ANKARA, Turkey – Cinemas across Turkey are showing a trailer for an upcoming Turkish action movie based on a true event: the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound, blockade-busting flotilla that killed nine activists in May.
And if the trailer of the film is any indication, the movie, "The Valley of the Wolves — Palestine," could worsen tense relations between Turkey and Israel when it is released Jan. 28.
The anti-Israel melodrama is a spinoff of the controversial but popular Turkish TV series "Valley of the Wolves," about a nationalist undercover agent — Turkey's answer to James Bond and Rambo — who takes on Turkey's enemies.
This time the superhero, Polat Alemdar, sets out to hunt down the Israeli military commander who ordered the raid on the flotilla and avenge the killing of the eight Turks and one Turkish-American who died in the real-life attack.
The TV series, and a similar one, "Separation," showed Israeli security forces kidnapping children and shooting old men, and caused a diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel last year. The new film could do the same and further complicate U.S. hopes for an improvement in ties between its two allies.
In 1996, Turkey and Israel signed a military cooperation agreement that made Turkey Israel's closes ally in the Muslim world. But relations between the two have strained over the Islamic-oriented government's increasingly critical statements on Israel's treatment of Palestinians and hit an all-time low after the raid.
Turkey is demanding an apology and compensation for the victims of the flotilla attack before ties can return to normal. Israel's concern that Turkey is moving closer to Iran has further complicated relations.
The trailer posted on "The Valley of the Wolves — Palestine" website opens with Israeli commandos raiding the ship and shooting at passengers, some of whom are armed with clubs. The Turkish hit men take revenge on heavily armed Israeli soldiers.
An Israeli threatens the Alemdar character by saying: "You know you won't make it out of our Promised Land." The superhero responds: "I don't know what part of these lands were promised to you, but I promise you six feet under."
Questioned by an Israeli soldier about his reason for coming to Israel, Alemdar says: "I have not come to Israel, I have come to Palestine."
In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined to comment on Monday about the trailer or the forthcoming film.
Israel insists its commandoes acted in self-defense after being attacked by some of the activists aboard the flotilla trying to break an Israeli blockade of Gaza to deliver aid there.
The "Valley of the Wolves" series and films have a cult following in Turkey. Early in the TV series fans held a minute of silence in the memory of one of the heroes who was killed.
But the films and TV series also have been sharply criticized in Turkey and in other countries for exulting nationalism, racial hatred and violence.
Audiences cheered a 2006 prequel — "Valley of the Wolves — Iraq" — in which Alemdar and his men battled U.S. occupying forces in Iraq, clapping after the American villains, including one played by Billy Zane, are defeated. Despite criticism for the film's anti-American and anti-Semitic overtones — a Jewish doctor is depicted harvesting organs from the dead — the film was a box-office hit in Turkey.
Erdal Besikcioglu, an acclaimed Turkish stage actor who plays the Israeli villain in the "Valley of the Wolves — Palestine," has been quoted as saying he accepted the role because he believes the raid should not be forgotten.
"In this film, we are asking a sufficient number of questions and re-questioning the raid," he told Sabah newspaper. "We should not forget it."
Part of the movie was filmed on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship in the flotilla where the deaths occurred.
The trailer, with English-language subtitles, is being shown on the film's website: http://www.kurtlarvadisifilistin.com/indexeng.html.
AP writer Josef Federman contributed from Israel.