Special for the Armenian Weekly
The highly anticipated film The Promise will be released in theaters this weekend, in what many see as the culmination of decades-long efforts to get mainstream American recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Of course, a film may not be as powerful as the United States President acknowledging that a genocide did, in fact, take place, but can be considered a victory on a smaller—but important— scale; a victory that will surely make a lasting difference.
The Promise was funded by the will of the late Armenian-American billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who made sure that throughout all of his great accomplishments as a businessman, his lasting legacy would be as the man who made this project a reality.
Protests against the film came even before The Promise’s release, as many—mostly Turkish deniers—gave the film negative ratings. The actors, director, and all those involved with the film have done their best, however, appear in the mainstream press to emphasize the cultural importance of the film. Just the fact that the all of the proceeds of the film will be donated to various charities proves the power of The Promise and what it means to the public. The decision to donate is unprecedented in Hollywood and further proves that everyone involved in the making of this film is doing it not for the money, but for the lasting legacy it can have.
I recently watched an interview of the two award winnings actors Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, the leads of this film, on a CBS morning show. Both actors, who are highly respected in the industry and have had great success as leads of critically and financially successful blockbusters, had little to no knowledge about the Armenian Genocide before being a part of the film.
I did not find it all that surprising. But what made a lasting impression on me was that in that interview, both Bale and Isaac talked about the shock and sympathy they felt after learning about our story and the pride they felt about starring in the film that told that story. They spoke about how they felt they had a duty to tell American people—as well as the rest of the world—the “story of the Armenian people.”
Director Terry George has come out and said that he would like The Promise to be used as a historically educational film presented in schools when teaching the Armenian Genocide. Everyone that is a part of this film has done their best to talk about the meaning behind it and the importance of recognition for not only the Armenian people, but for all of humanity.
Throughout all the years that I have attended protests for genocide recognition, or marched as a scout into the Massachusetts State House and stood as our Governor spoke about the importance of recognition. There was one moment, though, that made me truly feel I accomplished something that personally made me feel like I made a difference. Two years ago, on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, I was blessed to have the opportunity be a guest on Boston’s top Hip Hop/Rap radio station Jamn’ 945.5, where I was interning at the time, and speak live on air not only about the Armenian Genocide, but about its ongoing denial. There, I felt I did a service to my people by getting that chance to speak to tens of thousands of listeners on a hip hop radio station, who otherwise probably would have no idea about the plight of our people.
I cannot speak for all those Armenians that live in the United States, but I can speak for myself. I grew up learning about the Armenian Genocide and the horrors of 1915. I grew up understanding how every year, our President—no matter who may be standing in that position—refuses to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and refers to it only as “mass-killings.” I grew up knowing I had an obligation that was given to us by our parents, Armenian teachers, priests, and community members, to keep a promise to continue to advocate for Armenian Genocide recognition.
If you educate one person, they will pass on that information and the beautiful cycle of awareness will continue.
This weekend tell your friends, tell your co-workers, your neighbors—heck, tell a random person on the street. Tell them to go and watch this film.
Tell them to tell the world our story.
Tell them to keep the promise.