War Memorial commissions film that shows Turkish side of Gallipoli, then and now

A film by Turkish film-maker, Koken Ergun, is showing in Sydney till 12 May. The film, Heroes, was made with $25 000 and ‘free rein’ from the Australian War Memorial, is now owned by the Memorial and will be shown there at some future date. It brings a fresh perspective to the Gallipoli campaign and how it is recalled today, in Turkey as well as Australia.

The film is in parts critical of Australians who visit Gallipoli and includes pointed comments from Turks in the Gallipoli visitors’ book. But the Memorial, according to senior official, Brian Dawson, does not resile from the work. General Dawson says, ‘[T]here are other views and other experiences we need to recognise — we lost and withdrew from the peninsula … I think we do forget as Australians we were actually the invaders.’

Says Ergun: ‘The first question I asked was, “are you ready for criticism against the whole Anzac legacy and maybe even your institution and your mission?” And they said “yes”.’

Honest History has noted the Memorial’s past reluctance to get beyond the Australian experience of war, so this film made with its blessing is a welcome departure. We look forward to seeing it. As for the increased Turkish interest in Gallipoli as an example of Islamic endeavour, see Aktar, West and Aktar (2017 article including a link to a 2018 update) and Pollard. A modern Greek-Hellenic view of Gallipoli.

The trailer for the film includes the ‘Those heroes that shed their blood …’ words attributed to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. There is no strong evidence that Ataturk ever said or wrote the words – and strong evidence for another story of how they came about, a story which stresses political and diplomatic imperatives in Turkey and, to some extent, Australia. For more: detailed evidence; summarised.

David Stephens

22 April 2018 updated

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