The impact of ongoing developments in the country -- especially in the field of politics -- is gradually becoming visible in movies. It is possible to find a movie on almost every topic currently sparking heated discussion in society. Among such topics is a democratization package the government has been working on for the past few months, efforts to root out gangs and illegal formations within the state and attempts to allow schooling in the Kurdish language.
One of the more prominent movies to carry a leading discussion in the country’s agenda to the silver screen was “Kurtlar Vadisi, Irak” (Valley of the Wolves, Iraq). The movie hit theaters in 2006, shortly after the infamous “hooding incident” that occurred in a period of tense US-Turkish relations.
On July 4, 2003, US soldiers raided an office used by Turkish Special Forces in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniya and took 11 Turkish soldiers into custody over allegations that they were planning to assassinate the governor of Kirkuk. The soldiers were led out of their headquarters at gunpoint with hoods over their heads, causing the media to dub the affair the “hooding incident.” The incident drew harsh reactions from Ankara and the Turkish public.
The movie was loosely based on the “hooding incident” and displayed the suffering of Iraqi people under US occupation. The film pulled in record audiences on its release in Turkey, capitalizing on widespread opposition to the occupation of Iraq.
According to Salih Asan, the producer of STV’s popular series “Tek Türkiye” (One Turkey), movies address current developments in Turkey as the public grows more conscious of what is going on in the country. “There has been considerable improvement in people’s perception of developments in the country in line with Turkey’s adventure with TV. People grew more conscious as the country stepped into the ‘private TV stations era’ from the ‘black and white’ and later the ‘color TV’ periods. They started to evaluate ongoing developments with a different and more mature approach,” Asan noted.
The producer also said producers have started to make films and movies that correspond to the public’s increasing demand for crossover with current developments. According to Asan, this trend is in line with the growing impact of politics on movies. “Politics is a reality of life. It is an integral part of life. Both commerce and arts are directly influenced by politics,” he added.
One of the most controversial movies in recent years hit screens last month and has managed to attract huge attention from movie fans. The film, titled “Nefes” (Breath), covers the deadly and difficult conditions soldiers face in the vast mountainous terrain of southeastern Anatolia, fighting against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists.
The film came shortly after government plans to settle the country’s decades-old Kurdish question through a democratization package and almost simultaneously with the return of a small group of PKK members from neighboring Iraq. Their return sparked a huge public outcry among Turkey’s nationalists, as they were welcomed by the country’s Kurds in a “festive” manner.
“Current politics has a huge impact on cinema in Turkey. This is also the case in other countries. What is mentioned in the news is a good source for scenarios. Some films are, however, independent from current developments but coincide with heated debates when they hit the screen. One example is a documentary called ‘İki Dil Bir Bavul’ [On The Way to School],” stated scriptwriter Özgür Şeyben, a member of the Turkish Film Critics Association (SİYAD).
The film follows the trials and tribulations of a young Turkish schoolteacher posted to an ethnic Kurdish village in southeastern Turkey for one school year. Everyone in the village, except a couple of men, speaks Kurdish, while the teacher, Emre Aydın, does not speak a word of the language. The teacher lays aside the curriculum in his mind and starts to teach Turkish to his students. The experience turns out to be a very hard job for Aydın because the kids solely speak Kurdish in their homes and have no interaction with anyone who speaks Turkish. “What should be considered about the up-to-date-ness of movies is whether they contribute to current debates or whether they just abuse them. Cinema is one of the leading braches of art. It must inspire people to be more tolerant. If this is the case, then the audience will have a more positive perception of developments in society,” Şeyben added.
A much-anticipated film also hit movie screens on Nov. 20, and addresses Turkey’s years-long adventure with the deep state and illegal formations nested within the state. The film, “Kurtlar Vadisi Gladio” (Valley of the Wolves, Gladio), tells about the story of a retired intelligence agent who settles accounts with Gladio. which he served for many years. The film aims to provide an opportunity for movie fans to closely look at the “deep gangs” that attempted to stir and divide Turkey with subversive plots.