The raucous reception by some members of Germany’s 2.5 million-strong Turkish community to “Valley of the Wolves,” a movie depicting crazed U.S. troops in Iraq massacring a wedding party and a Jewish doctor removing organs from prisoners, has German politicians worried – so worried, Bavaria’s interior minister sent intelligence service agents to theaters showing the film to “gauge” audience reaction and identify potential radicals.
The $10 million dollar film, by Turkish director Serdan Akar, has already been wildly successful in Turkey, where its debut was attended by the wife of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “It is an extraordinary film that will go down in history,” Turkish Parliament speaker Bulent Arinc, president of the Turkish National Assembly told the Anatolia press agency.
But that’s not the way German officials see it.
Edmund Stoiber, Bavaria’s conservative prime minister, asked theater owners to not show “this racist and anti-Western hate film.” Bernd Neumann, Germany’s expressed concern that the film “raises serious questions about the values of our society and our ability to instill them”. This week, Cinemaxx, Germany’s largest theater chain, announced the movie would be pulled from its offerings.
“These kinds of hate messages aren’t what we need in a society filled with immigrants and mixed ethnic and religious groups,” said Michael Kohlstruck, a political scientist at Berlin’s Technical University. “All it takes is a few people mobilized by the film to become a danger by carrying out attacks.”
The movie, which began showings in Germany three weeks ago, has played to sold out audiences since. Over 130,000 people, mostly young Muslims, saw the film in its first five days. The London Telegraph reports Berlin audiences, made up mostly of Turkish young men, clapping furiously when the building housing the U.S. military commander in northern Iraq is blown up and a standing ovation – accompanied by shouts of “Allah is great!” – when the movie’s American antagonist, played by Billy Zane, is stabbed in the chest.
“The Americans always behave like this,” one 18-year-old viewer said. “They slaughtered the Red Indians and killed thousands in Vietnam. I was not shocked by the film, I see this on the news every day.”
While the film could be dismissed as an action film in which Muslims turn the tables on Rambo, the anti-Semitic element has drawn some of the most serious criticism.
The villain of the movie is an American Jewish doctor, played by Gary Busey, who selects Iraqi prisoners, in a manner reminiscent of Nazi concentration camp doctor Joseph Mengele, and removes their organs to sell to rich buyers in the U.S. and Israel.
“Wolves” director Akar employed Soner Yalcin, a journalist who has popularized the Islamist notion that many of Turkey’s leaders are descended from Jews, as an adviser on the film.
While some German politicians and Jewish leaders have called for a ban on the film, that seems unlikely since it is no more violent than other action films.
Ahlin Sahdin, the film’s distributor in Germany, sees the conflict in broader terms: “When a cartoonist insults two billion Muslims it is considered freedom of opinion, but when an action film takes on the Americans it is considered demagoguery. Something is wrong.”
The film begins by recounting an actual event that occurred in northern Iraq in July 2003, according to the Forward, when U.S. troops arrested and held 11 Turkish soldiers who were later released. The fictional Turkish hero seeks revenge for the humiliation of his fellow Turks and sets the scene for American troops to massacre innocent guests at a wedding party, firebomb a mosque during evening prayers and conduct summary executions.