‘Valley of the Wolves: Palestine’

“Valley of the Wolves: Palestine,” inspired by the May 31 Israeli attack on the Mavi »»
“Valley of the Wolves: Palestine,” inspired by the May 31 Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish humanitarian aid ship heading to Gaza, that resulted in the deaths of nine people, will hit theaters in November in about 100 countries around the world.The movie is based on the controversial television series “Kurtlar Vadisi” (Valley of the Wolves) and will be a follow up to “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq” (2006) and “Valley of the Wolves: Gladio” (2008).

Ever since the movie came on the agenda, claims that it will increase the already high tension between Turkey and Israel have emerged. Some changes were to the movie’s plot after Israel’s attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla. The movie aims to take revenge on Israel for the deadly raid that led to an outcry worldwide. “Valley of the Wolves: Palestine” is projected to cost over $10 million, making it one of the most expensive Turkish films ever.

According to the synopsis, the hero of the series, Polat Alemdar -- a gun-toting agent with a fondness for sharp tailoring -- and his men go to Palestine in the wake of Israel’s attack on the aid flotilla. Following much effort, Polat and his men capture the Israeli commander, named Moshe Ben Eliezer, who planned and managed the raid.

Played by Necati Şaşmaz -- who had never acted before -- whose voice is dubbed by another actor, Polat is sometimes described as the Turkish James Bond. Millions of young Turks idolize him, imitating his mannerisms and speech.

The “Valley of the Wolves” franchise -- made by the production company Pana Film -- has enjoyed tremendous success in Turkey. The title evokes mythological images from a story beloved by nationalists of a lone wolf that guided Turks out of a Central Asian valley where they had been trapped by enemies.

Polat solves every problem

The television series, known as “Kurtlar Vadisi” in Turkish, first aired in 2003. The initial, mafia-focused plot saw Polat tasked to penetrate Turkish organized crime.

With its regular quota of gunfights and mayhem, the series rapidly gained and maintained an enormous following. Today, Pana claims between 20 million and 40 million Turks watch each week.

Then came “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq,” the 2006 feature film that saw Polat Alemdar avenging in fiction the real-life events of July 2003, when American forces captured and hooded a team from the Turkish special forces in northern Iraq. Styled like a Hollywood blockbuster, the film prominently featured the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.

After Iraq, Pana Film began a series about Turkey’s long conflict with outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists. But pressure forced them to shelve “Valley of the Wolves: Terror” after just one episode as the subject was too sensitive.

The shooting of the “Valley of the Wolves: Palestine,” began in the southern province of Adana several weeks ago. Despite the scorching heat, a team of 400 people are working on the movie. While new scenes are being shot on one side of the production area, giant sets are constructed at the Çukobirlik factory’s cotton warehouses on the other side. The model helicopters, tanks and military vehicles, which all seem so real, reflect the cold reality of the war. The Çukobirlik factory has been turned into Israel’s military base.

Some of the movie’s scenes are being filmed in Tarsus, which makes the salesmen in the city very happy as Tarsus is being inundated by “Valley of the Wolves” fans. Filming will continue in Adana and Tarsus until Sept. 10.

Officials from Pana Film said they decided to shoot the movie in Adana and Tarsus after scouting several locations in Lebanon, Syria and Bulgaria as well as 20 provinces in Turkey, including Hatay, Elazığ, Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep. They said the reasons why they thought Tarsus and Adana would be the most appropriate places to shoot the movie were the historical texture, the streets and local culture of these places.

Approximately 3,000 fans were drawn to the Şehit Kerim neighborhood in Tarsus, where some of the scenes were shot.

Around TL 300,000 entered Tarsus within a week with the start of the filming of “Valley of the Wolves: Palestine.” Around 1,000 extras were paid TL 25 per day. The salesmen in the city say that even if they had spent huge amounts of money, they could not have promoted their city in such an effective way. “”We earned our one-year profit within 10 days,” the salesmen say.

Once the biggest cotton processing factory, now a movie stage

Until recently, Çukobirlik was thought to be one of the biggest cotton processing factories in the world. Established on an area of 700 acres, the factory had more than 5,000 workers and processed thousands bales of cotton. Farmers formed long queues in front of the factory to sell their cotton during the harvest season. However, the facility was at the center of corruption allegations all the time and it stopped being able to purchase cotton from the farmers. Pana Film rented the factory for three months. The walls of the factory were painted to blue and white, the colors of Israeli flag, to make it seem like a place in Israel. Jails, police stations, a heliport and a Dervish lodge were also built by a team of 400 people in the area where the factory is located.

The Şehit Kerim neighborhood in Tarsus was turned into a small Palestine for the movie. Several mosques and historic buildings in the neighborhood have been restored and Arabic signboards replaced the Turkish signboards. Walls in the neighborhood have been painted yellow and slogans demanding freedom for Palestine were written on the walls, just like in Palestine.

Arab TV channels follow the filming

Reporters from Arab TV channels, including Al Jazeera, have visited Tarsus and reported on the filming of the movie. When the “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq,” which showed American soldiers running amok in northern Iraq, was released in 2006, it was a big success in Middle Eastern countries. That film racked up 4.2 million ticket sales in Turkey as well as accusations of rampant anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. “Valley of the Wolves: Palestine,” which portrays the suffering of the Palestinians, is also expected to draw huge interest from Middle Eastern countries. Following the 2006 movie, the characters in the movie have been welcomed as heroes in the Middle Eastern countries they go to.