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Posts Tagged ‘film’

Humanizing Ataturk

The Times has a video feature today on Mustafa, a controversial new Turkish film portraying the life of national hero Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.  Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish Republic, is revered in a way not normally seen outside of countries ending in “-stan.”  His image as a war hero, statesman, and ideological guide is unparalleled: imagine rolling George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln into the same superdude.  Ataturk’s memory, (neatly cleansed of the troublesome bits), is the cornerstone of what is arguably the most defensively nationalistic country on earth.  The thoroughly modern Ataturk adorns literally all denominations of the Turkish Lira.

So along comes journalist Can Dundar, with a film portraying Ataturk as a human being.  The movie Kemal is a drinker, a smoker, and a bit of a paranoid, and his staunch secularism is driven as much by personal resentment of his childhood religious education as by ideological commitment.  Dundar wanted to rectify an image “devoid of human qualities“; someone far more a hero than a man.  Critics have hit the film from all sides, with devout Kemalists worrying it will weaken the image of the nation and the religious community bemoaning their founder’s on-screen taste for raki and women.

Mustafa Akyol, (a strange cat in his own right), noted in the popular nationalistic daily Hurriyet that critics of the film have not actually questioned its veracity.  The problem is not that the movie isn’t accurate, but that the accuracy is unacceptable.  Amidst all this controversy, Turks are flocking to it.

For more on the film and surrounding hullaballoo, check out both the Times video and the companion article.

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Film as it happens

Oliver Stone, king of the conspiracy, is about to release a film about the Bush presidency.  W, which doesn’t stand for winner, covers Bush’s life and is supposedly modeled on Stone’s well-regarded Nixon.  The director wants it to be “a behind-the-scenes approach” to the President’s life, and denies wanting to make a polemic.

Whether the movie is any good, whether it moves votes for or against, there’s another question here:

How weird is it to see Josh Brolin playing the President?

Thing is, this is all still going on.  The actors portraying the Iraq decisionmakers can’t hold a candle to the actual ones.  No cinematic copy can match the “lowest point” of Colin Powell’s life.  We’re still at war, no matter how Stone explains we got there, and the President’s total impotance in the recent financial crisis won’t even find space in the film.

My skepticism isn’t about the content of the movie itself; it’s about making a biopic about a sitting President while all the events are still occuring.  Of course there’s an entire literary industry built on this, much of which doesn’t age so well. But somehow it seems different on film, with close-to-real-looking actors delivering close-to-real-sounding dialogue.  Somehow it seems weird to look at fake-W and fake-Cheney planning to fake-invade Iraq.

Something in my gut finds it insulting to treat the foreign and domestic disaster of the last eight years in film so soon.  As though it takes the seriousness out of it.  Why pay $8 at the theatre for an approximation of the evening news?

If anyone can think of any major political films made concurrently with the events they portrayed, I’d be curious to compare.  I don’t even mean movies about politics set in current times; I mean examples where the actors portray the actual prominant politicians still in office.  For the life of me I can’t think of anything comparable.

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