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Turkish TV's Valley of the Wolves

Turkey's Answer to Fox's "24"


Turkish TV's Valley of the Wolves

Valley of the Wolves-Ambush star Necati Sasmaz.

Pana Film
"Valley of the Wolves," or Kutlar Vadisi, is a Turkish television series produced by Pana Film that premiered on Jan. 15, 2003 and quickly spawned a following, controversy and a movie. The initial series totaled 98 episodes between 2003 and 2005.

The series is tailored after Fox's "24." It features a Turklish secret service agent, Ali Candan, who infiltrates the Turkish mob to destroy it. To do so, the agent reconstructs himself through plastic surgery and takes on a new identity: Polat Alemdar. The wolves of the title are a reference to the mob's Council of the Wolves. The series drew its storylines from standard international intrigue plots as well as the headlines of the day--from the Iraq war to torture to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The series was quite violent, but also so popular that in 2006, the production company filmed an $11 million movie called "Valley of the Wolves Iraq." The movie featured scenes of Sadistic American soldiers and referenced torture at Abu Ghraib, among other subplots. As MSNBC's Tucker Carlson described it on his show on June 27, 2006, "It depicts American soldiers acting like pigs. It also shows a Jewish-American doctor cutting out the organs of Abu Ghraib prisoners and selling them, to pander to stereotypes common to the region." The American actor was Gary Busey.

'Valley of the Wolves: Iraq" was not entirely fiction. As Richard Morgan wrote in Slate, the movie "starts off factually enough, with a depiction of a July 4, 2003, incident in which around 100 soldiers from the U.S. Army's 173 rd Airborne Brigade stormed the barracks of a Turkish special forces office in Iraq, arresting 11 Turks who allegedly were planning to assassinate the Kurdish governor of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The Americans not only handcuffed the Turks but also forced hoods over their heads and held them in custody for more than two days. The U.S. government later apologized, explaining that its soldiers couldn't tell the difference between Turks and Iraqi insurgents because the Turks were not in uniform. Turkey didn't buy it, and this blockbuster is the payback."

Entertainment Capital Corporation (ECC) acquired the worldwide distribution rights for the movie. But it was never show in wide release in the United States, making it only to a few film festivals.

In "Valley of the Wolves: Terror," Polat Alemdar returns to the television screen with a new target: Kurdish separatists. Turkey since the beginning of the previous century has waged a low-grade genocide against Kurds (caling down in the late 1990s and 2000s), so the series' latest twist was designed, like its predecessors, to appeal to low common denominators of taste.

The program was too violent for the country's censorship board (the Radio and Television Supreme Council) which banned the new season of the show entirely.

In yet another incarnation of "Valley of the Wolves"--that one called "Valley of the Wolves: Ambush," which airs every Thursday in Turkey--one episode, according to CNN, "depicted the Israeli intelligence service Mossad spying inside Turkey and kidnapping Turkish babies. The program also showed Mossad attacking the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv and taking the ambassador and his family hostage."

That episode triggered a diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel that risked unraveling years of friendship between the two countries.

In a written statement, Pana Film said the show "will continue to tell the truth and expose the wrongs."

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