Idol Chatter



Between 1915 and 1923, 1.5 million people were systematically rounded up and exterminated. Today, this event has largely been forgotten.

But through the direction of Terry George, writer and director of “Hotel Rwanda,” and the considerable acting chops of leads Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, the story of the Armenian Genocide lives on in “The Promise”.

The film depicts the horrors of the Armenian Genocide, during which the Ottoman government targeted Armenian citizens of the Ottoman Empire—also known as the Turkish Empire—for arrest, deportation, and murder.

The Armenians, a Christian minority amongst the Islamic Turks, lived as second-class citizens. They were subject to legal restrictions such as discriminatory taxes and the inability to participate in the government, and neither the property nor lives of this people were guaranteed security.

Where once the Ottoman Empire’s minority populations—Armenians included—flourished with its powerful economy, the Empire’s decline brought with it increased cultural tensions—Armenian requests for representation caused suspicion and unrest amongst the Muslim Turks who did not wish to share their dwindling power.

And thus began the brutality. Tens of thousands of Armenian men, women, and children were deported from their homes, only to be marched to death in the desert sands, executed, or subjugated as unpaid laborers.

When Turkey became an internationally recognized republic in 1923, its government dismissed and denied the charge of genocide, a policy it still vehemently holds today.

It is ironic, then, that the word “genocide” arose from this atrocity, coined by Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in 1943 as he grasped for a legal term to define the government-approved, premeditated murder of an entire people group.

It is against this historical backdrop that lead Oscar Isaac plays ambitious young Armenian, Mikael, who has promised marriage to a wealthy village woman for 400 gold coins. With this money, he travels to Istanbul, becoming a medical student.

There, Mikael meets and falls in love with Ana, an Armenian woman who is in a relationship with American journalist, Chris Myers, who is portrayed by Christian Bale.

This love triangle acts as a microcosm of the larger conflict going on in the background, and as the tension grows between Mikael and Chris, so does the crisis they’re swept up in.

But the importance of this film extends beyond the sweeping, old-Hollywood appeal of its historical conflict or the intimate stakes of its love story. This is the tale of a forgotten people, told with purpose.

Because of efforts to suppress or downplay the Armenian Genocide, knowledge of this event is scarce. Even lead actor Oscar Isaac admitted that, “To my shame, I didn’t know about the Armenian Genocide before I got this script and spoke with Terry, so it was new to me. And to read about that—to read that 1.5 million Armenians perished at the hands of their own government was horrifying.”

When we asked Bale about the scenes which most moved him, he described one scene in which, “Mikael, Oscar’s character—he sees his family members and many people in his hometown who have been slaughtered from the riverside. That was a very emotional one for many people that day. Also seeing Armenians who were directly connected or who had family members who knew that their origins had come through people who had gone through that previously—that was a very affecting day for every single one of us on the film.”

But there’s yet more to this film than what you’ll see on the screen—in an exclusive interview with producer Eric Israilian, we learned that all of the proceeds from the film are being donated to humanitarian and human rights groups. In the film industry, this is unprecedented, especially for a film of this scope.

Israilian has an eye for cultural bridge-building and humanitarian efforts—in producing the film, he carries out the legacy of the late businessman and descendant of Armenian immigrants, Kirk Kerkorian, who he says was an “Extremely generous individual, and probably one of the most generous of recent times. Over his lifetime, he gave over a billion dollars to charitable organizations, and he wanted us to not only make the film, but to have the production company donate any proceeds that come back to it to charitable organizations in the spirit of his already-established philanthropy.”

“The Promise,” brings audiences scenes such as this—scenes which depict the horror of what happened in those early years of the 1900s and which will burn in the memories of viewers for years to come.

Don’t miss out on this chance to see a great film, to raise awareness of a suppressed historical tragedy, and to have the price of your admission go to humanitarian efforts.

“The Promise” brings audiences scenes such as this—scenes which depict the horror of what happened in those early years of the 1900s and which will burn in the memories of viewers for years to come, ensuring the legacy of a shattered people.