The Turkish government has never formally apologised for the state`s role in the violence 54 years ago. Mihail Vasiliadis’s friends warned the teenager to leave work early and go home to his family on Sept. 6, 1955. Within hours, mobs were attacking thousands of shops, churches and homes throughout Istanbul in a rampage against ethnic Greeks that eventually led thousands to leave Turkey. “It was the shock of a lifetime, but it was something that wasn’t talked about for 50 years,” said Vasiliadis, who was aged 15 at the time and is now one of just 2,800 or so Greeks left in Istanbul. He is now the editor of Apoyevmatimi, Constantinople’s last Greek-language newspaper.
Now a film entitled “Guz Sancisi,” or “The Pain of Autumn”, tells the story of that night more than half a century ago, the first time a Turkish movie has tackled the events that Constantinople Greeks call their “Kristallnacht”. The fictional love story of Behcet and Elena, a Turkish man and a Greek woman, is set against the tension that culminated in the real-life destruction of 5,300 businesses and houses owned by Greeks, Armenians and Jews. More than 500,000 people have seen the film since its release last month, according to its distributor Ozen Film.
Television talk shows and newspapers have covered both the film and the discussion of the events on which it is based. Its makers say the public debate is a result of an easing of curbs on freedom of expression accompanying Turkey’s drive to meet European Union membership standards. This film couldn’t have been made 10 years ago, screen writer Etyen Mahçupyan told Today’s Zaman, Though the laws on the books still limit free speech, the reality is there’s less and less that can’t be criticized.
Rev. Dositheos Anagnostopoulos, a spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Church in Constantinople said, The chances of something like this happening again are slim, because Turkish youth today are more critical in their thinking. But to be sure, they need to learn that this catastrophe occurred, that’s why the film is important.
A film like this might be just a film in another country, Mahcupyan continued, because there’s been a vacuum and this issue was never discussed, the film now fulfils an important mission.
Guz Sancısı (Autumn Pain) w/ English subtitles, 9 (TURN ON YOUR YOUTUBE CAPTIONS)