I just finished watching the Turkish film “Valley of the Wolves Iraq”, which is a continuation of the hit Turkish TV series with the same name. The movie takes place in Northern Iraq in the present and has its premise based around the arrest of 11 Turkish Special Forces soldiers by the American forces, which was known as the “Hood event” by Turks. As a result of American humiliation, one of the soldiers, who is a friend of Polat Alemdar (the main character in the TV show), commits suicide. The rest of the movie involves Alemdar and his team from the TV show working to kill Sam William Marshall, the man responsible for the “Hood event”.
The film was one of the most expensive Turkish movies produced at 10.2 million USD, but grossed 22.1 million USD in Turkey. However, it has generated controversy for several characters and scenes in the film:
– The film portrays American military contractors in a negative light. The main villain, Sam William Marshall (played by Billy Zane) claims to have entered Iraq to help create God’s Kingdom in the name of Christianity. He employs a group of mercenaries (PMC) to do all of his dirty work against the locals alongside the US military, who are always in the background.
-Valley of the Wolves Iraq is one of the few films to depict Abu Gharib prison. In the film, they show prisoners being stripped naked and showered with high-pressured hoses and they even had a scene showing Lynndie England forcing prisoners to make pyramids alongside other guards. However, the most controversial part of the prison were portrayals of Jewish doctors (one played by Gary Busey) harvesting organs from prisoners to be sold to rich patients in America, Britain and even Israel.
-The movie also bashes Kurds. At the start of the movie, the hero mocks the Kurdish flag for sharing its national colours with traffic lights, has the protagonists fight with Kurdish Pershmergas at the Turkish-Iraqi border, and having the hero refusing to recognise the Kurdish authorities. “Valley of the Wolves” also implies that Iraqi Kurdistan is relatively more successful to the other regions because their leaders actively collaborate with the American occupiers, who allow them to drive Turkomans out of the region. The Kurdish authorities in the film are also portrayed as being hellbent towards driving Arabs out of Iraqi Kurdistan.
-There are criticisms of US-Turkish relations as well. During an early confrontation, Sam William Marshall criticises Turks for being a proud people that are always dependent on US foreign aid in the form of monetary and military aid, but always squander it when it is provided to them. He then goes on to imply Turks are ingrates because America was willing to help them from falling under communist rule, yet they would not help their US ally when they were needed in Iraq. The American oppression and Marshall’s desire to eliminate our heroes provides justification for killing American soldiers and PMCs.
In spite of these issues, the producers attempted to show Islam in a positive light by having scenes where a shaikh, played by Ghassan Massoud (Kingdom of Heaven), discouraging a girl from committing a suicide attack because it is against Sharia and intervening to stop the Iraqi resistance from beheading a journalist because it tarnishes Islam’s reputation. Moreover, the film shows the gruesome consequences of a suicide attack, which was committed in response to an American massacre at a wedding, with a graphic portrayal of several limbs, traumatised survivors, and dead soldiers.
The film also highlights discrimination against the minority Turkomans, who are culturally Turkish, by the Kurds in Northern Iraq. There are scenes showing Kurdish authorities marking Turkoman homes set for eviction and also had scenes showing Sam William Marshall and the local Kurdish leader conspiring to first drive out the Turkomans and then the Arabs.
Some commentators have expressed concern at the film’s stance against US military actions and crimes and thus potential to incite Turkish nationalism that may ultimately be detrimental to Turkey, particularly as the United States has been a strong supporter of Turkey’s entry into the European Union and has opposed an independent Kurdistan. Both stances are endorsed by the Turkish government and, polls indicate, the majority of the Turkish population.
The film’s scriptwriter Bahadir Ozdener has defended the film by saying:
- “Our film is a sort of political action. Maybe 60 or 70 percent of what happens on screen is factually true. Turkey and America are allies, but Turkey wants to say something to its friend. We want to say the bitter truth. We want to say that this is wrong.”
“Valley of the Wolves Iraq” is an interesting film. Much of the dialogue is in English, Turkish, and Arabic and the action is on par with a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. It’s unfortunate that such a blatantly anti-American film was produced, although it does bring out some interesting issues such as the American handling of the Iraqi Occupation, ethnic tensions in Iraq and recent Turkish sentiment towards America. The film is available on bittorrent and youtube with subtitles and it’s recommended for those who want a very different perspective on the current events in Iraq.