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Film / Soul Kitchen

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Soul Kitchen is a German music comedy movie directed by Fatih Akın which premiered in German cinemas around Christmas 2009.

The main character around whom the entiry story builds up is Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos), a young man with Greek background who runs a restaurant named Soul Kitchen in an old warehouse somewhere in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg. The food isn't overly good but decent, and the customers aren't overly many but faithful. Things start to get out of hand with a few incidents. Zinos' girlfriend Nadine (Pheline Roggan) goes to Shanghai for her work as a journalist and wants him to follow which he can't, at least not immediately. His brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu) comes out of jail for a few hours a day but has to take a job during that time, and he asks Zinos to pretend to give him one. An old schoolmate of him, Neumann (Wotan Wilke Möhring), now a real estate property shark, gets interested in the land the Soul Kitchen is standing on and tries to acquire it to have it demolished and resell the vacant land.

Zinos himself seriously hurts his back trying to get the ancient Greek-made dish-washer out of his kitchen after it breaks almost all his dishes. Since he can't stand in the kitchen anymore, he hires the excentric Supreme Chef Shayn (Birol Ünel) who has just been fired from a luxurious restaurant. Shayn refuses to make the meals on Zinos' menu, stating that his customers have been shoveling junk into themselves all the time. He spruces up the food, and if the band who uses the Soul Kitchen as their temporary rehearsal room doesn't chase the customers away, it's Shayn and his cooking, right when Zinos needs money to pay the city (whose representatives take his stereo instead) and upgrade the kitchen to satisfy the health office who had been called in one of Neumann's schemes.

Then a musical school opens up in a nearby house. Since the Soul Kitchen is the only gastronomy around, the students come to have their meals and hang out there; they even seem to find Shayn's creations to their liking. The real success kicks in when Illias installs a DJ set his buddies have just robbed out of a discoteque from a DJ who has called him names. Illias has no clue how to operate it but learns quickly, and once the visitors can dance to cool soul music from Zinos' record collection (and the occasional performance by the rock band which had rehearsed there before), the Soul Kitchen becomes a huge success. Nevertheless, Neumann doesn't give up, nor does Zinos' fate which keeps acting against him.

Soul Kitchen was the first movie Fatih Akın shot completely in Germany which made it more expensive than any of his previous movies. It takes place entirely in the city of Hamburg, largely in gentrification-threatened areas in Wilhelmsburg. Akın referred to it as a "declaration of love to Hamburg and its inhabitants" and actually showcases the city with its many facets.

Soul Kitchen contains examples of:

  • Berserk Button: Do not get between Shayn and his cooking.
    • Also, do not insult Illias. He'll get his buddies, beat you up, and if you're a DJ, steal your equipment right out of the disco.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Nadine's grandma at Zinos and Nadine's family dinner.
  • California Doubling: Averted despite the high production costs in Hamburg.
  • Catchphrase: Illias' "Warte mal zwei Sekunden" ("Wait two seconds").
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Zinos Skypes with Nadine who's wearing nothing but a Modesty Towel. He tells her to take the towel off which she does. He then proceeds to open his pants, but notices that someone's watching from an opposite building.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Neumann bangs the tax woman in the middle of the almost empty Soul Kitchen under the influence of Shayn's Love Potion, regardless of Zinos and Sokrates being around.
  • Cooking Stories
  • Creator Provincialism: Not even Germany. Soul Kitchen is one of those cult movies about Hamburg, made by Hamburg residents in Hamburg mostly for an audience from Hamburg. In fact, it might be hard to understand when you're not from Hamburg.
  • Determinator: Zinos. He might put someone else in charge of the Soul Kitchen, but he does not allow it to be shut down.
    • Neumann who tries just about every trick in the book to get his hands on the Soul Kitchen.
  • Deus ex Machina: The only way to get Neumann out of Zinos' hair and solve the Soul Kitchen's situation was to have the finance office bust his shady real estate company and put him into jail. It helps a bit that Zinos still has to buy his restaurant back in an auction against another property shark—which he wins with the help of yet two more cases of Deus ex Machina.
  • The Film of the Book/Novelization: Jasmin Ramadan's novel, Soul Kitchen, appears to be either of these, but it is none; it is a Prequel.
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: Neumann lies about one to get the health office to inspect and hopefully shut down the Soul Kitchen so he can buy the building.
  • Greasy Spoon: The Soul Kitchen early in the movie.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Nadine's grandma dies In-Universe, causing Nadine to come back from Shanghai when Zinos is just about to fly there. Her actress, Monica Bleibtreu, died shortly after the movie's first version was completed.
  • Leitmotif: "La Paloma" in many variations, excluding Hans Albers' but including one in Spanish, sometimes fading into one another.
  • Local Hangout: The Soul Kitchen starts out as this.
  • Love Potion: A dessert Shayn makes with tree bark. Let's just say it works well enough for a Binge Montage.
  • Modesty Towel: Nadine on Skype.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Knochenbrecher-Kemal (Bone Breaker Kemal) who fixes Zinos' back.
  • Pun-Based Title: Word of God reveals in the making-of that a working title was Soul Kittchen. "Kittchen" is colloquial German for "jail", and Zinos' brother Illias is technically in jail.
  • Punny Name: A minor biker character named Ali Davidson.note 
  • Red Light District: Averted and played straight in an unusual combination. Surprisingly for a movie located in Hamburg, it does not feature the Reeperbahn. Instead, Neumann runs his own Red Light District.
  • Scenery Porn: Well, as porn as certain parts of Hamburg get. However, Soul Kitchen is very good at showing off Hamburg and demonstrating that Hamburg is more than the Red Light District it's usually reduced to.
  • Shout-Out: To A Christmas Carol when Zinos tells Sokrates it doesn't matter that he won't be able to pay the rent for the next three months because it's Christmas after all.
  • Supreme Chef: Shayn.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Zinos at the hotel after he finds out that Illias sold the Soul Kitchen.