If German actress Sibel Kekilli looks familiar to you then you might have just outed yourself as an astute Game of Thrones viewer. On the wildly popular American television show, Kekilli spent three years as the mistress to Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister.
But before she was a regular in this violent, dragon-filled fantasy world, she made movies in her native Germany. Kekilli has performed in comedies with stars like Matthias Schweighöfer as well as serious dramas covering topics such as Turkish-German relations and the Holocaust.
This month, get to know Sibel Kekilli with a few selected credits from her filmography and learn German with films!
Get To Know Sibel Kekilli
Sibel Kekilli was born on June 16, 1980, in Heilbronn, Germany. Her parents moved to Germany from Turkey in the late 1970s. She and her twin sister have two younger brothers.
After graduating from school, Kekilli trained as an administrative clerk and completed an apprenticeship. A couple of years after working as a clerk, she set her sights on something bigger. She left Heilbronn for Essen and worked a variety of odd jobs. Everything from a model to a saleswoman.
In 2002, it was a chance meeting on the street in Cologne with a casting director that was a turning point. The casting director was working with director Fatih Akin, who at the time had only a few full-length feature films to his name. Fast-forward and Kekilli auditioned for and won the lead role in 2004’s Gegen die Wand.
Gegen die Wand (Head-On)
In Gegen die Wand, Kekilli portrays a young woman named Sibel who manipulates a man into marrying her so that she can escape her conservative Turkish-German family. Needless to say, he is not very happy about it.
The man, Cahit (Birol Ünel), is a stand-offish, suicidal man with anger and drug problems. She struggles to make their arrangement work while exploring her newly found freedom as a young woman in Hamburg. She indulges in nightlife and short skirts.
The film, written and directed by Akin, follows their struggles to connect.
Der letzte Zug
2006’s The Last Train (Der letzte Zug) is co-directed by Joseph Vilsmaier and Dana Vávrová. The film follows the fate of some of the last remaining Jews in Berlin.
The group is rounded up in the capital city during the spring of 1943. They are then sent in cattle cars on a train to Auschwitz concentration camp. Kekilli portrays Ruth Zilbermann.
The film is noteworthy for its effort to realistically portray history.
In 2010’s Die Fremde, known as When We Leave in English, Kekilli portrays Umay, a young housewife in Istanbul. Abused and unhappy in her marriage, Umay decides to escape. She runs away with her son and return to her family in Berlin.
Unfortunately for Umay, her deeply conservative Muslim family is not happy to see her. They turn their back on her. Umay struggles to find a way to survive and protect her son as she befriends a German coworker (portrayed by Florian Lukas).
Practice practice practice! Discover other great German language actors and actresses previously featured.
Photo by Brita Sönnichsen, courtesy of Grantham Hazeldine. This post contains affiliate links.