Interrogated by a customs officer, a young man recounts how his life was changed during the making of a film about the Armenian genocide.Interrogated by a customs officer, a young man recounts how his life was changed during the making of a film about the Armenian genocide.Interrogated by a customs officer, a young man recounts how his life was changed during the making of a film about the Armenian genocide.
A Turkish-American's perspective....
I have hesitated to see this film for many reasons, some might be obvious but others might not. I watched it on Starz the other night. I had questioned whether to go ahead and view or instead watch "All or Nothing" by one of the cinema's most intriquing directors, Mike Leigh, on another cable network. But, for better or worse, I am glad I saw this film. For starters, I have always been an admirer of Atom Egoyan. I feel he was snubbed, and should have been a best director Oscar nominee for "The Sweet Hereafter" (1997). I think he is very brave for making this film for surely even within the Armenian community there are many political povs about this issue and about how they should feel about it. I will refrain from getting into the politics of the subject matter of "Ararat" and into my own personal view about this controversy which is very much riddled in red tape for reasons I understand all too painfully well. Sadly, the rest of the world probably never will. Except, I will say, that the problem is two-fold. One, there is the Armenian conflict that Turkey and Turkish people do not accept or have outright distorted their view of history. Second, there is the reality that Turkey and the Turkish culture is very much hated, despised and oppressed in the West for reasons that partially stem from this issue as well as many others. I challenge any of you to go to a Blockbuster, or any other video store and try to find a Turkish film. I am 99 percent you will not find one even though the list of outstanding Turkish film directors is one which includes the likes of Yilmaz Guney, the director of "Baba" (The Father) "Yol" -- who was admittedly censored considerably in Turkey until recently (he died in political exile in France some 20 years ago), Ali Ozgenturk who directed "At---The Horse" and Sinan Cetin who directed the outstanding, internationally praised political comedy "Propaganda." I could also mention Serif Goren, Zeki Okten and so many others. It is a simple truth that while the West criticizes Turkey for various infractions, including its' treatment of ethnic Kurds, yet it continously suppresses the Turkish culture and Turkish people itself.Having grown up in the USa, and being half-American, I can validfy that this is the way it is. It may not be intentional, but all of us know that it some form or fashion 'the n----rs of Europe" tag applied to Turkish-Europeans applies to all of us. Now having said this one might think, I am going to criticize Egoyan for making this film. But, he has every artistic right to make "Ararat" and everyone, including people in Turkey, have a right to view this film and make their own decisions about this film. I do not consider "Ararat" a hate film as some others like "Midnight Express" and arguably "America, America" are. However, I do think the character of Ali, played by Elias Koteas, who was great in "The Thin Red Line" is cookie-cutter stereotype of Turkish-Westerners. He seems like a deliberately crude person who says things like "let's just drop our 'expletive' history" and he seems like a person devoid of any intellectual curiosity. Even though I have nothing against homosexuals, I don't think it was appropriate to make this character homosexual either. By doing so, the character plays into a stereotype that Billy Hayes utilized in his book (perhaps novel would be a more accurate word) "Midnight Express." This is the notion that all Turks are 'secretly gay' and therefore they are 'violent towards women.' My statements may seem outright ridicilous but few of you have probably endured the subliminal hatred that each of us who live in the West know to be a true fact of life. The film in a film scenes of the film actually are not ones which bother me as much. There is clearly a dark history here and it somehow has to be approached diplomatically but until the abuse of the Turkish culture is also approached, I am afraid as it was once said in "Cool Hand Luke." --- we will always have a failure to communicate.
- Feb 9, 2004
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