The much-anticipated “Reis” ("The Chief") — a biopic tracing the life of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from childhood to the pinnacle of political power — premieres in Turkish cinemas March 3. Excerpts posted online leave no doubt that the protagonist is a larger-than-life hero. The timing of the launch is likely not inconsequential, coming as it does just weeks before the referendum on constitutional amendments whose sole purpose, in the eyes of many, is the consolidation and prolongation of "one-man rule" in the hands of Erdogan. In the bigger picture, “The Chief” is a film about the history of not just Erdogan, but of the Turkish Republic itself.
An early scene involves one of the most controversial prohibitions in Turkey's history — the ban on reciting the Islamic call to prayer in the original Arabic that was imposed in 1932 by the one-party, Kemalist regime and lasted until 1950, when the first free elections brought the opposition Democrat Party to power. “The Chief” covers the ban, abhorred for decades by Turkey’s religious conservatives, in a dramatic fictional fashion.