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Kekilli at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival, February 2012
|Born||16 June 1980 |
Life and careerKekilli was born and raised in Heilbronn, to a family of Turkish origin. Her parents came to West Germany from Turkey in 1977, and were described by Kekilli as fairly liberal. After finishing school successfully at age 16, she completed an apprenticeship as a public administration employee at the local city government, and then worked for two years at the municipal waste disposal office. She moved to Essen in 2002, where she had various jobs, including work as a saleswoman, cleaner, manager of a nightclub and promoter.
One day in 2002, while at a Cologne shopping mall, she was noticed by a casting director, who invited her to audition for a role in a movie. Sibel won the leading part in Fatih Akın's Head-On (German: Gegen die Wand) against a field of 350 other hopefuls. The film was released in 2004 and was a major success, receiving several prizes at film festivals. Filming proved strenuous for Kekilli personally, however, and she underwent anappendectomy during the filming in Turkey. After the movie, she had a rhinoplasty.
Shortly after the release of Head-On, it became known she had previously acted in pornographic films using the stage name "Dilara". This report, as published by the German tabloid newspaper Bild-Zeitung, led to a public scandal, and Kekilli's parents broke off all contact with her. She received the 2004 Bambi prize for best "shooting star" for her role in Head-On, and during the televised acceptance speech, she tearfully complained about the "dirty smear campaign" and "media rape" against her. Bild-Zeitung was later reprimanded by the German Press Council (Deutscher Presserat) for the manner in which they covered the story.
Kekilli starred in the Turkish coup d'état movie Eve Dönüş (2006), playing the wife of a man who was unjustly imprisoned and tortured. The performance won her the Best Actress award at the 2006 Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival. Also that year she played a Jewish woman on the way to the Auschwitz concentration camp in the 2006 German movie Der letzte Zug (The Last Train).
In 2009, she played Umay in Feo Aladag's When We Leave (Die Fremde), a young Turkish woman who leaves Istanbul to return to her family in Berlin. Kekilli was awarded the Lola for Best Actress in 2010 for her leading role in this film.
In 2010, Kekilli was cast as Shae in HBO's Game of Thrones, an adaptation of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
In 2011, one year after first appearing in a supporting role in the long-running crime series Tatort, she became a permanent cast member as the new investigator Sarah Brandt, working alongside chief investigator Klaus Borowski played by Axel Milberg. She said that she was glad not to be playing a character of foreign descent, as she feels she has been typecast in the past.
Personal lifeKekilli lives in Hamburg. She supports the organization Terre des Femmes in their work against violence in families of Islamic background. In December 2006, at an anti-domestic violence event run by the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet in Berlin, she stated, "I have experienced myself that physical and psychological violence is seen as normal in Muslim families." In response, the Turkish consul general left the room.
- Gegen die Wand (2004)
- Kebab Connection (2004)
- Winterreise (2006)
- Fay Grim (2006)
- Der Letzte Zug (2006)
- Eve Dönüş (2006)
- Pihalla (2009)
- Die Fremde (2010)
- What a Man (2011)
- Game of Thrones (2011) - Shae
- Die Männer der Emden (2012)