‘Gandalf’ on Turkey’s referendum: ‘Hold your heads high’

Sir Ian McKellen at the 36th Istanbul Film Festival opening ceremony, 5 April 2017.

Veteran British actor of stage and screen, Ian McKellen, popularly known for his role as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, made a reference to Turkey’s upcoming constitutional referendum during an appearance at the Istanbul Film Festival on Wednesday.

Commenting that he liked learning about the history of the countries he visited, the actor added, “Using this opportunity I would like to remind you that the history of your country is very important. Your past is very important to the rest of the world. Therefore please hold your heads high on Sunday.”

McKellen also described himself as an “internationalist” and said, “I was born in England. I call myself British. I think I’m European. And as an openly gay man I am certainly an internationalist,” reported Turkish daily Birgun.

The renowned actor’s speech came following similar political messages from Turkish actor Macit Koper, who called for a ‘No’ vote in the referendum, and director Baris Pirhasan, who said he was accepting his award for “journalists, artists, comrades and friends who are currently in prison.”

Meanwhile people have taken to social media to criticise the censoring of Ian McKellen’s words, “As an openly gay man” by the translator.

Commenting on the censorship, prominent Kurdish poet and writer Murathan Mungan wrote on his social media account:

“A great shame occurred during the opening gala of the Istanbul Film Festival. As a gay rights activist and a great actor, Ian Mckellen, started his sentence mentioning the bans in Turkey and said, “As an openly gay man.” However the simultaneous interpreter skipped this sentence and censored it. It is worrisome that there are ‘morality guards’ even at the Istanbul Film Festival and are internalising fear, oppression, anxiety and homophobia.”