THE WATER DIVINER: FANTASY NOT HISTORY
By Dr Panayiotis Diamadis – Neos Kosmos English Edition: Saturday 10 January 2015
“Satan’s army: the dark side of The Water Diviner”, “Bizarre”, “Disgusting”, “Lies” and “Disgraceful”. –These are some of the responses to the depiction of Hellenes and Orthodox Christians in The Water Diviner, screenplay and novel by Andrew Anastasios and associates. Anastasios and his co-writers have done serious disservice to both Kleio, Muse of History, and to Hellenism.
A daughter of Zeus, Kleio (Κλείω) may translate as “to recount”, “to make famous”, or “to celebrate”. Anastasios’ misconstructions and omissions result in the film and its accompanying novel presenting the indigenous Hellenes (Greeks) of Anatolia as “Satan’s army”, as barbarous invaders. In its drive to create an anti-war message, The Water Diviner ends up as fantastic propaganda where victims become perpetrators become victims.
In The Water Diviner, Anastasios omits that Hellenes, Armenians and Assyrians are the indigenous peoples of Anatolia, omits that Armenians lived in the region where most of the action in the film and the novel takes place, depicts the indigenous Hellenes of Anatolia so disparagingly even the Turkish newspaper Zaman decries it, and much more.
In a recent interview, Russell Crowe claimed that “after 100 years, it’s time to expand that mythology”, Australia “should be mature enough as a nation to take into account the story that the other blokes have to tell”. Fair enough. This should include the story of the indigenous peoples of Anatolia who were being subjected to genocide at the time when the film is set, in the land where the film’s action unfolds.
The first step in setting right a litany of wrongs is a disclaimer at the beginning of each screening of this fill acknowledgeing that Hellenes, Armenians and Assyrians are the original and indigenous peoples of Anatolia and that the film may offend them and their descendants.
HISTORY & FANTASY
The Water Diviner is about a man who travels to eastern Thrace and Anatolia after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and find his three missing sons. The premise of an Australian wandering around western Anatolia in 1920-21 is itself incredulous. Australian World War One veteran Major George Devine Treloar told the Sydney Morning Herald in May 1927 that “Turkey was a bad place for foreigners at the present time”.
The story deals (in part) with the Anzac prisoners-of-war of the Ottoman Empire in World War One. The climax of the story takes place in a medieval Orthodox church in the city of Akroinos (modern Afyonkarahisar).
Anzac and other Allied POWs (especially Indians) died in captivity by the thousand. Anzac POWs recorded how Armenian and Hellenic churches across Anatolia were their prison camps. Akroinos’ main prisoner-of-war camps were the massive Armenian church and its neighbourhood of formerly Armenian-owned houses.
The Water Diviner paints indigenous Anatolia Hellenes as barbaric invaders, at one point being labelled “Satan’s army” by one character. Surviving Anzac prisoners recorded how Hellenes assisted their survival – and in some cases, their escape.
Crowe and his writers are derided by Guy Walters of The Telegraph (London), Barry John Clark, president of the New Zealand Veterans Association, and Major General David McLachlan, president of the Victorian RSL, amongst others, for holding positions “utterly without foundation”.
In Major General McLachlan’s words, “Russ must have been asleep during that lesson at school”, referring to the inclusion of the Turkish view of Gallipoli in this country’s schools and universities.
The danger of this and other similar films that claim to be “inspired by actual events” is that because Crowe is a famous actor, his words are taken as being authoritative. His film may be treated as actual history. As educators and as consumers, we should take this problem seriously.
As demonstrated by Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1980) – a favourite of secondary school teachers –the problem with the glib Anastasios-Crowe approach is that audiences develop completely skewed, often false, historical knowledge; implanting false memories in public history.
As seen with the explosion of “Anzackery” over the last generation, this collective false memory has major effects on our understanding of our own past, how we explain our past to ourselves, how we regard ourselves, and how we act as a national collective. The 1934 Mustafa Kemal “statement” about mothers and sons exemplifies this point. As illustrated by Professor Peter Stanley, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE MUSTAFA KEMAL EVER ADDRESSED A MESSAGE TO GRIEVING AUSTRALIAN MOTHERS. Yet the “statement” is omnipresent in political and historical writing around Anzac.
Similarly, Anastasios and Crowe “expand” the very mythologies they are seeking to undermine. As Crowe stated: “You know, because we did invade a sovereign nation that we’d never had an angry word with….we shouldn’t celebrate the parts of that mythology that shouldn’t be celebrated”.
The Ottoman Empire launched a campaign of destruction against its indigenous peoples from January 1914, beginning with violent expulsions of Hellenes from the very region (the Gallipoli Peninsula) where so many Anzacs and other allies fell only months later.
The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers and invaded British Egypt and the Russian Caucasus in 1914. On New Year’s Day 1915, two Afghan cameleers flew the Ottoman banner in their assault on a trainload of picknickers outside Broken Hill, NSW.
In seeking to promote an anti-war message at a time when extreme ideologies are wreaking havoc, Anastasios and Crowe are engaging in a dangerous revisionism of historical events.
In some aspects, this constitutes genocide denial by omission. While Anastasios may claim “artistic licence”, that this film and its novel are entertainment, historical events should not be used as the basis of works that distort them. This is not the History that Kleio personifies.
Dr Panayiotis Diamadis lectures in Genocide Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney.
ARI TSILFIDIS COMMENTS
SPOILER ALERT – Those who haven’t seen this movie may want to turn away right now. If you were a descendant of the victims of the Turkish massacres during WW1, you may not like The Water Diviner at all. In his directorial debut, Russell Crowe distorts history in a way that only a Hollywood actor/director can. The movie appears to be funded by Australians. The executive producer is an Australian owner of casinos, James Packer. We can only hope that Crowe didn’t use Packer as his history advisor. No, that task was given to the Turks, because this movie is clearly, and I mean CLEARLY based on Turkey’s version of historical events during that period. The film portrays the Turks as victims, something most would know is not true. The film is based in the year 1919, four years after the battle of Gallipoli, a town where thousands of Australians and Turks lost their lives. The first revision of history made by Crowe is early in the movie when a British officer is seen complaining that the Greeks ‘invaded’ Turkey. Most would be aware that Greece occupied the environs of Smyrna, a city in western Turkey, under a British mandate. There was no invasion. Throughout the film, the Turks are seen as victims of some sort of Greek terror campaign against them. What Crowe forgets to tell his audience, is that the Greeks were sent to Smyrna, because during WW1 (1914-1918), the Turks had massacred millions of its own citizens, mainly Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians in a state sponsored campaign regarded by most historians today as genocide.
During WW1, The Turks were conducting massacres and atrocities that the world had not yet seen before that time. The events were reported in the English media throughout the world. Stories of massacre, death marches into the interior without food and water, forced conversions to Islam, confiscation of property, rape and other barbaric methods were used by the Turks to annihilate their minorities. So at the end of the war, Greece was sent to Smyrna, a city with a majority of Greek citizens, to protect the remaining Christians from Turkish slaughter. Another thing to note in this movie, is the use of the Greek town of Livissi (today Kayakoy) as one of the scenes. Most would not be aware that Livissi, a picturesque town on the slopes of a mountain, was once a purely Greek town of some 5,500 people. During WW1, the Greeks of Livissi had sent a detailed report to British authorities to save them from Turkish massacres and deportations. Today it stands neglected, it’s old houses and 14 churches ‘abandoned’. The Livissi Greeks endured some barbarous treatment by the Turks during the war, but that wasn’t mentioned in Crowe’s film. Crowe only wanted to tell us about what the Turks ‘endured’.
I can mention other things about the film such as the predictable love story between Crowe and the Turkish hotel owner, or the bizarre fact that Crowe was able to mysteriously find the exact location of his son’s death at Lone Pine, but all movies contain oddities such as these so common in Hollywood films. What can’t be accepted is a film based on historical events being so obviously distorted in order to make Australia’s enemy at the time, Turkey, appear so favourably. The film was filmed partly in Turkey and Australia. As most would know, Turkey is a nation that has a law that criminalises anyone who ‘insults Turkishness’. It would be fair to say, that considering Crowe filmed the movie in Turkey, he would have either been stoned, sent to prison, or even sent home in a body bag if he had of presented the period according to the exact events. Crowe should stick to acting and leave history to the historians as he has made a mockery of the events depicted during this film. Especially those whose descendants were massacred by Turks during WW1.
THE FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN
Russell Crowe’s new film about Gallipoli, The Water Diviner, has offended many descendants of genocide survivors – Greeks and Armenians alike – through its false portrayal of the events during the period which the film is set. There has been public outrage on our Facebook Page:
And for that reason, we’ve drafted a letter which you may use to voice your opinion. You may address it to whomever you choose, however we have listed some recommendations at the bottom of the draft (see below) including Andrew Anastasios the screenwriter, and The Rabbitohs Rugby League team which Crowe is shareholder of, and which is currently chaired by a good friend of Crowe’s, Dr Nick Pappas. Let’s stand up and be a voice for our ancestors who were brutally massacred during that period!
I am writing this letter to express my shock at the false portrayal of historical events in the Russell Crowe film ‘The Water Diviner’. The film is presented as being ‘inspired by actual events’, but as a person whose family has been deeply affected by the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Government during that period (1914-1923), I can say that the events in the movie are far from the truth. In fact, they are a gross distortion of it.
In May of 2013, the New South Wales Parliament officially recognised the mass killing of Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians during that period as an act of genocide. Similar recognitions have occurred throughout the world condemning the acts as genocide. Geoffrey Robertson QC has for years been calling on Turkey to recognize its past, using the term ‘genocide’ to describe the events. Turkey has continuously denied committing genocide, while the rest of the world has been calling for recognition.
So how can a film such as The Water Diviner be made? How can a film show the exact opposite? How can Russell Crowe direct a film in which he portrays Greeks as satanic, while he portrays the Turks as victims? Just two weeks before the ANZAC landings, some 32,000 indigenous Greeks living in the Gallipoli peninsula were forcibly deported by the Ottoman Turkish government, and many died of harsh conditions. Other Greeks of Asia Minor such as those from Livissi (today Kayakoy) were also victims of the genocidal campaign during that period. Ironically, the final scenes in the movie were shot at the current ghost town of Livissi, Turkey.
In 1919, the Greek Army was sent to the western Ottoman port city of Smyrna (Izmir) via a British mandate, to protect the remaining Christian population in Anatolia from further massacre. When Greek forces landed, the Christians saw them as liberators. During and after WW1, the international media widely reported Turkish massacres against Greeks and Armenians. The methods used included mass killings, death marches, rape, forced conversion to Islam and confiscation of property amongst others.
On April 24, 1915, just one day prior to the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli, the Ottoman government rounded up some 240 Armenian intellectuals and most were killed. By 1923, over half of the Armenian population (1.5 million people) was massacred, some 1 million Greeks, and several hundred thousand Assyrians. All these events were happening during the time period of the scenes depicted in The Water Diviner, yet Russell Crowe managed to paint the Turks as victims.
The Water Diviner is a film that offends the descendants of genocide victims and should therefore be condemned. If a film depicting Adolf Hitler as a hero and the Jews as terrorists were made, the reaction would be one of shock and outrage. Russell Crowe’s film is a distortion of history that only serves to appease Turkey and its continued agenda of genocide denial.
SEND EMAILS TO:
ANDREW ANASTASIOS: email@example.com
eOne PRODUCTION HOUSE: firstname.lastname@example.org
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS: email@example.com
WARNER BROTHERS: http://www.warnerbros.com/help/customer-service
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPER: email@example.com
NATIONAL FILM EDITOR. FAIRFAX MEDIA: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other ways to PROTEST include going to IMDB and ROTTEN TOMATOES and giving it a really low rating and leaving a negative comment.
MODE OF LIFE COMMENTS AND REFLECTS
If I were to go about proclaiming that the Genocides of World War II, the result of secular materialistic ideologies, that plunged all of Europe into a dark abyss of death and destruction, was the product of innocent European civilians, I would be dubbed ignorant. And if I were to claim that the genocide of Europe’s Jews, Slavs, Greeks, Gypsies, Communists, homosexuals and so forth, known to most as “the Holocaust” was perpetrated by Jews, then I would be locked up in a mental facility or in a prison. And if I were to claim that the Nazis and their Fascist allies were the victims of the Holocaust, and that the Jews were their tormentors, I would be classed as insane. And yet, we have a novel and a film that purports something similar to which Russell Crowe and Andrew Anastasios seem to take pride in as a monumental achievement. Something that “utilises” historical events in a distorted fashion ends up giving legitimacy to what is a lie and pure fantasy.
Being an Anatolian Greek myself, such a narrative is not only personally offensive, but misrepresents the reality my forefathers lived, as well as the current realities of Turkey and the Middle East. Consider that as an Anatolian Greek, I reside in far off Australia due to historical circumstances and political realities that were beyond the choice of either myself or my forebears. Such an exile imposes an immense burden upon me personally, by cutting me off from residing in the very house in which my forefathers lived in, praying in the church in which they worshipped in (but is now in ruins and confiscated by the Turkish state), as well as being denied knowledge of the whereabouts of the cemetery and the burial plots in which past family members were laid to rest.….(-chances being that their graves have been desecrated or have given way for tourist developments).
Either way, this is my own personal story, but I am not alone in this. And yet very few within the film industry ever have the courage to tell such a story. Why did not Crowe or Anastasios present us this narrative, the lesser known and unpalatable story which explains why the Greek army came to Anatolia in order to liberate and restore the rights that its true indigenous inhabitants had been denied for some 800 years? Instead they inadvertently demonise Christians and characterise the Greek army as “Satan’s Army”…. And why did Crowe in recent interviews in response to the criticism levelled at him and Anastasios, did not have the moral fibre to accept or apologise for his gross deceit? Why did Crowe try to sweep the matter under the carpet by exclaiming “the past is the past, and it should be left there”? But the truth is, that’s what happens when you present a film about the past, a point that should be given greater weight by Greek authorities who should initiate legal proceedings against Crowe and Anastasios for their “false myths”, and should reinforce the point by denying them entry into Greece permanently…
Nevertheless, let us look at the “foreigners” who inhabit Anatolia today , that is the Turks. A people who invaded, conquered and settled this land of my forefathers, claim it as their own land and nation, and have for centuries done everything possible to extinguish the presence and memory of my Greek brethren and their Armenian and Assyrian neighbours. All three peoples who I should mention, were not only the indigenous inhabitants of Anatolia and Thrace, but originally constituted the region’s majority. And the reality of this fact can be seen in how overly sensitive Turks, or Turkish authorities and police are, when you take photos of things like ruined churches in “their nation”, or you discuss “historical and cultural facts” which they construe as “insults against the Turkish state or Turkishness”, which of course is a punishable offence. Their refusal to acknowledge such ancient and time honoured institutions and their representatives such as the Ecumenical Patriarchate as being “Ecumenical” within the Orthodox Christian communion is a point in case, even though the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not, cannot and has no intention of posing as a threat to the Turkish state or its peoples. Yet, even Turkish foreign policy adopts a confrontational and belligerent stance towards neighbouring countries such Greece, Syria, Cyprus, Iraq, Armenia and others, indicates a lack of security in their own identity, or the legitimacy of their nation’s presence within the region…..
Still, there are some Turks who have the courage, manliness and decency to recognise and concede that many awful things did occur in the past, but fail dismally by asserting that the past is the past and that we must move on. This would be the ideal stance to adopt if it were not for the fact that the past is yet to be acknowledged officially, or that the current domestic realities combined with Turkey’s aggressive and manipulative foreign policy, does not permit peace or stability to take root within the region or redress issues of human and civil rights.
Historically, the Turks justified their actions in Anatolia and other lands they conquered and settled in the name of Islam. And they applied a system of apartheid known as “dhimmitude” upon the native non-Muslim peoples of Anatolia. These subject peoples had to endure the hardships and humiliation of:
*An extortionist taxation system, of which in the event of being unable to pay were forcible conversion to Islam or be beheaded.
*Their testimonies were considered invalid before the testimony of a Turkish Muslim in the court system. (Even non-Turkish Muslims were subject to this discrimination in the law-courts).
*They could be beaten up by complete strangers who were Turkish Muslims, as these subject peoples were considered filthy infidel scum.
*They were expected under law to abandon any duties they were doing, in order to extend hospitality for at least 3 days to any Muslim, especially Turks, who may wish to stay at their home, and to hand over any personal goods or family members (IE wife, children etc) that such an uninvited guest may so desire to possess. (Consider how over-wrought you would be if some stranger walked off with your children as their personal slaves!)
*They were not permitted to walk on the footpaths, especially if a Turk was walking within the vicinity, but had to walk in the gutters and joyfully accept being spat upon.
*They were expected to hand over their children to serve as slaves, janissaries, spouses, or be raised as the offspring of their very oppressors. (This is the reason why the DNA of modern day Turks does not correspond with the DNA of their “Turkic cousins” in Central Asia, because they are the descendants of those children and spouses that were forcibly taken away from their families!).
*Their churches and institutions were not able to function without Turkish interference, influence or without paying out hefty “gratuities” (baksheesh) and other such things. Even today bishops and patriarchs are not even recognised by their historic titles and roles, nor can they be elected without Turkish approval.
*Schools and printing presses outside of the major cities were not permitted, despite the Concord signed between Sultan Mehmet II and Ecumenical Patriarch Gennadios Scholaris, which was to guarantee such rights and prevent the aforementioned abuses.
This and many more evils which we do not mention, was the reality of the Seljuk and Ottoman Islamic apartheid systems in which Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians of Anatolia, (as well as other peoples of the Balkans and Middle East in later times) had to endure for centuries. Is it any wonder that the idea of freedom, migration and nationalism had such great appeal for the downtrodden indigenous inhabitants of Anatolia, who had been reduced to being minorities by the time of the Gallipoli landings; and who lived in constant fear of their Turkish neighbours due to the ever-present threat of massacre or genocide? A people who rarely smiled for fear of being seen and punished for “stepping out of line” and “not knowing their place as infidels”. The smile was reserved for only those extreme instances where they had to show their “happiness” and “acceptance” of their “inferior status” as people and to apply it as a final self-defence mechanism to mask their real feelings and suffering when confronted (better known as “The Anatolian Smile”). Is it any wonder they were willing to help captive Anzacs or help them escape…
Yet on Anzac Day in Australia, we continually have to hear how the Turks were defending their homeland against the invader, when they themselves were also the invader and oppressor. Rarely do we ever hear within Australia (let alone Turkey), any mention of the thousands of indigenous Greeks who were killed, sent on death marches or expelled from their land because of the Allied landings upon the Gallipoli Peninsula. Australians remain deafeningly silent or ignorant of this one particular fact amongst many others. No mention is made of the genocides, no mention of the deprivations of the Allied prisoners of war, or their eyewitness accounts of the treatment meted out to the indigenous Christian peoples of Anatolia, or even the comfort and assistance extended to these prisoners by the very oppressed native peoples who understood the suffering of these foreigners. Not one mention is made in all of Australia today within Anzac commemorations, while the man responsible for the death of countless Anzacs (especially in prison camps) or the multitudes of Anatolia’s indigenous peoples through genocide, is put forward as a great hero by which Australians should view as a just and valiant man, this Mustafa Kemal Ataturk….
The same man who sent death squads into villages like that of my grandfather’s, whose eldest brother went up into the mountains with whatever guns, knives or swords he had to defend the village so as to allow other fellow villagers time to escape; and to which since 1921 we do not know what happened to him, whether he survived, died, was tortured etc. A mystery even to this day, while many of his siblings perished in refugee camps in Lemnos from tuberculosis and other nasty maladies….
Not one word is ever heard in Australia about these things, especially from the big-shot Hollywood star such as Russell Crowe, or the charlatan who wrote the book and made the film “The Water Diviner”, this shameful Andrew Anastasios who displays such ignorance, contempt and lack of concern for historical facts. Yet in Australia, the Turks have a very good public relations campaign, which has even succeeded in masking the intent behind the construction of a great mosque in Sydney, marking their victory at Gallipoli over the “vile Australian and New Zealander infidels”. And those of us who have lived in or are familiar with Islamic culture and society, know the existence of such a mosque, is in itself an eternal declaration of war for the future subjugation of these “conquered and defeated peoples”, that we know as the children of the Anzacs….