Centenary births dueling adaptations

ISTANBUL — With the centenary of the battle of Gallipoli just around the corner, Turkish audiences who want to relive the event onscreen will have options, with at least two adaptations of the 1915 WWI campaign set for release.

On Sept. 28, the nation-forging struggle between Ottoman and Allied forces over the straits of the Dardanelles, or what Turks call Canakkale, will first be brought to life in Sinan Cetin’s “Children of Canakkale.” Detailing the story of two brothers who fight on opposite sides in Gallipoli, the $5 million Plato Film project is set to premiere on 400 screens across Turkey.

On Oct. 18, Yesim Sezgin’s “Canakkale 1915,” based on the bestselling historical fiction by Turgut Ozakman, will be released on 1,000 screens across Turkey and Europe. Also boasting a $5 million budget, this Fida Film production focuses on the battle as a foundation for the Turkish Republic.

Both films should benefit from a recent surge in interest among Turks for historical dramas. This year’s “Conquest 1453,” detailing the conquering of Istanbul, grossed $31 million, to become the biggest film in Turkish history, and is being turned into a TV series. Historical series draw high ratings on Turkish TV, including “Magnificent Century” (dealing with the court of Suleyman the Magnificent), “Law of the Wolf” (covering the early Turkish Republic) and “Ottoman Mutiny” (relating the middle Ottoman period).

“Children of Canakkale” distinguishes itself from many Turkish war films by its antiwar stance. The film has already stirred controversy for its tagline, “Long live the children, too,” a likely reference to the popular nationalist chant “Long live the homeland.” Roughly a third of the dialog is in English, a choice the producers say highlights the shared horror of war on all sides.

“Canakkale 1915″ marks out quite different territory with the tagline: “No enemy, army or weapon can be mightier than the love for a nation.” Producers stress the realism of the film, noting the authentic arms, costumes and locations, including the actual battlefields of the Dardanelles, for which they received special shooting permission.

Playing to an audience that enthusiastically embraces local product, these takes on the battle may be just the beginning of films on the subject, with at least three other major productions pegged at various stages of development.

So whatever the most appropriate tagline for all these works may be, it’s certain Turkish filmmakers are crying, “Long live the battle of Gallipoli.”

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