Turkish intelligence launches TV offensive called ‘Kızılelma’
Ahu Özyurt ISTANBUL
The new TV series ‘Kızılelma’ airs on TRT on Wednesday nights. It has already drawn criticism from various circles for making propaganda.As we walked into a warehouse in Istanbul’s Tuzla district two weeks ago, there were very few signs around that could hint that this was the location of the new TV Series “Kızılelma” (Red Apple) or Turkey’s Holy Grail, so to speak. The new TV series airs on TRT on Wednesday nights and has already drawn criticism from various circles. But our aim was to ask Osman Sınav, the show’s producer and director and the creator of legendary TV series like the “Valley of the Wolves,” why now? And who really pitched the idea of doing a “Homeland-like” TV series for the Turkish National Organization (MİT)?
Furkan Palalı, who plays the dashing secret agent Murad Altay in the series, greeted us with his mentor, Erdal Cindoruk (Hasan Kırımlı).
In the show, the duo meets after young soldiers are injured trying to stop a large group of smugglers on the Gaziantep border. He catches the eye of the head of the Operations Department, Meryem Kadıoğlu, played by Zeynep Eronat. Eronat is an excellent Ms. M in a Turkish Bond sense, with a lot of tough motherly love and a bit of compassion for Murad. She recruits him by offering a Red Mustang and then blows it up in front of his very eyes while talking to him from a helicopter, “I can’t tolerate you acting like a spoiled brat.”
But the main question remains the same. Why now? Amid all the mayhem about MİT trucks allegedly smuggling arms to Syria and about the organization allegedly helping conceal evidence of the corruption scandal, is the agency actually launching a PR offensive? Or is this merely an artistic challenge to the Bond series, “24,” “Homeland” and others?
Most exciting project
Sınav answers in a very calm voice: “After so many years, this is the only project that could excite me about television. Now, they are bashing us for telling the story of our own national intelligence agency. What was I supposed to do? Tell the story of the CIA? Mossad? If they call this propaganda, the British have been doing this for decades.”
There is always a leit-motif in Sınav’s TV projects that hint that Turks have no friends but themselves, that Turkey is always surrounded by enemies. Not surprisingly, the first episode of “Kızılelma” opens with an Iranian exchange plot that gets out of control. “So is this the way it is going to be all along,” I ask.
“No, of course we do have friends,” Sınav said. “But we have to know and tell that this geography has been at the heart of intelligence wars all throughout the history. All intelligence services are active here, and we should be too. MİT is the only organization in this country that we should trust in terms of waking up safe every morning,” he said.
The screenwriter, Süleyman Çobanoğlu, a well-known poet and writer in conservative circles, put it more openly in an interview he gave to daily Yeni Şafak.
“What ‘Kızılelma’ does not mean is oil or the Western type of imperialism,” Çobanoğlu said. “But I do believe that a feeling, a spirit of Turkey is a hope to the people in the Middle East or Asia. This may be just the beginning of a humanistic stand. Turkey may not be the first symbol of empowering the weak, the fallen, but it has actually been doing this for centuries. This means something.” Çobanoğlu and Palalı describe the ideal of “Kızılelma” as a dream that sultans and soldiers share. Palalı, who has been reading a lot about the philosophy of “Kızılelma,” says it is far from raw nationalism. “It is very abstract yet very much alive in the core of this state. That is what makes it a dream.”
Palalı and Pelin Akıl share the spotlight in the dynamic duo of “Kızılelma.” Cindoruk, Eronat and Yılmaz are in the supporting roles that almost steal the show.