For Immediate Release
July 17, 1998
New York, NY - In May of this year, the American Hellenic Media Project initiated a grass-roots protest against Antonio Banderas' decision to play the role of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern-day Turkey, in a film to be produced by Tarquin Olivier. An outpouring of concern over this film promoting the denial of a holocaust and the canonization of its perpetrator has prompted Mr. Banderas to withdraw.
Press reports to date have ignored the eloquent and often moving accounts by survivors and their children of Ataturk's legacy of destruction during what Greeks and Armenians remember as the "Asia Minor Holocaust of 1922". According to US Consul George Horton, an estimated one to two hundred thousand Armenian and Greek Christians were killed by Ataturk's troops in the Smyrna district alone (now renamed Izmir) and over two million more were ethnically cleansed from Turkey. Ataturk consummated the Armenian and Pontian Greek genocides initiated by his Turkish predecessors by brutally wiping out the millennia-long presence of Greeks and Armenians in what is now Turkey.
Mr. Banderas has won deep respect for deciding to withdraw from a film based on Lord Kinross' biography of Ataturk-a work of hero-worship that denies both this holocaust as well as the earlier Armenian and Pontian Greek Genocides. Olivier does not appear interested in producing an honest or realistic portrait of a historical figure. An agenda becomes clear when he compares Ataturk to Gandhi and when he proclaims that Ataturk "did more for his country than any man in history."
Olivier's denial runs throughout his public statements on the film. While he plans to portray Ataturk as having "set up a republican democracy", Ataturk was in reality a brutal dictator. While he intends to depict "a compelling love story", Ataturk was in reality a child molester, particularly of young boys; a fact that is discussed even in Kinross' book (Chapter 2, p. 21).
It is deeply disturbing that the British-born producer criticizes a protest by Greek, Armenian and other Americans of conscience for "undermin[ing] freedom of speech and freedom of the arts" yet is producing a film in collaboration with a government that has been cited by the NY Times as having imprisoned more journalists than any country on earth and that Amnesty International calls "one of the world's most dangerous countries in which to pursue a career in journalism." It is troubling that Olivier, who has issued statements denying Ataturk's role in these atrocities, has stated that he had to receive permission from the Turkish authorities to make the film and had received "pledges of cooperation" from the Turkish President and Prime Minister.
Olivier's attacks on the protest are really about silencing Turkey's victims once more, and exporting Turkey's censorship to the United States. This film must be seen in the larger context of Turkey's aggressive and well-financed campaign of genocide denial and false historical revisionism. Turkey has spent millions of dollars within the United States on public relations, establishing university chairs and running ads to promote its rewriting of history. The press must not become a partner to this agenda of denial but rather should act responsibly and be sensitive to the legitimate concerns of the Hellenic and Armenian American communities.
American Hellenic Media Project
P.O. Box 1150
New York, N.Y. 10028-0008
Tel. & Fax: (212) 249-3863
A non-profit organization formed to address bias in the media and encourage independent, ethical & responsible journalism.