An interview with Fatih Akin that appeared in the Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos on Saturday has sparked open threats from Turkish nationalists, reports the Hürriyet Daily News. The occasion of the interview is, of course, The Cut, set to premiere in Venice in a few weeks. Akin’s new film begins in Mardin, a city in southeastern Turkey, where, on a night in 1915, Turkish police round up all the Armenian men, separating the blacksmith Nazaret Manoogian (Tahar Rahim) from his family. So begins what most refer to as the Armenian Genocide; most men were either killed outright or died while being forced to work for the Ottomans, while the women and children were led on death marches to the Syrian desert. In April, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan took the world by surprise when he offered what Reuters called “unprecedented condolences” to the living descendants of the estimated one to 1.5 million Armenians who died 99 years ago.
In The Cut, Nazaret survives and learns years later that his twin daughters are still alive as well. His search for them takes him from the Mesopotamian desert to the prairies of North Dakota—via Havana and other points not exactly in between.
As Hürriyet reports, “Ötüken, the publication of the Turkish Turanist Association, has released an online statement… ‘We openly threaten Agos Newspaper, Armenian fascists and so-called intellectuals,’ the message read. ‘That movie will not be released in a single movie theater in Turkey. We are following the developments with our white caps and Azerbaijani flags.’ The white cap is a clear reference to the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was killed in broad daylight in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2007, as the hit-man, Ogün Samast, was wearing a white cap when he murdered the editor-in-chief of Agos.”
Akin had originally intended to make a film based on twelve articles by Dink, but says, as quoted by Reuters, “I couldn’t convince any actor from Turkey to accept the role of Hrant; they all found the script too strong. I didn’t want to put any actor at risk, but it was also important that a film about Hrant would be a Turkish film. An American or French actor couldn’t have been cast as Hrant. We have to deal with this alone.” Reuters: “Akin said instead he combined parts of the Dink script to complete a different film, The Cut.”
The film will see its German premiere on September 27, when the Filmfest Hamburg presents its Douglas Sirk Award to Akin in recognition of “his work both as a director and as a producer. His films, which are strongly rooted in Hamburg, have put the city on the world map of cinema…. The Cut completes Akin’s Love, Death and the Devil trilogy which began extremely successfully in 2004 with Gegen die Wand (Head-On) and was continued with Auf der anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven) in 2007.” As nationalist and tribalist conflicts flare up all over the globe this summer, we naturally hope that, for Akin, the Devil stays down in the hole.
Note: There’s a mix-up regarding the date of the German premiere in Hamburg. Filmfest seems to have misstated it as “Saturday, 27th July,” when of course, they mean, as I should have surmised, “Saturday, 27th September.” I’ve tweaked the text accordingly.