The showing at Stanford University of Kurtlar Vadisi: Irak (Valley of the Wolves: Iraq), a Turkish box-office hit with characters including a homicidal American colonel and a Jewish doctor who sells Muslim prisoners' organs to the West, was postponed last weekend, apparently due to criticism about the movie's contents.
Previously described by Stanford's Continuing Education department Web site as "The Action Movie You Were Not Meant to See," the movie tells the fictional story of an elite Turkish paramilitary squad fighting against brutal, murderous American commandos in northern Iraq.
"An elite Turkish commando squad infiltrates the Kurdish region of US-occupied Iraq," read the event notice on the Stanford Web site. "What they find is too shocking to contemplate: Their supposed American allies engaged in murder, extortion, organ dealing, and more. Not in our name indeed."
The event promoters further noted the film's enormous popularity in Turkey - it is one of the highest-grossing films in Turkish history - along with its "great popularity in Europe and the Middle East."
The Web site further said the film "was due for a limited American release in December 2006, but was quietly dropped at the last minute after a letter from the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith to the film's US distributors objected to 'the incendiary anti-Jewish and anti-American themes and characters in the film.'
"As a service to the Stanford academic community at large, we offer you the chance to see this important film for yourself," read the Web site, promising movie-goers "non-stop screen action, intellectual stimulation, and real political controversy in one program! This is an event not to be missed."
The screening was cosponsored by the Middle East Collection of the Stanford University Libraries, The Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and Stanford Continuing Studies.
The cancellation of the screening saw the event promotion replaced with a letter from Prof. Charles Junkerman, Dean of Continuing Studies. The film "has been seen by tens of millions of people across the Middle East, and we thought that an academic screening would provide the opportunity for interested viewers to see the movie themselves, and reach their own judgments about it," wrote Junkerman.
However, due to the fact that the film is "extraordinarily controversial," Junkerman continued, "we feel that this movie needs to be contextualized by points of view represented by a diverse spectrum of academic experts."
But, wrote Junkerman, "we have been unsuccessful in recruiting an appropriately broad panel. Because this film is likely to provoke intense emotions pro and con, we have decided that we cannot go forward without such a panel to ground the post-film conversation. We have consequently chosen to cancel Saturday's screening."
Though Junkerman wrote that the movie was canceled, Stanford's events Web site said it was only postponed. Relevant Stanford University officials could not be reached by press time.