Turkish film shows two-sided Gallipoli
Apr 16 2005 / AAP
A view of Gallipoli from all sides has angered Turkish traditionalists as it examines the universal tragedy of the World War I campaign. The Turkish-made documentary film Gallipoli premiered in London this week, showing a human side to the soldiers from both the allied and Turkish forces.
While a minority of extreme Turks believe all reference to Gallipoli should portray the Turkish soldiers as the defenders and the allies as the evil invaders, director Tolga Ornek has shown all the combatants in the same light. "Our goal was to make a universal film in which every country could find something of their own," Ornek said. "I didn't want to make solely a Turkish film or solely Australian film or British or New Zealand." Combining actual footage, stills and re-enactments with previously unseen letters and diaries of soldiers, Gallipoli examines the Turkish, British, Australian and New Zealand experience of the horrific nine-month campaign which ran from April 25, 1915.
"The concept was so ill-conceived, so hastily conceived," Ornek said. "All you have left was the valour, courage, self sacrifice and tenacity of the soldiers. That's what I see in Gallipoli.
"The trench experience for both sides is almost the same. "They're the people who suffered the consequence of false orders, bad orders and ill-prepared attacks so I wanted to concentrate on their experience and their personal suffering. "A lot of films have been done on Gallipoli, and done well, that concentrate on strategies, politicians. "But never on both sides have I seen a documentary that humanises it, adds faces and names to the characters.
"I want the audience to feel the characters' anxiety - 'I've got to survive, I've got to make it' - and so you can have a sense of what the families felt." The film premiered at the Imperial War Museum in London in front of a crowd of Turkish and British political and military figures, including Alexander Hamilton, the great nephew of allies commander General Sir Ian Hamilton.
Narrated by Sam Neill and Jeremy Irons, it premieres in New Zealand on Monday and in Australia at the War Memorial in Canberra on April 21st.
The film tracks, through their own letters and photos, the Gallipoli experiences of Australian brothers Joe and Oliver Cumberland from Scone in NSW as well as British, New Zealand and Turkish soldiers.
Ornek ensures the 21,000 British soldiers who died in the campaign are well represented in the film.
"The British high command is worthy of almost every blame. The government, the politicians, the generals, but the soldiers, I think, deserve as much respect as the Anzacs and the Turks," he said.
"If I insist this film is on a human, personal scale then the British have to get their due as well.
"If the British officers sent anyone to any slaughter, they sent their troops first."
More than 76,000 Turks were killed in the campaign, along with nearly 9,000 Australians, 2,700 New Zealanders and 1,300 Indians. After its New Zealand and Australian premieres next week, the film, which took Ornek seven years to make, is expected to be released in cinemas in May.
The Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs puts the number of British troops killed in the Gallipoli campaign at 21,200 with almost 10,000 French dead.