Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush

by Andreas Dresen

Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush


Murat is incarcerated in the U.S.’ Guantanamo detention camp. Desperate to help her son, Rabiye Kurnaz, a housewife and loving mother from Bremen, goes to the police, notifies authorities and almost despairs at their impotence, until she discovers Bernhard Docke. The reserved, level-headed human rights lawyer and the temperamental Turkish mother – now fighting side-by-side for Murat’s release. Docke is patient, Rabiye is not. She’d actually prefer to be back home with her family but finds herself totally enmeshed in world politics. She goes with Bernhard to Washington, and right up to the Supreme Court to bring legal action against George W. Bush. Bernhard watches out for her. And Rabiye makes him laugh. With heart and soul. And in the end, against all the odds, something truly remarkable happens.


Andreas Dresen was born in Gera, East Germany, in 1963. He comes a theatre family and was shooting his first amateur films as early as 1979. In 1984/85, he worked as a sound engineer at Schwerin Theatre before completing a traineeship at the DEFA Studio for Feature Films and working as an assistant director to Günter Reisch. From 1986 to 1991, he studied directing at the Konrad Wolf Academy for Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg. Since 1992, he has been working as a freelance author and director. He lives near Potsdam, is a member of the Academy of Arts and the European Film Academy and is a founding member of the German Film Academy.

His debut film SILENT COUNTRY (1992), a tragicomedy about events in East Germany at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, earned him both the Hessen Film and Cinema Prize and the German Critics’ Award. A number of award-winning TV works followed, including the sensational drama CHANGING SKINS (1997) about two pupils in the GDR who kidnap a headmaster who toes the party line. Dresen’s breakthrough came with the episodic film NIGHT SHAPES, which ran at the Berlinale in 1999 and won several awards including the German Film Award in Silver. His next film THE POLICEWOMAN (2000) won the Grimme Award in Gold. His biggest success to date came two years later with GRILL POINT, a completely improvised tragicomedy about two couples in Frankfurt an der Oder. The film was a popular success around the world and won numerous awards including the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Bavarian Film Award and the German Film Prize in Silver. His documentary film VOTE FOR HENRYK! (2003) was followed in March 2005 by WILLENBROCK, a cinematic adaptation of Christoph Hein’s eponymous novel. The tragicomedy SUMMER IN BERLIN was released in January 2006 and received the Ernst Lubitsch Award and the Bavarian Film Prize for Best Director the same year. CLOUD 9, an improvised drama about love and sexuality in older age, ran in German cinemas in 2008. The film won several prizes including the Coup de Coeur jury prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival, and the main prize at the Trieste Film Festival. At the awards ceremony for the German Film Award, Ursula Werner won Best Actress and Dresen Best Director. CLOUD 9 also won the Lola in Bronze for Best Film. In WHISKY MIT WODKA (WHISKY WITH VODKA) (2009), Dresen presented a comical portrait of the film profession and the characteristics and etiquettes of the industry. The film earned him the Best Director award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

He showcased STOPPED ON TRACK at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 and won the main prize in the Un Certain Regard section. The German Film Academy awarded STOPPED ON TRACK four Lolas: Best Film (Lola in Gold), Best Actor (Milan Peschel), Best Supporting Actor (Otto Mellies) and Best Director. In 2015, Dresen was invited into the competition of the Berlinale for the third time with a film adaptation of Clemens Meyer’s successful novel AS WE WERE DREAMING. The screenplay was written by Wolfgang Kohlhaase, whom Dresen had also worked with on SUMMER IN BERLIN and WHISKY WITH VODKA. In 2017, he released his first film for children and young people: THE LEGEND OF TIMM THALER OR THE BOY WHO SOLD HIS LAUGHTER after the novel by James Krüss. The film won awards at festivals in Chicago, Minsk, Zagreb and Seattle, as well as at the GOLDEN SPARROW children’s film festival in Germany.

GUNDERMANN (2018), Dresen’s film about the GDR songwriter and digger driver Gerhard Gundermann, with Alexander Scheer in the main role, was a big hit in the cinemas. The film delighted audiences and critics alike and won six German Film Awards, including Best Film (Lola in Gold), Best Director and Best Screenplay (Laila Stieler).

Dresen staged his first play in 1996: Goethe’s “Urfaust” at the Staatstheater Cottbus. Futher theatre works followed, including at Schauspiel Leipzig and the Deutsches Theater in Berlin where he staged the premiere of his own play “Zeugenstand” (“Witness Box”) in 2002 as well as Horváth’s “Kasimir and Karoline” in April 2006. His first opera direction – Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” – premiered successfully in Basel in February 2006 and was followed by “The Marriage of Figaro” at the Schlosstheater in Potsdam in 2011 and the staging of “Arabella” and “La fanciulla del West” (“The Girl of the West”) at the Bavarian State Opera in 2014 and 2019 respectively.

Dresen has been a constitutional judge in the State of Brandenburg since the end of 2012. In the summer semester of 2018, he assumed the new role of Professor of Film Acting at the Rostock University of Music and Theatre.

Selected Filmography:

2022 Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush / Rabiye Kurnaz gegen George W. Bush
2018 Gundermann
2017 The Boy Who Sold His Laughter / Timm Thaler oder das verkaufte Lachen
2015 As We Were Dreaming / Als wir träumten
2012 Henryk from the Back Row (Documentary) / Herr Wichmann aus der dritten Reihe
2011 Stopped on Track / Halt auf freier Strecke
2009 Whisky with Wodka / Whisky mit Wodka
2008 Cloud 9 / Wolke 9
2005 Summer in Berlin / Sommer vorm Balkon
2004 Willenbrock
2003 Vote for Henryk! (Documentary) / Herr Wichmann von der CDU
2002 Grill Point / Halbe Treppe
1999 Night Shapes / Nachtgestalten
1992 Stilles Land


Meltem Kaptan (Rabiye Kurnaz)
Alexander Scheer (Bernhard Docke)
Charly Hübner (Marc Stocker)
Nazmi Kirik (Mehmet)
Sevda Polat (Nuriye)
Abdullah Emre Öztürk (Murat)
Şafak Şengül (Fadime)
Ali-Emre Sahin (Cem (11))
Mert Dincer (Cem (13 – 15))
Lemi Oğul Tan Ungan (Attila (6))
Devrim Deniz Aslan (Attila (8 – 10))
Jeanette Spassova (Sekretärin Koslowa)
Abak Safaei-Rad (Wiebke)
Alexander Hörbe (Wolfgang)
Tim Williams (Special Guest)



Screenplay: Laila Stieler
Directed: Andreas Dresen
Produced: Claudia Steffen, Christoph Friedel
Co-produced: Andreas Dresen, Andreas Leusink, Tom Decourt
Commissioning editors: Christian Granderath (NDR), Cooky Ziesche (rbb), Carlos Gerstenhauer (BR), Annette Strelow (Radio Bremen), Andreas Schreitmüller (Arte), Olivier Père, Rémi Burah (Arte France Cinéma)
Line producer: Fee Buck
Service Production USA: Sabine Schenk
Service Production Turkey: Erhan Özoğul
Cinematography: Andreas Höfer
Production design: Susanne Hopf
Costumes: Birgitt Kilian
Edited: Jörg Hauschild
Music: Johannes Repka, Cenk Erdoğan
Music supervisor: Jens Quandt
Casting: Karen Wendland
Casting (children): Jacqueline Rietz
Make-up: Grit Kosse, Uta Spikermann
Sound: Peter Schmidt
Sound design: Oswald Schwander
Soundmix: Ralf Krause
A production of Pandora Film Produktion
in co-production with Iskremas Filmproduktion, Cinéma Defacto, Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Radio Bremen, NDR/ Arte, Arte France Cinéma

Technical Data

Original title: Rabiye Kurnaz gegen George W. Bush
Duration: 119 min
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Format: 2K
Sound: 5.1
Year: 2022
Original language: German with Turkish and English
Countries of production: Germany, France

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