I've always been wondering about the peculiar rôle that the Gallipoli campaign still holds in the British mind after 90 years, and even more so in the Australian and the New Zealander's of course. That's why I went to see the new Turkish documentary Gallipoli with T tonight.
The movie is an old fashioned incarnation of the documentary genre. Knowing me, you'll be well aware that old fashioned is not a pejorative in my vocabulary. It is very carefully done, explaining the campaign's political & strategic background, using a lot of original quotes from participants on both sides of the battle line. While I do not know the details of course, I don't think it can be classified as partisan at all. They also resisted the temptation to turn this into a historic action movie - maybe with a little help from budgetary restrictions. The harrowing battle scenes were only alluded to ever so delicately - a quality that's hardly ever seen any more.
Unfortunately, they were showing the original language version (Turkish) with German subtitles, and not the English language one. While I enjoyed listening to the Turkish narration from an accoustic point of view (naturally I didn't understand a word of it), the quality of the subtitles was quite horrendous. There has to be a way of punishing subtitle translators for what they're putting us through, isn't there?
So, I still don't know much more about Gallipoli's peculiar rôle, but I know a lot more about its circumstances. I'll be looking out for more in the new Churchill Museum which I intend to visit on my next trip to London. But who knows, perhaps we'll get some insights from our English Kiwi correspondent before then?
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I don't think Gallipoli has any great place in the British psyche but was fascinated to see the importance of ANZAC day to Kiwis, with every bar closing at midnight the day before and almost every shop closed for the morning. The significance seems even greater amongst younger New Zealanders than previous generations, many of whom know relatively little about the events itself. It's very popular to attend dawn services across the country and light candles to remember the dead.
From what I can tell, the Gallipoli landings were the turning point in the development of an separate identity for Australians and New Zealanders. Their men were sent fight for the mother country on the other side of the world, and many died in what many here see as an impossible battle. In the aftermath the locals began to ask why they were seen as second-tier colonials, laying the foundations for greater independence.
The Cabinet War Rooms are definitely worth a visit, I hear they've been greatly extended since I went a few years ago. Look forward to your report.
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