The Ottoman Lieutenant Image

The Ottoman Lieutenant

By Bradley Gibson | May 4, 2017

Leni Riefenstahl was by all accounts a serious, talented, and ambitious filmmaker. She was also an amoral opportunist who ignored facts in the interest of her film career and personal advantage. She hitched her wagon to the wrong goddamn rising star. See: the verdict of history. I wonder if director Joseph Ruben isn’t following the same path to some extent?

Ruben’s film The Ottoman Lieutenant is Turkish propaganda to promote the idea that the Armenian genocide wasn’t a systematic program by the Ottoman government and therefore doesn’t fit the definition of the word “genocide.”  It’s meant as a retcon for the bloody history of that time, cleaning up the record for the country that became Turkey. History is (re)written by the victors even a century later.   

It is releasing concurrently with a similar film called The Promise starring Oscar Isaac that presents the generally accepted narrative about the genocide.

Cara Buckley, in a New York Times article from April, 20th, 2017, says “six weeks before The Promise hit theaters this weekend came another film that shared uncanny parallels. Like The Promise, The Ottoman Lieutenant hinges on a love triangle set in Turkey during the early days of World War I. Unlike The Promise, The Ottoman Lieutenant, which stars Michiel Huisman and Josh Hartnett, was backed by Turkish investors and has been pilloried by critics for whitewashing historical events.

“Heroism, altruism, and passion are presented in the simplest terms…”

I’m not as well-versed in 20th-century history as I should be. I spent more time with movies and books than paying attention in history classes, though as an adult I realize that history is relevant and I’ve taken an intense interest. Ironically I have learned history from watching movies, which is a shaky way to go about it, only works if you augment with skepticism and dig for facts. Most dramatic films exist to sell tickets, not to preserve historical fidelity.  The Ottoman Lieutenant exists to give a particular interpretation of history.  

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  1. Carole Amarosso says:

    And The Promise is propaganda to prove it was genocide, financed exclusively by a multi billionaire Armenian American that gladly lost 100 million dollars to convince those about what they already know I’ve watched more than a fair share of movies about genocide and just because Turkey won’t bone up to the fact won’t make it go away. It’ll take more than a hyped movie or two to convince critical thinkers to fall sway either way on issues atrocious or otherwise

  2. Joseph Joestar says:

    “opening scene of the movie ,where an Afro American is rejected to a hospital, thats you, and your article is all about, you hateful ignorant”

    Aaron, there’s one issue with the scene: If it was indeed set in Pennsylvania, this would not have likely happened. Racial discrimination against blacks was of a different character in the north versus the south, where it was institutionalized and more rigid. Northern hospitals would have accepted blacks. Most northern cities officially accepted blacks into all schools (Cleveland might have been an exception). Blacks weren’t allowed into some social clubs, got more police attention, and were seen as lower than whites, but not to the degree they would have been kept out of a hospital.

    Southern hospitals indeed discriminated by race in that way, but Lillie would have known that upon arrival had she agreed to work in the South (Also I imagine she, as an educated woman, would have known this and refused to come to the South).

  3. Gengo says:

    Very good movie and good to get the more accurate version of events instead of them demonising the Turks , the Turks were known for their good manner even during the Gallipoli campaign sharing their food and tobacco with the enemy. In those times if you lived under the Ottoman Empire and were part of the regime trying to destabilise then you get what you deserve ! It’s called treason in the west and in every western nation you would be killed for it. It’s a well known fact the Armenians did actually have groups dedicated to killing and invading small Turkish rural villages so yes everything seems pretty spot on in this film thanks

  4. Sule Senol says:

    The movie evokes reality and I was satisfied with the story. Thanks Ruben.

  5. Aaron says:

    who do you think financing your article? Have you ever talked to 100 year old Armenian who lived in east of Turkey all his life and proudly shared what the life was all about in those times, how things were so beautiful, and peaceful..till the west took it all, like they doing the same…opening scene of the movie ,where an Afro American is rejected to a hospital, thats you, and your article is all about, you hateful ignorant

    you proudly call ‘ genocide’, leave you to your ignorance

  6. Mary M. Mansour says:

    Fell in love with Michiel Huisman as Ismail. He is one gorgeous wet dream for sure.

  7. Steven says:

    Best movie ever!

  8. Zareh Sahakian says:

    Denial comes in many forms. Decades ago it was crude dismissal of the Armenian genocide by Turks that was essentially based on the notion of : “Armenians? what Armenians there were no Armenians only Turks lived in Turkey” in the same manner as Kurds were in reality “Mountain Turks”. Also, Armenian Christian churches and cathedrals were built by “Christian ancestors of Turks”.

    Later, realizing the untenability of simplistic official lies Turkish authorities adopted a more subtle, more sophisticated approach. The new line was “bad things happen in wars, both sides suffered equally”. It is this latest approach that permits the president of Turkey to even offer his “condolences” for all those who died…you know, during the “civil war”.

    Today, we witness yet another, prettier approach of denial through “The Ottoman Lieutenant”, a film financed and produced by government-connected Turkish sources who, we find out from the directing/editing team, even had a major say in the final editing, to the dismay of the director Joseph Ruben.

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