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Soul Kitchen

Director: Fatih Akin

Zinos, a German of Greek descent, owns Soul Kitchen, a shabby, run-down restaurant providing working-class food in the Hamburg area, in an old warehouse space. The business is struggling financially, and tax inspectors ask Zinos for payments. Occasionally a punk rock band uses the restaurant as practice space, but never pays rental fees. An old sailor, Sokrates, continuously works on his boat at the warehouse, but is never able to pay the rent.

At a family gathering at an upscale restaurant, Zinos argues with his girlfriend Nadine, a journalist, who is preparing to leave on assignment to Shanghai. During that dinner, the chef, Shayn, has an argument with a customer, and the restaurant owner dismisses Shayn on the spot. Afterwards, Zinos meets an old schoolmate, Thomas Neumann, and his fiancée Tanja. In spite of their arguments over Nadine’s assignment to Shanghai, Zinos and Nadine maintain contact via Skype. Zinos’ incarcerated brother Illias, a gambler and hustler, is serving a prison sentence, and has “special leave” where he is allowed occasional leave from the prison, but must do community work as part of the terms. Zinos agrees to hire Illias to work at Soul Kitchen, to the disdain of bartender Lucia, because Illias has never had a regular job. Illias asks Zinos not to tell anyone about his criminal past. Later, Zinos injures his back when trying to move a heavy dishwasher. He has no medical insurance and cannot afford full medical treatment. Zinos meets a physical therapist, Anna, in the course of his recovery.

Unable to cook, Zinos finds Shayn and hires him as Soul Kitchen’s new cook. Shayn insists on changing the menu to a new haute cuisine menu. This drives away the old clientele and shrinks business to nearly nothing. Illias has the idea of being a DJ at Soul Kitchen, which he achieves with equipment stolen with the help of his criminal friends. Shayn begins to teach Zinos gourmet cooking skills. Gradually, the restaurant’s reputation and fortunes turn around, to the point where Zinos can make a tax payment to the authorities. Although Zinos inadvertently, whilst drunk, revealed to Lucia that Illias has a criminal record, with time and his success as a DJ at Soul Kitchen, Lucia changes her opinion of Illias and begins to find herself attracted to him. Meanwhile, Neumann has designs on purchasing the restaurant property and re-developing the site. He offers to buy Soul Kitchen from Zinos, but Zinos continually refuses. One evening, Shayn spikes one dessert with an aphrosidiac from tree bark. This has an effect on everyone in the restaurant, including Neumann and Frau Schuster, the lead tax inspector, where the two of them have sex. Afterwards, after Zinos complimented Neumann on this liaison, Neumann says that he’s done the same thing financially to the tax authorities. However, on her way out of the restaurant, Zinos chats with Frau Schuster, and Zinos reveals Neumann’s full name to her.

Zinos had hoped to travel to Shanghai to meet Nadine, but the new success of Soul Kitchen causes Zinos to be distracted from maintaining contact with her. New tensions arise in their relationship. To try to reconcile with Nadine, Zinos plans to leave for Shanghai, after he makes Illias manager of Soul Kitchen and gives him full power of attorney. Nadine advises Zinos not to make the journey, because she might be moving her assignment to Tibet. Zinos buys the plane ticket, but at the airport about to leave, he sees Nadine, accompanied by a Chinese man, Mr Han. She has returned following the sudden death of her grandmother. At the funeral, at which Zinos arrives uninvited (having left the airport rather than take his flight), he realises that Mr Han is Nadine’s new boyfriend. Zinos disrupts the funeral and becomes estranged from Nadine and her family.

In Zinos’ absence, Illias loses the Soul Kitchen in a poker game to Neumann, and signs away the deed. Neumann and his hired men evict Zinos, Illias and the other denizens of Soul Kitchen. To try to prevent completion of the deal, Zinos, Illias and some accomplices plan to steal the title deed. The theft fails and the brothers are arrested. Zinos is released, but Illias is kept confined for violating the terms of his sentence. In a final desperate move to try to cure his herniated disc, Anna takes Zinos to a chiropractor, Kemal “the Bone Cruncher”, whose extreme therapy succeeds.

Zinos is despondent at losing both his restaurant and Nadine. However, Nadine feels some guilt for ending her relationship with Zinos. They have a reconciliation of sorts, where she indicates her eventual plans to return to China and to stay with Mr Han. Lucia has found employment at another restaurant, and Shayn has apparently left the country altogether. In a sudden twist, however, the tax authorities have arrested and convicted Neumann of tax fraud. In prison, Neumann catches a glimpse of Illias, not knowing before that Illias was a convict. Soul Kitchen is now up for auction to the highest bidder, because Neumann’s ownership is now void. Zinos asks Nadine for a loan to bid for Soul Kitchen at the auction, because she is now wealthy from her grandmother’s inheritance. Through a fortunate accident due to Sokrates which prevents a rival bid against Zinos, Zinos wins the auction and buys the restaurant back. Although in prison, Illias continues his relationship with Lucia. The film ends with the restaurant closed for a “private party”, with only two attendees, Zinos and Anna, who is visiting Soul Kitchen for the first time.


Germany / 2009/ 99 min

Language: German (English subtitles)

Free Admission& Drinks for sale