(AFP, AP) - A Turkish company said Thursday it dropped plans to screen a controversial movie on the massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire because of nationalist protests that would have required police presence in theatres.
"Part of our society has given undeserved importance to this insignificant movie... and has raised objections to its screening. We cannot ignore this sensitivity," the company, Belge Film, said in a statement.
Turkey's Culture Ministry agreed last month to allow the "Ararat" movie by director Atom Egoyan, a Canadian of Armenian heritage, to be shown in the country, but ordered at least one scene, depicting the rape of Armenian women by Ottomans, removed from the film.
Belge Film said the government also promised to deploy police officers at movie theaters that screen the film. "But because we deem it unbecoming for a modern society to have people watching a film in the presence of police... we have cancelled the screening of the film, complying with the wishes of citizens who are against it," the statement said.
"Would you want to watch a movie in a movie theater that could be stoned or where there could be violence?" Sabahattin Cetin, the owner of the company, told private CNN-Turk television.
He said he asked the leader of Turkey's far-right Nationalist Movement Party to convince nationalist groups to end their objections to the screening of the movie that was scheduled for mid-January. But party leader Devlet Bahceli said he never received a request from Cetin and questioned his motives for trying to screen the film.
"It would be in our interest to investigate why a film that is against the Turkish nation has been imported into Turkey," Bahceli said.
Culture and Tourism Minister Erkan Mumcu earlier had expressed support for showing the movie in Turkey. Turkey "can easily tolerate such things," Mumcu said. "Those who want to see it can go and see the movie ...Strong reaction to this movie would only help keep the subject on the agenda."
Egoyan's film deals with the estranged members of a contemporary Armenian family, who are faced with both Turkey's denial of genocide and their own individual plight. A far-right nationalist youth group has vowed to prevent its screening in Turkish movie theaters, saying “Ararat” is anti-Turkish propaganda.