OTTOMAN HOLLYWOOD

Journalists, scholars and commenters trying to understand what is angering the crowds in Taksim Square and what is rallying the opposing ones summoned by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, should have a look at least at one episode of Osmanli'da Derin Devlet, (Ottoman Deep State) a Turkish TV series set in the Ottoman Empire and that has become a major hit not only with local audiences but is also being exported successfully in all of the Middle East and the Balkans.

Produced at the 200.000 sq. meters of the Izmit studios, that employ more then 400 people just on this series, Osmanli'da Derin Devlet tells us a lot not only about the fast growing Turkish cinema industry. Viewers would be wrong if they saw in the 20 episodes of the first season just an historical drama full of sultans, viziers, thrilling veiled beauties and bearded heroes rattling sabers, riding horses and prying to Allah. Osmanli'da Derin Devlet, is not simply a glorification of times long gone, it is instead very contemporary. It tells us that the past is the source where Erdogan's Turkey is looking for inspiration and a way to reshape the present. It sheds light on the Islamization of the Turkish society and the gradual moralization that goes with it. Indeed, a competing TV series, also set at the time of the Ottoman Empire, has been censored by the government because the Sultan looked more passionate about his harem then spreading the word of God. One MP, with Erdogan's backing, is proposing a law to ban shows that "denigrate, insult, pervert or misrepresent historical events and personages"Critics of the government accuse it of trying to enforce an idealization of the Ottoman Empire and impose religious values that threaten the secular republic established by Kemal Atatürk. Turkey is no longer longing to enter a Europe in full recession and more and more conscious of their regional might. This TV series incarnates the new brand of nationalism that is the result of ten years of the AKP power.

© Edoardo Delille, 2019. All rights reserved.

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