Scriptwriters put their souls into their figures, but in contrast to book authors, they mostly remain in the background as the creators. I asked myself who was behind the alter ego »Tiger – The Claw of Kreuzberg« and started searching. We met the inventor of this art figure, Murat Ünal, in the heart of Berlin.
You have a degree in Business Administration, where did the change of heart to go into film production come from?
I come from a guest-worker family. As in many other Turkish families, the focus was on success at university and getting an academic title. So I chose to study Business Administration, and I actually wanted to get into the textile branch afterwards. But after finishing, I followed my own wishes and began from scratch, working as a set runner and intern in diverse film productions in order to learn the craft.
You founded your own film production company in the end. Why?
I had a lot of ideas that I would only have been able to realise in my own film production company. During my internships, I saw that unconventional stories don’t sell well. But I wanted to tell my own stories and maintain the power to make decisions, so my own film production company just seemed logical. Turks have a peculiar sense of melancholy. I wrote plays and dealt a lot with this theme. In the Turkish Diaspora in Germany, the feeling of yearning is especially strong. But my first film was a love story, as a matter of fact, – »Yakarım dünyayı«.
However your character, Tiger – The Claw of Kreuzberg, became famous.
At the beginning I didn’t have much money, and interest for Turkish topics was still low, so it wasn’t easy to acquire funds. I was hoping to get more attention with something funny and created the fictional character, which satirises certain stereotypical clichés about Turks. Cemal Atakan, aka Tiger, is a likeably designed loudmouth who thinks he is essential to neighbourhood life and tries to make his worldview more accessible to the viewers. The figure was played by Serkan Çetinkaya, an old friend of mine who had studied Law. It was as if the role had been written for him, because he could imitate »Kanak Sprak« perfectly. At the beginning, we couldn’t sell the production, so we uploaded it onto the Internet. The takes felt even more authentic due to the poor resolution of the videos on YouTube.
Tiger quickly gained a large amount of publicity online. A lot of people thought he was real. At the core, the character is an exaggerated mix of things I’ve heard and people I know, garnished with harsh prejudices that a viewer who is familiar with such prejudices sees confirmed. More than anything else, it’s important to us to cater to our own taste. Exaggeration and self-irony is widespread in Turkey as well, Turks laugh at themselves a lot.
How did it continue with Tiger?
RBB (Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting) discovered the series after it had gained a cult status on the net. We received our own talk show on television, governed by public law. The Süper Tiger Show saw Tiger host film, sport and entertainment guests. Serkan and I created a 90-minute stand up show together for the Engelbrot Theatre called »Abziehaopfazbodysolariummädschen« (engl. (Hustlaloserbodytanningbedgurl – ed.) – the theatre was sold-out for the first time in its history! I was able to realize a big wish of mine for TV-Berlin: We wrote a series, »Tiger, the Show« that had appearances from all of the characters that Tiger talks about in his videos, like Mad-good-price-Ahmet, for example.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I have my own YouTube channel with podcasts and reviews about film. At the same time, I’m working on a new film project and am in the middle of casting »The Hollywood Turk« – a romantic comedy. It’s about a young Turkish guy who falls in love with a German girl and pretends to be Italian.
What do you think of previous films that deal with German-Turks?
Films like »Türkisch für Anfänger« (engl. Turkish for Beginners – ed.) or »Fack ju Göthe« made the topic socially acceptable, however, the editors and scriptwriters all come from a German background so they have little insight into real life. The fact that Elyas M’barek, who is part Tunisian, is the most popular »Turk« says a lot about the German film industry. It’s not so much talent that’s important, but rather corresponding to a specific stereotypical way of thinking: Black hair and Ghetto German. Essentially, you’ve got to have some nerve to tell authentic stories, too. Fatih Akın took risks and casted names like Sibel Kekilli and Birol Ünel, and in doing so, he wrote film history.
Text: Hakan Dağıstanlı
Photos: Ferhat Topal