Special for the Armenian Weekly
There is nothing particularly brave about a social media post.
Sometimes you come across opinions, sometimes you share something you like, but most times, you just scroll past it.
However, this is 2017. Everyone and their mother is sharing a post related to the current state of affairs in the world. In an era where everyone’s opinion is being closely scrutinized-by friends, colleagues, potential employers, social media is also a valuable tool for activists and non-activists alike.
This is why I’m writing about The Promise. The film is written and directed by Terry George of Hotel Rwanda fame. It stars Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, among others… The film’s setting is Ottoman Turkey, and presents the love story between the lead characters on the backdrop of the Armenian Genocide. Such a venture has been attempted many times before, but it was only with the help of the late-great Kirk Kerkorian that the movie got funding, as well as the clout of Hollywood celebrities both starring and backing the film through social media.
You see, there were many attempts to make a big Hollywood production that would briefly encapsulate the story of the Armenian people. And of course, you’ve never heard about it. That was the goal: blocking every attempt to paint a picture of the Armenian struggle through film.
Starting from the 1930’s until today, many producers and movie studios tried to produce a film based on Franz Werfel’s novel, Forty Days of Musa Dagh. The novel told the powerful story of the Armenians in Musa Dagh (Musa Ler), who resisted a Turkish siege at the height of the Armenian Genocide, and some believe it inspired those resisting the Holocaust during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. A young Clark Gable was cast to play the lead. However, the Turkish government was able to strafe Hollywood with threats and campaigns to block the production of the film. A 1930’s article in Haber—a Turkish newspaper—stated in relevant part through an anti-Semitic tirade:
We will have to take our own steps in case the Jewish people fail to bring the Jewish company (MGM) to reason… The Forty Days of Musa Dagh presents the Turco-Armenian struggle during the World War in a light hostile to the Turks. Its author is a Jew. This means that MGM, which is also a Jewish firm, utilizes for one of its films a work by one of its companions… Declare a boycott against pictures by MGM… Jewish firms which maintain commercial relations with our country will also suffer if they fail to stop this hostile propaganda.
Even through several adaptations, including through this decade, the Turkish Government has stifled Hollywood, most recently with Sylvester Stallone’s attempted adaptation of the film.
Perhaps this is why Sly (Stallone) posted about The Promise on his social media feeds:
This extraordinary film [The Promise] is opening April 21… It is a subject that I have been fascinated with for decades and it has taken many years for it to finally have the guts to make it and finally bring it to the screen all to see… It is true and incredibly important historical drama that has all the extraordinary ingredients that can make a movie Oscar quality. Its amazing lead actors Christian Bale, and Oscar Isaac, Play their parts to perfection! And a special shout out to it’s a legendary producer, Mike Medavoy, Who finally brought this epic story to the screen. Also, I owe Mike Medavoy a great deal because he’s the one who gave Rocky the greenlight, and that’s why am here today. This film has it all…!!! I’m jealous.
Sly isn’t alone. Our Kardashian sisters, Cher, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alexis Ohanian, and two of the great Rock and Roll voices of our era—Serj Tankian and Chris Cornell—have hit the internet with praise about the film. The list of celebrities and their posts are too long to contain in just this article.
In this era, when we all have a voice, and have easy ways of sharing things for likes, nothing is more important than promoting this film. This film is the culmination of 102 years of denial, presenting a story that transcends Armenians, and has a very human, and very vital tone in the era we live in today.
Sadly, even among some in our community, in some sort of strange irony, Armenian activists look at the film as some sort of “elite whitewashing” of our story and our struggle. The irony is not lost, because if those who are bashing the film did a little bit of research, they would know that an Armenian Genocide film has been just as heavily suppressed as a statement from a president has.
Watch the film, talk about it, share the trailers, and bring awareness to your newsfeeds.
Any form of activism is good activism.