x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 September 2017

Fetih 1453 film website comes under siege by hackers

Producers of a movie about the conquest of Constantinople by Muslim Turks that is scheduled to be released today said their websites came under attack.

ISTANBUL // Producers of a movie about the conquest of Constantinople by Muslim Turks that is scheduled to be released today said their websites came under attack by unknown hackers yesterday.

"We can see that the attacks are coming from abroad," Filiz Ocal, a spokeswoman for Aksoy Film Production in Istanbul, said yesterday. She said the websites of Aksoy Film and of the movie Fetih 1453 were targeted. The websites were still operational by mid-afternoon yesterday.

Ms Ocal said her company believed Christian groups, which have called for a boycott of the film, were behind the attacks. "There has been protest in Greece and other places," Ms Ocal said.

"Of course it's about the film," she said about the cyber attacks. "We are not out for a war between religions. The film shows the historic truth."

In what Aksoy Film calls the biggest film release in Turkish history, Fetih 1453 will be shown in 850 cinemas across Turkey at exactly 14:53 local time today.

The movie, the most expensive Turkish film ever with a budget of US$17 million (Dh62.4m) tells the story of Sultan Mehmet II. He was the Ottoman ruler whose army conquered Constantinople on May 29, 1453, spelling the end of the Christian-ruled Byzantine Empire and paving the way for the Muslim Ottoman Empire to become a world power.

A trailer for the film released on the internet shows battle scenes reminiscent of movies such as Lord of the Rings or 300, an action film about Spartan warriors.

There are religious undertones in the trailer as well. In one scene, a voice tells viewers that the Prophet Mohammed had said that Constantinople would be conquered one day. In another, Christian soldiers kill women and children. It is not clear whether they are Muslim.

According to Turkish news reports, the trailer has been watched by more than 1.5 million people, but Ugur Vardan, a film critic for the Radikal daily, said it was difficult to say how the audience will react. "There has been no preview for critics," Vardan told The National. "It could be a sign that the moviemakers are trying to avoid negative reviews before the start of the film."

Turkey, a secular republic founded in 1923, has seen increase of interest in its Ottoman past in recent years. Magnificent Century, a soap opera depicting the life of another sultan, Suleyman the Magnificent, has been a hit on television. A city-run museum dedicated to the conquest of Constantinople near Istanbul's old city walls has drawn more than a million visitors since it opened three years ago, according to media reports. Istanbul's municipality is also among the official sponsors of Fetih 1453.

Ms Ocal said ticket sales for the first day of the new movie were going "very well". She did not provide figures.

The film will also be released in Germany, home of the biggest Turkish community outside Turkey, with about 1.7 million Turks and 1.3 million Germans of Turkish descent.

Via Dolorosa, a German group campaigning against what it says is the worldwide persecution of Christians, last month issued an appeal to boycott the film.

"There is no reason for Turkey to celebrate that event," the group said in a statement on its website, referring to the conquest of Constantinople. "It should rather be ashamed because of human rights violations and the continuing persecution of Christians."

The group called on its supporters to distribute flyers about the "persecution of Christians in Turkey" to cinema-goers.

She said there had been a "big demand" from countries in the Middle East to show the film there as well. She said she was sure that Fetih 1453 would be screened in the region at one point, but she could not say when and where.

Ms Ocal rejected the accusation that the film was carrying anti-Christian messages. "That is not our business," she said.

tseibert@thenational.ae