East Coast of the United States, but it is just beginning to gain popularity on the West Coast. The cafe also does full-service catering for a variety of events.

"Almost all Turkish celebrities visit us when they visit Los Angeles," said Bayar. "As is our tradition, Sibel Kekilli left her hand print on our wall."

The cafe's Facebook and Instagram accounts feature a number of photos of Turkish celebrities leaving their hand prints at the business. Those celebrities include model Çağatay Ulusoy and actress Büşra Pekin, who may be unknown to most Americans, but are well-known back in their home country.

As the daughter of Turkish immigrants, Kekilli grew up eating Turkish food. The former "Game of Thrones" star mentioned her love for Turkish food when she and "A Song of Ice and Fire" author George R.R. Martin appeared on an episode of the German/French reality TV series, "Durch die Nacht." Kekilli told Martin about how she and "Game of Thrones" co-creator David Benioff had an argument comparing Turkish food to Greek food.

"David Benioff said, 'Greek food is much better.' I said, ' Have you ever tried Turkish food in Turkey.' He said, 'No, but it's the same.' I said, 'No, it's not.'"

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sibel Kekilli returns to Santa Fe for two screenings of 'When We Leave'

Eleven months after her previous appearance at Jean Cocteau Cinema, award-winning actress Sibel Kekilli will return to the Santa Fe, New Mexico movie theater November 24-25 for two screenings of her 2010 film, "When We Leave." The movie, originally released in Germany under the title "Die Fremde," features Kekilli as a German-born woman of Turkish descent who is rejected by her family in Berlin when she, along with her five-year-old son, flees her abusive husband in Istanbul. For that performance, Kekilli won her second award for best actress at the Lola Awards, which is the German equivalent of the Academy Awards.

"Last time she was here, I introduced her to margaritas and chile con queso, so of course she had to return," wrote George R.R. Martin on his blog Wednesday. According to Martin, Kekilli will introduce the film and answer questions afterwards on both nights. Advance tickets are available at the Jean Cocteau Cinema website.

Jean Cocteau Cinema is owned by Martin, who lives in Santa Fe and is the author of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" fantasy books series. The HBO television series "Game of Thrones" is based on that book series, and Martin met Kekilli after she was cast to play Tyrion Lannister's lover Shae on the TV show. The two have developed a close friendship, which was documented on the German/French reality TV show, "Durch die Nacht." During Kekilli's visit to Santa Fe in December, she and Martin were followed by a film crew as he gave her a tour of the city. The two of them also dropped by Jean Cocteau Cinema at attend a screening of Kekilli's 2004 debut movie, "Head On." She won her first Lola Award for her performance in that movie, originally titled "Gegen die Wand" in Germany.

Kekilli's last trip to Santa Fe was a bit of an adventure. According to an interview she gave the Santa Fe Reporter, her connecting flight from Denver was cancelled due to bad weather, so she accepted a ride from a stranger that was transporting fish to Santa Fe. The drive between Denver and Santa Fe takes six hours, so along the way they stopped for crushed ice for his cargo.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Grazia Deutschland receives birthday wishes from Sibel Kekilli

To help celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Germany's version of the Italian weekly fashion magazine Grazia this month, Turkish-German actress Sibel Kekilli submitted a personal photo of herself blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. The cake appeared to be a chocolate cake featuring five standard birthday candles plus a candle in the shape of the number five. The photo was published on Grazia's German-language website along with photos of other celebrities wishing happy birthday to the publication.

Kekilli's association with the German edition of Grazia goes back to 2010, when she granted the magazine an interview on what it was like living in Germany as a person of Turkish descent. She granted another interview in 2013 in which she discussed the international fame she achieved after starring as Shae on the HBO fantasy television series "Game of Thrones." Also in 2013, she attended Germany's Best Dressed Awards where Grazia named her "Best Dressed-Red Carpet."

Grazia was founded in 1938 and originally modeled after the American magazine, Harper's Bazaar. Its first international edition was published in Bulgaria in 2004 with the United Kingdom edition starting publication the following year. Now the magazine is published in more than 20 countries including China, France and Mexico, although not in the United States. An Australian edition was discontinued in 2013 due to low sales. This past summer, the UK version drew the ire of animal rights activists when it published an article suggesting that breeding animals would be a good way of earning extra money. Grazia subsequently apologized for the article.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sibel Kekilli to appear at Design and Culture Days festival in Trier, Germany

The inaugural Design and Culture Days festival in Trier, Germany ("Design- und Kulturtagen Trier") will feature a special guest when Turkish-German actress Sibel Kekilli arrives for a public interview the evening of October 23. The interview will be conducted by German author, director and producer Hermann Vaske. The event is titled,"One Plus One Equals Three: Creative Talk with Sibel Kekilli."

The event will occur on the opening night of a three-day festival created by the city of Trier and the Department of Design at the University of Trier. The festival is designed to highlight many of the cultural and creative industries that exist in Trier and the surrounding region. Other events will include a number of exhibitions, a scientific symposium, presentations and panel discussions on the subject of design, and a fashion show with the awarding of the Trier Fashion Award.

As a director, Vaske has worked with actors such as John Cleese in the 2006 movie "The Art of Football from A to Z" and Dennis Hopper in the 2007 short film "Must I Write?" He has also interviewed such well-known figures as David Bowie, Stephen Hawking, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Vaske has won more than 100 national and international creative awards in his career.

Kekilli's appearance at the festival will come less than two weeks after she was spotted in costume on the set of "Game of Thrones"in Peñiscola, Spain. Kekilli's character, Shae, was presumably killed at the end of Season Four, but her appearance in Peñiscola has fueled speculation that her character may return for Season Six.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sibel Kekilli's visit to Peñíscola, Spain intrigues fans of 'Game of Thrones'

When Sibel Kekill showed up Monday on the set of  HBO's "Game of Thrones" in Peñíscola, Spain, it seemed as if she was there simply to visit old friends. After all, Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) and Conleth Hill (Varys) were filming in Peñíscola, and she had worked extensively with them before her character, Shae, was apparently strangled to death by Tyrion at the end of Season Four. She also had close relationships with show creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss, who are currently in the city supervising the shooting.

Things changed on Tuesday when Kekilli was spotted on the set once again -- this time, in costume.

Shooting for Season Six of "Game of Thrones" is currently underway in several locations, including Peñíscola, which serves as the location for the fictional city of Meereen. As of the end of Season Five, which aired this past spring, the characters for Dinklage and Hill were in Meereen. On Tuesday, based on photos and videos posted by various fans on Twitter and Instagram, Kekilli appeared to be wearing an outfit commonly worn by the former slaves in Meereen. This has set off a flurry of speculation among fans of the show, particularly on two fan websites, Winter Is Coming and Watchers on the Wall. The speculation typically falls into one of three categories:

  1. Shae somehow survived getting strangled by Tyrion and eventually showed up in Meereen. Kekilli's character was always particularly confident in her survival skills, so it doesn't appear to be a stretch that Shae might play dead in an effort to get Tyrion to stop strangling her.
  2. Shae has an identical twin who happens to be in Meereen. Very little is known about Shae's family, so the writers for the show have plenty of room to work with in this regard. Coincidentally, Kekilli actually has a twin sister, although she's a binovular twin.
  3. Tyrion has a dream or hallucination involving Shae. The "Game of Thrones" TV series is adapted from George R.R. Martin's fantasy book series, "A Song of Ice and Fire," and in the fifth book, "A Dance with Dragons," Tyrion goes through a downward spiral of guilt over murdering Shae. Seeing visions of her would be consistent with this.

Kekilli is particularly fond of working with Dinklage, saying in 2013, "I really love him and his acting. His acting is overwhelming, and I love to watch him. When we act together, I really forget to act. Acting for me is like a ping-pong game. That’s the secret of acting. When you have a really good actor, I always want to be as good as he is or she is. Peter gives me the ball and I just want to return it to him."

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sibel Kekilli and the cast of 'Tatort' hit the red carpet at Filmfest Hamburg

Fans at this year's Filmfest Hamburg got a bit of a sneak preview on October 2 when an upcoming episode of the German television crime series "Tatort," titled "Borowski und die Rückkehr des stillen Gastes" ("Borowski and the Return of the Silent Guest"), was screened at the event. The screening was marked by a red carpet appearance of the Kiel cast of "Tatort," including Turkish-German actress Sibel Kekilli and her co-star Axel Milberg. The episode, which was filmed February 24-March 25, won't be aired on German television until January 1, 2016.

According to the official "Tatort" website, the episode is a sequel to "Borowski und die Rückkehr des stillen Gastes" ("Borowski and the Silent Guest"), which was aired in 2012. The original episode was about a notorious serial killer named Kai Korthals played by Lars Eidinger, who reprises his role in the new episode. In the sequel, Korthals is a suspect in the disappearance of the girlfriend of Milberg's character, Klaus Borowski. An additional Kiel episode, titled "Borowski und die große Stille" (Borowski and the Great Silence), was filmed this past summer. It has not been screened anywhere, and an air date has yet to be announced.

For her festival appearance, Kekilli appeared in a black dress sold by Weekday, accordingly to a post on Instagram by Prag Agency, a public relationships firm that specializes in fashion, beauty and art. Weekday bills itself as a "progressive retail store concept offering jeans and creative fashion at an affordable price." Weekday's retail stores are located in Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden.

Filmfest Hamburg is the third-largest film festival in Germany, after Berlin International Film Festival and Filmfest München. This year marks the 23rd edition of the festival. It continues through October 10.