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February 23, 2012, Thursday

Why is there such interest in ‘Fetih 1453’?

Interest in “Fetih 1453” is huge. A staggering 1,405,000 viewers took to movie theaters to see the movie at the weekend, which marks the best weekend opening in the history of our national cinema. It is already evident that it will be a box office hit as the movie has gotten the highest number of viewers.

What is the reason for this interest? First it is curiosity. Trailers of the film shown on TV and on the Internet before it was released emphasized the movie was a different kind of historical film. As noted by film critic Mehmet Nedim Hazar, the movie is striking for its costumes and set. The movie is also impressive due to its visual effects that are almost as good as Hollywood productions. “Fetih 1453” is also a first in Turkish cinema, and it contains the most glorious and breathtaking scenes of war. Those who have seen the movie have praised it, and this praise has led to others wanting to see it.

Secondly, despite the fact it has been 500 years since the conquest of İstanbul, people still have love, respect and admiration for this time in history and for Fatih Sultan Mehmed as well. The most beautiful city in the world became ours at the cost of others’ lives. Unfortunately, in this country, sultans were systematically defamed and denigrated throughout the early years of the Republican regime. A campaign of denigration and defamation was launched in an attempt to promote and praise the new regime. A glorious past and history was ignored. A method of denial was adopted for the sake of Westernization. However, despite intensive attempts, they could not erase our love and appreciation for our past. Today, we have initiated a movement and campaign to become “us” again by subscribing to our past and roots. There is excitement of resurrection. For this reason, we should understand why this nation and people praise and recall the past when it comes to the conquest and Fatih.

And this is not about the Ottoman state or the sultans; we have been looking for an opportunity to praise our values. Some domestic and international circles are still trying to explain this interest through false interpretations and create a secular-religious divide. Take a look at what Le Figaro, an influential and prestigious daily in France, wrote about “Fetih 1453”:

“More than five centuries after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans, the Turks rushed to movie theaters to relive this highly symbolic battle fought by their ancestors. … The huge enthusiasm for this epic is an indication of the wave of Ottomania that has affected Turkey in recent times. … Denigrated by the Republic of Turkey, founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923, ... the Ottoman Empire is back in fashion.”

The movie has been criticized for different reasons by the critics, including historians. I had some criticisms as well. Everybody has his or her own understanding of Fatih and the conquest of İstanbul based on their personal experiences. Everybody has their own way of telling a story. You cannot properly explain the conquest of İstanbul unless you understand that Fatih wanted to fulfill the wish of the Prophet Muhammad, you realize that the conquest was something that would please Allah and you say, “This whole world means nothing if you do not have ties with Allah.”

But this movie is just the start. The generations that properly understand Fatih and the conquest and that realize the real conquest is to win hearts will make such great movies that the entire world will admire us just like they admire our schools all around the world.

There is one more thing. No one can explain the interest in the movie as a pitiful attempt to glorify our past. Advanced science and technology as well as a young Sultan who was able to speak six languages played a huge role in the conquest. We will of course praise our history and past, but we have to consider two major points: First, we must be courageous to realize and criticize our mistakes, and second, we must focus more on advancing science and technology considering what we have lost because of our backwardness in these areas over the last four centuries. Advancing in science and technology is a duty for Muslims.

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