Rewriting history without Mustafa.hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;}.hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;}ISTANBUL - Satirist, screenwriter and director Gani Müjde looks at what would happen if the Ottoman Empire still reigned in his ’Osmanlı Cumhuriyeti’ (The Ottoman Republic).

Following the plethora of relevant and irrelevant debate last month over Can Dündar’s recent Atatürk biopic, "Mustafa," the Turkish media is too exhausted to raise new debate over another film about the history of the less than a century-old Turkish Republic.

Satirist, screenwriter and occasional director Gani Müjde’s "Osmanlı Cumhuriyeti" (The Ottoman Republic), a comedy fantasizing about what would happen if Atatürk did not lead the Independence War, if the Turkish Republic did not emerge from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire and if that empire still existed, should have been an ideal subject to generate discussion in the Turkish media, suffering from a drought of material.

Thanks to a nation averse to a multiplicity of voices when it comes to its own history and culture, "Mustafa" sparked debate on matters that were trivial and downright ridiculous.
Tens, even hundreds, of newspaper articles, and TV programs crucified Can Dündar for making personal choices in a deeply personal movie. So, it was a total shock to see "Osmanlı Cumhuriyeti," released two weeks ago, pass by almost unnoticed in the media.
Director and writer Gani Müjde tried his best, expressing his hope that his movie would generate debate, hinting at possible answers to accusations in his interviews, even provoking the media occasionally with the distant hope of vicious attacks on the film. But, to no avail, the film met with audiences and critics drained of any energy to discuss Turkey’s recent history.

Gani Müjde has been a familiar name to Turkish audiences, and especially readers, for nearly three decades. His satirical stories have been read by different generations in various magazines, his scripts have found their way on to some of the most popular TV series and also some mediocre ones, "Ruhsar" and "Baskül Ailesi - Baskül Family," among others, and his debut feature ***** "Kahpe Bizans" (Perfidious Byzantium), of 2000 became one of the top box-office films in the history of Turkish cinema.

History as a source of comedy
"Kahpe Bizans" was a parody of 1970s, kitsch Turkish movies, depicting a totally surreal Anatolia in the pre-conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans from what was left of the Byzantine Empire. Müjde uses history as a source of comedy in "Osmanlı Cumhuriyeti" as well, with more than a hint of drama, confusing the audience as to what to expect.

The film begins with an eight-year-old Atatürk falling off a tree and dying, hence facilitating Müjde to rewrite history. We jump to today’s Istanbul, where Osman VII is ruling the Ottoman Empire, with little dignity and respect left for the Empire and the Sultan. There is no Turkey and there is no vast geography that it is built upon today. The French, Italian and Greeks have left the empire a little land, where Ankara is a small town on the eastern border. But it is the Americans who have gained the Ottoman reign.

The film begins as a comedy as to what could happen in such a scenario, the Sultan wearing Prada shoes, Ankara as a small town, the historic palaces still functioning as residences, an Ottoman palace turned into U.S. headquarters.
However, just in to its first hour, the film turns into a grim political drama and a melodramatic love story. The resistance against the American hegemony rises in Ankara, the Sultan has a difficult time standing up to his potent heritage, having an even more difficult time dealing with a relationship that is no more than a school boy’s crush.

Especially toward the end, the film veers totally away from comedy and the tired nationalist messages suffocate audiences.
Müjde brags about a return to cinema with a brilliant idea as to what would happen if the Ottoman Empire still reigned. Unfortunately, he perhaps relies on the idea too much and does not give us an Ottoman Empire that could have been, but an occasional glimpse of a movie that could have been.