LOS ANGELES, Nov. 27 (JTA) — A Turkish film featuring a venal, bloodstained Jewish doctor has been mysteriously withdrawn from screening in the United States. In “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq,” American actor Gary Busey portrays a Jewish U.S. Army doctor who cuts out the organs of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison and sells them to wealthy clients in New York, London and Tel Aviv. A blockbuster hit in its native country, the film had been scheduled to open last Friday at two theaters in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco. However, in early November, “Valley of the Wolves” was quietly dropped from the theaters’ advance schedules. Gregory Gardner of Luminous Velocity Releasing, a company involved in distributing the film in the United States, said the Turkish producer, Pana Films, had withdrawn the movie without explanation. Attempts to obtain further information from American or Turkish sources were unsuccessful, but a protest filed by the Anti-Defamation League may have played a role in the cancellation. In an Oct. 19 letter to Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy in Washington, ADL leaders expressed concern at “the incendiary anti-Jewish and anti-American themes and characters in the film” and pointed to previous inquiries about the wide availability of anti-Semitic publications in Turkey. The letter was signed by ADL National Chairwoman Barbara Balser and National Director Abraham Foxman, who did not receive a reply from the ambassador. The Busey character, listed only as “The Doctor” but clearly identified as Jewish, isn’t even the chief villain. The distinction goes to another American actor, Billy Zane, who plays a rogue American officer and self-professed “peacekeeper sent by God.” In one scene, the officer and his men shoot up an Iraqi wedding party, killing the groom in the presence of the bride and a little boy in front of his mother. “Valley of the Wolves” was shown at the Berlin Film Festival and has played in theaters in Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Bosnia. According to one Turkish diplomat, who spoke unofficially and requested anonymity, the film became such a hit in Turkey because it is a spinoff from the country’s top-rated TV series of the same title, though the series’ villains are local mafiosos and militant ultranationalists. The movie is also seen by Turks as payback for the 1978 film “Midnight Express,” in which some Americans and Britons are caught trying to leave Turkey with a stash of hashish, thrown into a hellish prison and viciously mistreated.
Tom Tugend is JTA's Los Angeles correspondent. A veteran journalist, he also writes for the Jerusalem Post, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal and the London Jewish Chronicle.