A controversial Turkish film depicting a mission against Israel has opened in Austria, prompting an outcry from critics who claim it is anti-Semitic. The release date, Holocaust Remembrance Day, has also caused offense.
An Israeli raid on an aid ship is the film's starting point
It's one of the most expensive Turkish films ever made - and in Europe it's proving to be one of the most controversial.
"Valley of the Wolves – Palestine," which blends real-life events with fictional ones, is about Turkish commandos who are assigned a mission in Israel. Their task: to assassinate the Israeli commander responsible for the May 2010 raid on the ship Mavi Marmara.
The vessel was part of a flotilla taking aid into the blockaded Palestinian territory of Gaza. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the operation, prompting a wave of protest in Turkey and further afield.
Sasmaz plays Polat Alemdar, touted as a Turkish 007
The film shows activists being gunned down by Israeli gunmen. The main protagonist, a Turkish commando known as Polet Alemdar and played by actor Necati Sasmaz, then travels to Israel on his deadly and destructive mission. Alemdar is regularly described as "the Turkish James bond."
The themes of the movie have been blasted by some critics as an incitement to violence, anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic. In addition, its January 27 release date in Austria - International Holocaust Remembrance Day - has prompted an outcry.
A subtle tale, or incitement?
Valley of the Wolves director Zubeyr Sasmaz has defended the movie against allegations of anti-Semitism, claiming that its real storyline is more subtle, and political, than has been portrayed.
However, the film's opponents say this is disingenuous and that the target audience - young people of Turkish origin in Austria - will not be given the full story.
"They should stop the film. It's incitement and it's ridiculous because it's shown on the same day we commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz," said Samuel Laster from Vienna's Jewish community.
"There are many Turkish youths here. Most of these people are not interested in politics."
The Israeli raid prompted angry protests in Turkey
"They are going to be incited, they are going to see the action but they don't have the least of information about this. And they are going to be informed that this is a film about Israeli politics. This is ridiculous."
'Filled with anti-Semitic codes'
Austrian Green MP Karl Oellinger agreed, claiming that the film did not examine the politics of Israel's blockade of the Gaza strip in a serious way.
"It would be no problem if the movie would discuss or debate the Gaza conflict," said Oellinger. "It would be no problem for me, but in this movie there are anti-Semitic codes from the beginning to the end. It's crazy that nobody in Austria cries for the film to be stopped."
The film's release in Germany was delayed ahead of the memorial day, with censors refusing to certify it. However, the movie was subsequently categorized so that it can be seen by viewers over the age of 18.
In response to the Vienna premiere, critics vowed to scour future screenings for any anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi activity, with the possibility of using Austria's anti neo-Nazi laws to have the film shut down.
Author: Kerry Skyring /rc
Editor: Andreas Illmer