Atatürk is depicted as a godless dictator, a coward and an arrogant, ambitious egoist who looked down on the people. Who, on top of all that, drank too much and had a weakness for women he couldn’t control. I read these critiques in an email which is being sent around the country at the moment, calling on people not to take their children to the movie Mustafa, which is currently playing in the cinemas. The movie would, according to the email, poison children’s minds. Atatürk should of course remain the untouchable mythical figure that he has been for decades, and should never be seen as a man with all the faults and weaknesses that all human beings have.
I went to see the movie yesterday. I expected a film in which some actor would play Atatürk, but was surprised to see that it was more like a documentary. Old stills and footage, in black and white, and no dialogue, just a voice-over telling the story of the man who won Turkey independence and turned it in to a secular republic. There were segments in full colour, and in those parts, you see a young Mustafa walking in a beautiful landscape with a threatening sky, as an army general giving directions to his men under a blood-red sky with his hand over his eyes and his arm pointing into the distance, or marching over a hill singing a battle song with the sun coming up in, once again, a blood-red sky.
I didn’t see any hint of cowardice, except when it was mentioned that Atatürk didn’t like sleeping in the dark. Arrogant, ambitious and looking down on the people? Well, he did say that revolution should come instantly and should not be concerned with the needs of ignorant people. And for a man who wants to bring revolution to a country, that is of course not such a strange idea. A dictator? The film shows that Atatürk banned the opposition, and that many of his fellow commander friends were arrested because of an assassination attempt. Nothing new in that, revolution doesn’t come without victims. Another big criticism was of Atatürk being a heavy drinker with a weakness for women. The film shows the latter when he first came to Istanbul even before he was twenty: would it not be more unusual for a young man not to have a weakness for women? And the drinking? Atatürk died of cirrhosis of the liver, and that is, as we all know, not caused by drinking too much milk.
Still, I agree that it’s not such a good idea to take children to see the movie. Not because of these far fetched criticisms, but because, while it’s definitely an interesting film for adults, for children it would probably be totally boring.