April, 1915. First World War in Canakkale, Ottoman Empire. Two brothers leave their mountain village to fight on the front line. One is an experienced sniper fighting for Ottomans against ... See full summary »
Three journalists, Charles Bean, Ellis Ashmead Bartlett and Phillip Schuler, arrive at Gallipoli with the invading British and Allied troops in 1915. They will report the war but are ... See full summary »
Documentary Concentrating on the Experiences of Ordinary Soldiers During a Pointless Campaign
Coming as it did after three documentary films with a nationalist flavor, Tolga Örnek's fourth film GALLIPOLI exposes some of the myths behind the nationalist cause.
Told through direct narration (in English by Jeremy Irons, in Turkish by Zafer Ergin), plus extracts from the diaries of ordinary soldiers - Turkish, ANZAC, British - with first-hand experience of the battle, GALLIPOLI tells the story of a thoroughly botched campaign characterized by lack of planning and outright pig- headedness. Prompted by the desire to occupy İstanbul/ Constantinople, and thereby neutralize the threat of the Ottoman Empire to the Suez Canal, the British government organized a naval campaign on the assumption that when the Ottomans saw the sheer size of the invading fleet, they would automatically flee in terror. Instead the Ottoman defense was so stout that three major British and French ships were sunk, and they had to retreat.
The British subsequently planned a military campaign based on landings in several parts of the Gallipoli peninsula. Yet they had little or no clue of what the terrain was like - as a result, they suffered massive casualties. The campaign settled into a war of attrition, with both sides sustaining heavy losses, until Mustafa Kemal led a decisive strike that forced the British and their Allies to withdraw.
Örnek's documentary emphasizes the sheer pointlessness of the whole campaign. No one was likely to benefit much from winning; for the soldiers forced to fight, it was nothing more than a living hell. British and ANZAC troops, who had come to Gallipoli with a sense of optimism, soon became disillusioned - not only by the incompetence of their commanders, but also by the knowledge that they would probably die a bloody death.
The only slight ray of optimism throughout the whole conflict was the way in which the ANZACS and the Ottomans - especially - developed a respect for one another that transcended military concerns. Both armies were comprised of young men with little or no prospect of surviving the conflict.
Örnek's narrative is both colorful yet harrowing, combining archive film with dramatized reconstructions and comments from a range of experts. Above all it reveals the ways in which nationalism can blind its supporters to the realities of life on the ground - especially those entrusted with directing military strategy.
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