River Flowing Westward

PROF. DR. BEKİR KARLIĞA IS A SCHOLAR WHO HAS MADE VALUABLE CONTRIBUTIONS TO DEVELOPING THE ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS PHILOSOPHY. WE TALKED WITH HIM ABOUT THE DOCUMENTARY FILM PROJECT THAT GIVES VOICE TO THAT PHILOSOPHY IN THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA.

How did the idea for River Flowing Westward to East arise?
I’d had the idea of making such a documentary for a long time. The 9/11 events in the U.S.  spawned some negative ideas and perceptions about Islam and Muslims. Unfortunately those misguided views, which are based on ignorance and prejudice, still persist today, and that is what increased my determination to produce  the documentary I already had in mind.  We started consulting with people and engaged in hundreds of discussions, and in the end the idea developed of making a twenty-part documentary that would give a reasonable  reply to those perceptions.

How did the title, River Flowing Westward, come about?
We made a documentary that starts from the dawn of history and comes right up to today and captures the present. We used the river metaphor because the documentary comes from the past up to our day. We emphasized the notion that civilization should be seen as a whole that is continuously renewing itself. The river that flowed from East to West up to the Renaissance started flowing from West to East after the Renaissance. One must keep in mind, however, that the direction of flow of rivers, as well as their beds, can also change with time.

How did you proceed when producing the film?
We thought it was important to create a global production. We produced a film that gives voice to different worlds, different points of view, different perspectives. Expert teams from the University of California and the Bahçeşehir University Center for Civilization Studies were instrumental in producing the film. And we worked with John Milius, producer of the Rome series, as artistic consultant.

How did you decide on the overall content of the documentary?
We chose documentary content that would compare East and West and treat the question objectively from the beginning right up to the present. Our point of departure was the fact that Turkey possesses a rich cultural heritage which has been home to dozens of civilizations. Through our own civilization and its place in the evolution of civilization, we compiled a narrative that chronicles the progress of civilization in general.

What method did you follow in your work?
We consulted with experts and scholars in every field. We held extensive recording sessions with all our consultants. We held discussions with two hundred scholars, artists and statesmen from different parts of the world. We tried to give more room to artists, thinkers and scholars from far flung regions like Europe, America, China and India.

How did you handle the relationship between religion and civilization?
Religion is one of the driving forces in the development of civilization. In the documentary we illustrate the relationship between works inspired by revelation and works that are the product of the human mind. The Prophet Abraham represents the former, Alexander the Great the latter.

ABOUT DOCUMENTARY
The documentary consists of 20 parts, all chock full of rich information and fascinating places as well as renowned experts from 16 countries from India in the east to Spain in the west. It is available in English, Turkish, Arabic, French and German.

Chief Consultant to the Prime Minister, Prof. Dr. Bekir Karlığa is the Turkey Coordinator of the Alliance of Civilizations. At the same time he is Founding Chairman of the Bahçeşehir Center for Civilization Studies (MEDAM). For many years Prof. Karlığa has also taught a variety of courses in Comparative Philosophy and the History of Civilization