Movie of "human" Ataturk stirs emotions in Turkey

Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:11am EST
 
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By Ibon Villelabeitia

ANKARA (Reuters Life!) - A new film that portrays Turkey's revered founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as a lonely, hard-drinking man beset by doubts has whipped up emotions in a country still grappling with his legacy 70 years after his death.

Ataturk, a former soldier, founded modern Turkey as a secularist republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

Portraits of a stern-looking Ataturk adorn the walls of government offices, schools, shops and living rooms across the sprawling nation, testament to a man who has achieved the status of a demi-god among most Turks.

"Mustafa," a documentary that chronicles Ataturk's life from childhood to his death on November 10, 1938, presents an intimate and flawed Ataturk rarely seen before, angering hardline secularists who have called for a boycott and say the film is an enemy plot to humiliate "Turkishness."

The film, which has drawn large crowds, has fed into a climate of soul searching in Turkey, where democratic reforms, social changes and an impassioned debate over secularism is shaking the pillars of the autocratic state left by Ataturk.

"This documentary is the product of an effort to humiliate Ataturk in the eyes of Turkish people," wrote columnist Yigit Bulut in the secularist Vatan newspaper.

"Do not watch it, prevent people from watching it and most importantly keep your children away from it to avoid planting seeds of Ataturk humiliation in their subconscious," he said.

On Monday, at 9.05 a.m., factory sirens wailed, traffic halted and school children stood to attention, a ritual Turks have followed for 70 years to mark the moment of his death.   Continued...

 
<p>A woman leaves a flower at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk which is covered by his portraits, flowers and a Turkish national flag at the 70th anniversary of his death in Ankara November 10, 2008. A new film that portrays Turkey's revered founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as a lonely, hard-drinking man beset by doubts has whipped up emotions in a country still grappling with his legacy 70 years after his death. Ataturk, a former soldier, founded modern Turkey as a secularist republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. REUTERS/Umit Bektas</p>