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(cover picture) Falim, Neyse Halim Ciksin
2009 Coffee Futures. Watertown, MA: Documentary Educational Resources.

Notes: DVD, 22 minutes
Reviewed 4 Jul 2010 by:
Jack David Eller <>
Community College of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA
Medium: Film/Video
European Union - Turkey
European Union - Membership
Turkey - Politics and government
Fortune-telling by coffee grounds

ABSTRACT:    This short film juxtaposes a casual form of fortune-telling in Turkish culture against the national fortunes of Turkey in its bid to join the European Union and, more profoundly, to be accepted as a ‘Western’ or ‘European’ society.

What does the future hold? How can we know and achieve our fortune—to be fortunate, to acquire a fortune? And is there any significance to the double meaning of ‘fortune’ as future and as wealth? Surely not everyone will be rich in the future, and would realizing our dreams for the future actually make us happy? Or will reaching our fortune make us feel unfortunate?

Humans face many uncertainties, individually and collectively, and have devised many ways to divine solutions and prospects for success. In Turkey, one form of popular divination is reading coffee. The technique, as illustrated in “Coffee Futures,” is to drink down to the thick syrup at the bottom of the cup, invert the cup on a saucer, and read the results. The filmmaker sits down with several different women (whether women are the only coffee fortune-tellers in the society is not told) to get their readings. Even they, however, admit that coffee fortunes are not so serious: “We tell each other what we want to hear to keep our hearts light, and pretend the messages are in the cup.” Indeed, on her personal fortune, the various readings clearly show the inconsistencies of the practice.

But we humans do not have only solitary fortunes, and sometimes we pursue group and social goals. One such goal for Turkey is to join the European Union. The film cleverly juxtaposes the filmmaker’s personal fortune with Turkey fortune for inclusion in the organization. One approach is to ask Turkish people themselves what they see as the outlook for admission and what they prefer as the outcome. Most, it seems, would like to be accepted as European but not all view it as likely or desirable. Another approach is to relate and contrast personal and national fortune, as the film slyly does. The movie is full of double entendre, as when the fortune-tellers explain to the woman that “They’re making a decision about you” or “Is this something you really want?” These comments are placed next to scenes of world leaders (including Obama) and images and comments from past European Union meetings.

Some of the issues raises in the film involve perception and misperception or action and inaction. A recurring idea is the West’s perception of the East—and the East’s perception of itself. “They don’t like us Turks. They call us barbarian Turks,” one woman complains, and others note the Muslim identity of the country in distinction from the Christian identity of all other European states. More than one Turkish speaker predicts the rise of the East and the decline of the West in coming decades, and then who will care about belonging to the EU? Finally, some Turks bristle at the suggestion that Turkey must change in order to satisfy European requirements: “It’s ridiculous to things because the EU wants us to.”

As the film reminds us at the end, with each iteration of European unity (from the original European Economic Community to the European Community to the European Union), Turkey has applied for membership. A closing caption states, “As of July 31, 2009 Turkey has completed 50 years of this process, and continues its efforts to join.” What does the future hold for Turkey, for the EU, and for the evolution of global economics and political relations? If the coffee knows, it is not telling—but it is fun to speculate nonetheless.

Level/Use: Suitable for high school and for college courses in cultural anthropology, anthropology of globalization, and Turkish studies, as well as general audiences.