Turning national sentiments into business

The landmark of the WWI battle of Gallipoli in Turkey and the idolising of individual heroism has become the backbone for nationalist and populist sentiments – and for business.
Willemien Sanders
Dr. Willemien Sanders is a regular critic at Modern Times Review.
Published date: March 4, 2019



Köken Ergun

Köken Ergun

Turkey/ Australia, 2019. 88min

Early in the morning when it’s still dark, a row of young boys in shirts stating, «Grandpa, I am here,» wait their turn for what seems like a blessing ritual as a green substance is smeared onto their heads. They are ready to start the 57th Battalion loyalty march, following in the footsteps of Turkish soldiers who, over 100 years ago, made their way to the WWI front. Not too far away, Australian and New Zealand tourists – many in yellow or green casual hoodies – visit graveyards and walk up a hill towards a memorial, «to feel the pain they [their ancestors] felt.»

The landmark of the WWI Battle of Gallipoli (also referred to as the Battle of Çanakkale or the Dardanelles Campaign), where the Turks defeated the Australian and New Zealand troops, has resulted in very similar commemoration practices on both sides.

In Heroes director Köken Ergun address the commemoration practices of the major event for both the Turks on the one side and the Allied forces, represented by Australian and New Zealand army corps (ANZAC), on the other.

[ntsu_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji2iYKUpDdY

In the Allied battle against the Ottoman Empire, the control of the Dardanelles Strait was crucial for the attack on the capital Constantinople, now Istanbul. Following an unsuccessful attempt to secure the strait by sea, they decided to try and capture Constantinople by land.

A victory for Turkey, the event is regarded as the beginning of what became the campaign by Mustafa Kemal – Atatürk – for Turkey’s independence from the Ottoman Empire and the establishing of the modern, secular Turkish state. (The encroaching religious connotations displayed today must make him raise an eyebrow at least.)

Ergun’s observational approach proves a productive strategy and gives the film a spontaneous feel.

To capture the ways both Turkish and the Allied parties commemorate the fallen, video artist Köken Ergun submerged himself in tour groups, joining both sides on their tour buses; on their specific site visits; observing his fellow-attendants and chatting with some of them. His observational approach proves a productive strategy and gives the film a spontaneous feel.

Ordinary men turned into martyrs

In Heroes it …

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