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Culture

Opinion: Turkish Film Makes Waves in Germany -- Unnecessarily

A Turkish action film about the Iraq war, "Valley of the Wolves," has unleashed a wave of outrage in Germany. But as Baha Güngör observes, both positive and negative reactions to the movie are over the top.

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Reactions to the movie have been explosive in Germany

The most expensive Turkish movie of all time, "Valley of the Wolves," does nothing to contribute to an inter-cultural dialogue. It can neither be interpreted as pro-European nor deemed to promote the integration of Turks and Muslims in Germany or other EU countries. But that was never the film's intention.

"Valley of the Wolves" is an action film, which uses anti-American cliches to build on a very real political sentiment. And it doesn't stop there. Besides the Americans who are portrayed as the main bad guys, it flirts with an anti-Semitic cliche in the form of a Jewish doctor who works alongside trigger-happy Americans in the human organ trade.

Kurtlar Vadisi - Tal der Wölfe Filmplakat

The film is ranked five at German box offices


The film has drawn excited enthusiasm among Turkish viewers and harsh criticism from elsewhere. Both are exaggerated. Germany's conservatives have slammed the film as "morally harmful for young people" and a threat to societal harmony. There have even been calls for the film to be withdrawn from general release, but they serve only to heighten interest therein.

Seen it all before

Foolish is the high praise lavished on the film -- which is based on a true story deemed degrading in Turkey -- by Turkish state and government representatives. "Valley of the Wolves" tells the tale of the arrest of a Turkish special unit by US troops in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. But beyond that, it is a fictitious action film that is of no greater artistic merit than many US kick-boxing and Rambo pictures which frequently discredit other countries and peoples. There are hundreds of such films which simplify entire cultural circles, depicting them in a negative light, as aggressive, dangerous or even murderous.

Tal der Wölfe - Irak Filmszene

Scene from Valley of the Wolves

Even the Turks have felt disparaged by such movies, the most prominent example being the film "Midnight Express" from 1978. It showed the humiliating treatment of people in Turkish jail and had countless Turks on the warpath. The depiction was no lie, but that didn't make the movie politically challenging. "Midnight Express" belongs in the category "unavoidable," like so many other films that, for example, show the horror of atrocities committed by former European colonial powers across the world.

The truth is, in this global age, in which bans can only ever be imposed within national boundaries, we have to live with films like "Valley of the Wolves." Not least because US policy on Iraq is a constant source of good material for filmmakers with an interest in the subject.

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