Simpson, Catherine: Turkey, Gallipoli, film, nationalism

Simpson, Catherine

From ruthless foe to national friend: Turkey, Gallipoli and Australian nationalism‘, Media International Australia, 137, 1, November 2010, pp. 58-66

As the centenary of the Gallipoli landings draws closer, we will no doubt be inundated with more media debating the relevance, or otherwise, of this event to Australian national identity. In the plethora of academic literature that already exists about Gallipoli and the Anzac legend, little attention has been given to the role of Turkey. Over the course of the last century, particularly in Australian filmmaking, the Turk has been variously positioned as ruthless foe (during World War I), noble enemy (during World War II) and now national friend (post-1980s). I argue that what began as merely “respect” for the enemy at Gallipoli post- 1915 has now morphed into a nationally celebrated, government-constructed and media-supported friendship between Turkey and Australia. This article charts the shifting image of the Turk in Australian film and culture, but more specifically the role Turkey has played in constructing and perpetuating the Anzac legend and conservative visions of nationhood. (abstract)

The article quotes Bean’s remark about the ‘gentleman’ Turk and Charles Chauvel’s portrayal of the Turk in Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940) as a stout fighter, with the result that

the portrayal of the Turk as respectful of Australian fighting qualities emphasises the Anzacs as courageous and heroic fighters, who had to withdraw in Gallipoli because they had encountered a “worthy opponent”. Anything that would tarnish the image of the Turk as the noble enemy – such as the Armenian genocide that coincided with the Gallipoli campaign – could hence never be part of the image of the Turk in Australia. It would damage the Anzac legend. (p. 61)

Simpson also discusses the influence of Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1981) – described by Jane Freebury as ‘not so much about Australians in war as it is a celebration of the national ideology’ – on later film depictions, all helping to develop ‘brand Gallipoli’ (Broadbent). Simpson concludes that

much effort has gone into simplifying and perpetuating a hegemonic, nationalistic interpretation of an event that befits two countries still struggling to escape the shackles of their respective imperial Ottoman and British pasts. (p. 64)

See also Hillman.

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