Kumite is a form of competition in karate in which two opponents face each other without discussing the techniques. Nico, the protagonist of Eline Gehring’s debut film of the same name, learns karate from Andy in Neukölln’s dojo, and her favorite kumite is one where parrying an attack is converted straight into a push of your own.

Your own story is already contained in this fighting figure. The attack on the young geriatric nurse comes almost out of nowhere: beaten half to death by a group of three under an S-Bahn underpass, she has to laboriously transform her powerlessness and anger into something that opens up the locked, so self-confidently fought spaces again and she becomes the narrator again her story.

“Nico” is told collectively. Actress Sara Fazilat was also involved in the screenplay, as was camerawoman Francy Fabritz and director and editor Eline Gehring. A female collective that made this film at the Dffb, which is still considered a bastion of German author:innenfilm, although the trio was more noticeable in their previous short films because of their genre affinity.

“Nico” doesn’t waste a lot of time with complex image compositions and sophisticated dialogues either. The film is cut economically, largely improvised, uses the streets of Berlin as a setting, and reacts quickly. Fazilat co-produced, her company is called Third Culture Kids. Very casually, the film is also an expression of a third culture in which characters who grow up in a different country to their parents form their own space, a community that can be attacked at any time.

The public space in which the trauma occurs is incidentally shown to be sexist and racist, probably based on experience. There are actually constant attacks: by a car driver, by men who constantly come too close to the young women, by the thugs who let their initial bullying against Nico escalate with racist abuse. “I’m your friend!” Andy (Andreas Marquardt) yells at his student. Marquardt’s own violent story has been known at least since its film adaptation by Rosa von Praunheim in “Härte”. In the film, his alter ego teaches her never to get hurt again by strengthening her will – and her abdominal muscles.

The film helps her with simple, effective means: the world, after the attack has become a hazy gray and always seems latently hostile, becomes sharp as soon as Nico learns to open up again; the chaotic background noise on the soundtrack sorts itself out, her elderly clients with high blood pressure set the pace: “Life is too short for as long as jesicht.” And then there’s Ronny (Sara Klimoska), who works at the fair, no papers and whose open gaze opens up completely new perspectives for Nico and her friend Rosa (Javeh Asefdjah) in the hall of mirrors.

Diversity in German film is currently an imperative in many discussions and funding requirements. The abdominal muscles of the industry are definitely tense, in anticipation of criticism and the experiences expressed by those affected, whose reality should finally become visible. A small and decisive film like “Nico” hits a soft side. The physical performance of Sara Fazilat was rightly awarded, “Nico” received debut film awards, including the First Steps Award.

It’s easy when Fazilat and Asefdjah improvise on the annoying headscarf topic, while two passers-by drop German words like “dildo” in their Turkish conversation; when one of the seniors describes herself as a “cultural multi” or when Nico and Rosa keep commenting on their white surroundings in Farsi.

Any serious interest in diversity in German cinema must, however, be measured by the three authors’ plans for further productions, by larger budgets and by the confidence that films could be developed that are just as little problematic or milieu films. And which not only provide themes for generic TV formats, but can also be idiosyncratic challenges, as cinephile martial arts that allude to the cinema room, by people who know what they are talking about.

Because, in the words of Andreas Marquardt: “Jeht allet!” In the credits, “Nico” then takes one last hit, a hit: “Sage Nein!” by Konstantin Wecker is playing – and urges civil courage. This is also fitting, perhaps a little too clearly.



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