The first thing that stands out about this film is its remarkable formal stringency. Even its title makes the spectator expect a mathematical approach, and in fact, Cynthia Madansky and Angelika Brudniak’s first full-length documentary film follows a precisely planned dramatic structure. On their tour along the Turkish border the two filmmakers not only visit border cities adjacent to all eight of the country’s neighbors, they also take a look at each one’s counterpart on the other side: These seemingly unimportant towns or even mountain villages on the Balkans, in Anatolia or on the Black Sea coast are separated by borders, lines of demarcation that exercise an important and direct influence on people’s lives. They divide people while at the same time making them seem to belong together.
This extraordinary journey begins in the cities of Nusaybin in the Southeast and Al-Qamishli across the Syrian border, and the precise observation of social and political conditions that plays an important role in the film already becomes evident at this point. Both cities, which have been divided by historical chance, are inhabited mainly by Kurds, and while the Turkish side is dominated by a spirit of resistance against the state’s authority — which is even declared loudly by schoolchildren and at demonstrations for Abdullah Öcalan — fear of Assad’s regime reigns in Syria. While the issue of Kurdish identity is predominant in the episodes set on the Iraqi and Iranian borders — where a few minutes of blackness make the depiction of repression that much more vivid — in Georgia and Armenia the extent to which the Communist past continues to determine the present becomes obvious.
At each of the total of 16 locations, the filmmakers depict the locals’ working lives and everyday routines, and they also use a number of different stories encountered in the course of their journey to shape another one, which is no less interesting, about the present. Aristotle was aware that a whole is more than the sum of its parts, and this makes it even more fitting that 1 + 8, whose total value amounts to far more than that of its eight episodes, ends in Greece.