Why is the Film That Predicted the Turkish Coup IMDB's Worst-Rated Ever?

Courtesy of Parantez Yapim
'Code Name: K.O.Z.'

The 2015 conspiracy thriller 'Code Name: K.O.Z.' might itself be the victim of an online plot to sabotage its IMDB rating.

Right now the worst rated movie in IMDb history – worse than both Paris Hilton’s The Hottie & the Nottie (2008), which sits at No. 14 and Pledge This (2006), which comes in at No. 6 – is last year’s Code Name: K.O.Z.

While the Turkish drama may never have been an Oscar shoo-in for Best Foreign Language film, it appears its ranking may have cratered to its historic low due to the same high-level political dynamics that played out in the days following the country’s unsuccessful coup d’etat on the night of July 15.

Code Name: K.O.Z. (called Kod Adi: K.O.Z. in Turkish) is a thriller that lightly fictionalizes recent Turkish political history through a decidedly pro-current-regime lens. It depicts the unraveling of the relationship between the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and forces aligned with a villainized Fethullah Gulen, an influential real-life Islamic cleric now living in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania who still maintains a large following in the country. Gulen, known for his comparatively moderate views, enjoyed a close relationship with the increasingly autocratic Erdogan until a Byzantine corruption scandal in 2013 tore them apart.

Erdogan accused Gulen, currently on Turkey’s most-wanted-terrorist list, and his followers of orchestrating the recent coup. Gulen denied it. The Turkish government has asked Washington to extradite Gulen to Turkey to face trial and there has been a crackdown on his supporters inside the country.

“While the events of [July 15] unfolded, I was very sad, but I wasn't surprised at all; this was a culmination of what was going on three years ago, when I started to shoot this movie,” Ugur Yalcınkaya, producer of Code Name: K.O.Z. told The Hollywood Reporter, via Skype, from his offices in Istanbul. “The movie was a warning to our society of what was to come.”

If Code Name: K.O.Z. was a warning, it wasn't one many Turks heeded. The 114-minute film grossed just $3.5 million in a nine-week theatrical run in the country beginning on Valentine’s Day weekend 2015, according to Box Office Turkiye.

“It wasn’t really very widely seen,” says Alev Scott, a writer and journalist based in Istanbul who actually went to watch – for sheer curiosity's sake – Code Name: K.O.Z., sitting in a theater empty save for a couple of “hardcore Erdogan fans and conspiracy theorists” who she said were “loving it.”

Such was its disappointing crowd pull that Scott says many cinemas ended up showing it for free after just a couple of days: "It wasn’t like an average film that people wanted to fill their Sunday afternoons with. It was an obvious piece of propaganda masquerading as a commercial film.”

Scott draws a connection between the film and Kazim Albayrak, one of the movie's producers and a partner in the family-owned Turkish conglomerate Albayrak Holding. His family also owns Yeni Safak, a pro-government daily newspaper with a record of anti-Gulen coverage.

Producer Yalcınkaya, however, denies any government involvement in Code Name: K.O.Z. and says while Albayrak is “a close friend,” that he did not help finance the film.

“I didn't take any government money for this movie, none. If anyone can prove I took a single Lira I will pull the film out of distribution,” Yalcınkaya told THR. “I didn't make this film for profit, but because I'm a patriot.”

Yalcınkaya says he received “hundreds of death threats” from Gulen supporters after the movie's release. But he feels history has vindicated him.

“There is nothing in the film that isn't true,” he says. “The [sad] events of last week show I was right.”

When it comes to IMDB's online critics, Scott says the film's extremely low score could be a result of a coordinated campaign by Gulenists.

“I think it was more likely people with a specific agenda, so supporters of Gulen, because it’s basically an attack on him,” she says. “It’s plausible that people sympathetic to Gulen went out of their way to vote it down.”

Gulen did not return a request from THR for comment about Code Name: K.O.Z. – as well as whether his supporters were either asked, or took it upon themselves, to vote it down as a form of protest. The attempt to reach him was made through the Alliance for Shared Values, a New York-based umbrella nonprofit established to advance his various interests.

Code Name: K.O.Z. may not have dented the Turkish box office, but Scott worries it’ll be dragged into the limelight following the recent upheavals.

“I’m just waiting for the pro-government columnists to start saying ‘see, we predicted everything, there was going to be a coup.’ I’m sure that’s going to happen.”

But whether this changes the film’s lowly IMDB ranking is another thing.

Concludes Scott: “It is, objectively, the worst film I’ve ever seen.”

Alex Ritman and Scott Roxborough contributed to this report.

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