It's not the expected thing for a documentary on Turkish music to open with a quote from Confucius, but that is not the only fascinating surprise that Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul has to offer. The latest film by Fatih Akin, who directed the exceptional Head-On, turns out to be a Bosporus-based Buena Vista Social Club with cultural commentary thrown into the mix. When Confucius said that to understand a people's culture you have to understand its music, he might have had a film like this in mind.
Crossing the Bridge does more than offer a wide variety of entertaining and intoxicating Turkish music. It also uses music to paint a portrait of a vibrant, cosmopolitan city and provide a window into a rich and varied national culture. Born in Hamburg to Turkish parents, Akin has taken Istanbul to his heart like a native. The title of his film refers to the fact that the city, placed at the point where Asia and Europe meet, has always been as open to the East as it is to the West.
It is that inevitable cross-pollination that characterizes the music that Crossing the Bridge presents. "Your ears are open to everything, even when you don't want them to be," is how one local DJ puts it in the film. Based on the sounds the film exposes us to, the city's musicians have achieved a remarkable synthesis, creating music that has both kept it Turkish and kept it real.