Russell Crowe’s ‘The Water Diviner’ praised for its portrayal of Gallipoli

Australian embassy in Ireland says film promotes relations between Australia and Turkey

Russell Crowe attends the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival for the Irish premiere of his directorial debut, The Water Diviner.

 

Russell Crowe’s new film The Water Diviner has been praised by the Australian embassy for its even handed portrayal of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign.

The deputy head of mission in Dublin Paul McEachern told Crowe he had done more to promote bilateral relations between Australia and Turkey with his film than any diplomat has done.

Mr McEachern made his comments during a question and answer session after the screening of the film as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (JDIFF).

Separately, the Turkish embassy is showing a private screening of the film which goes on general release next week.

The Water Diviner is the story of an Irish-Australian Joshua Connor who goes looking for the bodies of his three sons who he believes to have been killed at Gallipoli.

The film is noteworthy for its sympathetic portrayal of the Turkish experience of the war. At one stage when Crowe’s character says that 10,000 Australian and New Zealand troops (Anzacs) were killed at Gallipoli, the Turkish general responds that 70,000 Turks were killed in the campaign.

The centenary of the Gallipoli campaign takes place next month and President Michael D Higgins is expected to attend.

Gallipoli was a disaster from the Allied point of view. Attempts to seize the Gallipoli peninsula to open the Dardanelles to Allied warships ultimately failed. The campaign, which lasted from April to December 1915, cost 130,000 deaths on all sides including 3,000 Irishmen.

Crowe has called for a reappraisal of the Gallipoli campaign from an Australian and New Zealand point of view. “You know because we did invade a sovereign nation that we’d never had an angry word with. And I think it’s time it should be said.”

However, he told The Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke that the Gallipoli “myth” is justifiably a critical part of national identity of both Australia and New Zealand.

“It was the point at which the young nations of Australia and New Zealand were truly formed. They’d sent troops abroad before - to the Boer War for example - but they’d been an extension of the British Army.

“The ANZAC corps was formed in 1914. By 1915 you have the volunteers on their way and it’s the first time Australian and New Zealand troops have gone to war under their own flag,” he said.

“There was a social movement to get kids to defend Britain and remember these kids were volunteers. They weren’t conscripts. It was like: how could you not go? And then the reality of what we’d asked our sons to do came home. In some country towns every man put on the uniform.”

Crowe also told The Irish Times that Australians were now ready to engage with the Turkish perspective on the campaign.

He admitted that he had never “given a second’s thought” to the Turkish experience before he read the screenplay for The Water Diviner.

Though it was criticised by some veterans’ groups in Australia and New Zealand, The Water Diviner has been a major commercial success in Australia and is the biggest grossing film of the year.

“It doesn’t denigrate any of the reverence we have for those who sacrificed their lives. It is a very respectful film. There is so much love in it.”