Film Review: ‘The Promise’

THE PROMISE TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

Designed to dramatize the Ottoman Empire's horrific treatment of its Armenian citizens in 1915, this fictional love story is an epic bore.

“Our revenge will be to survive, and have children,” rallies the mayor of an Ottoman city whose Armenian population is targeted for annihilation in Terry George’s “The Promise.” And he might add, “… and one day, to make movies,” since that is ultimately what “The Promise” is about: Aiming to do for the 1915 Armenian Genocide what “Doctor Zhivago” did for the Russian Revolution, this sweeping romantic epic dramatizes a dark chapter in history so often denied and so seldom depicted onscreen — and yet, the events being considered deserve better than a sloggy melodrama in which the tragedy of a people is forced to take a back seat to a not especially compelling love triangle.

Willed into being by Armenian investor-philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian, who established Survivor Pictures in order to finance this project before he passed away last year, “The Promise” was conceived as a glossy, English-language entertainment — not to be mistaken for the scrappy biblical stories and desert-set indies consigned to the specialty-film circuit (where Canadian-Armenian director Atom Egoyan’s own treatment of the subject, “Ararat,” went largely unseen). And yet, given the vagaries of contemporary film distribution, it’s unlikely that the film will reach more than a handful of people, despite big-name stars (Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale play romantic rivals) and the fact that no expense being spared.

While Kerkorian and company mean well, audiences can smell earnestness a mile away, and while this overly didactic project was clearly designed to shed light on one of the most controversial mass extermination attempts of the 20th century — controversial not because it happened, but because, unlike the Holocaust, whose architects ultimately lost the war, the Armenian Genocide’s culprits largely succeeded within Turkish borders. (As Hitler preached in justifying his own genocide, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”) Or, as the oft-quoted saying goes, history is written by the victors.

Presumably out of diplomatic interest with Turkey, American presidents have been controversially reluctant to acknowledge this “mass atrocity” as a “genocide.” For Kerkorian, this production represents a chance to write history from the other side, for which he enlisted Academy Award nominee Robin Swicord (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) to pen a suitably epic screenplay, centering on small-town Armenian apothecary Michael Boghosian (played by “Inside Llewelyn Davis” star Isaac) and an American reporter working for the Associated Press, Chris Myers (Bale), who both bear firsthand witness to the genocide, while competing for the affections of an Armenian beauty (Charlotte Le Bon).

George (“Hotel Rwanda”), was among the likeliest names for Kerkorian to consider as director, perhaps along with Roland Joffé (“The Killing Fields”). This is conjecture, mind you; both are A-listers whose portraits of genocide have attracted critical acclaim. George, whose portraits of senseless civil war also extend to his native Ireland (“Some Mother’s Son” and “In the Name of the Father”), gave Swicord’s script a heavy rewrite — though the result remains turgidly uninteresting. It’s hard to put one’s finger on precisely the reason stories from this region fail to cross over with American audiences, although in the half-century since “Lawrence of Arabia,” no amount of pageantry can seemingly survive in the desert. (Few remember Isaac’s turn in the little-seen “Agora.”) For all its real-world majesty, the Ottoman Empire — now Turkey — comes off as being a great big, backwards sandbox in “The Promise.”

In late 1914, before heading off to Constantinople to study medicine, Michael makes a promise (there’s that word again) to marry Maral (Angela Sarafyan, who could pass for Shelley Duvall’s Armenian-American doppelganger), relying on the dowry to pay his way. Under his uncle’s roof, Michael discovers a gorgeous dance instructor, Ana (Le Bon, whose French accent is explained, though never the fact that the characters all speak English), and things immediately start to heat up between them. Never mind that she’s already committed to Bale’s character, a journalist who loves her dearly, but clearly recognizes what is happening around them as being bigger than their relationship. We are meant to root for Michael in this equation, though it’s hard not to see Chris’ point: With German soldiers all around and the world on the brink of war, Michael and Ana’s sexual chemistry really ought to take a back seat, and yet, someone (Swicord? George?) doesn’t seem to trust audiences to care about their survival unless the script puts them aboard the equivalent of the sinking Titanic.

While Chris moves around documenting the atrocities — which include thousands of Armenians evicted from their homes and forced to march through the desert — Michael takes the opportunity to cozy up to Ana. Following the Constantinople equivalent of Kristallnacht, they sleep together, and as the pogrom’s death count climb, “The Promise” asks us to invest more in their relationship than in the horrors that surround them. In an attempt to show that not all Turks were committed to the Armenians’ extinction, the film supplies a compassionate med-school colleague (Marwan Kenzari), who tries to spare Michael and his uncle (Igal Naor), only to be overruled by his powerful, Armenian-despising father.

Michael spends six months on a heavy-labor detail, where the humiliations feel all too similar to Holocaust films, before hopping a train back to Siroun, the town where Armenians and Turks had long coexisted in peace — but no more. Here at “home,” Michael’s mother (Shohreh Aghdashloo, yet another Oscar nominee giving her all to this talent-stocked production) forces her son to honor his promise, though shortly after the marriage, Michael senses the danger and starts to plan his family’s escape, hoping to hitch a ride with a group of Armenian orphans bound for the coast.

Shot in colorful, ultra-crisp widescreen (though the ultra-high definition of Javier Aguirresarobe’s digital lensing actually lends an unwanted artifice) and scored to the gills by Gabriel Yared, the film has reached epic scale by this point, and yet, our interest has been taxed in too many conflicting ways: Do we want Michael and Ana to get together? If so, are we secretly rooting for something awful to happen to Chris and Maral? When the French Navy shows up (led by none other than Jean Reno), “The Promise” permits itself to plunge these invented characters into the midst of an actual historical standoff at Musa Dagh — one of the few successful Armenian attempts to resist their Turkish oppressors, which means the Ottoman mayor (Rade Serbedzija) may get his wish: Until this point, they have all been witnesses to the genocide, but now, there could be survivors, and the question of who lives and who dies no longer depends on the Turks’ cruelty, but rather on the screenwriters’ caprices.

The final stretch is little more than blatant manipulation, as “The Promise” ill-advisedly attempts to trump its representation of a genocide-scaled real-world tragedy with the scripted fates of its central characters. Astonishingly, the Americans come off as heroes in the end, as when a U.S. embassy official (played by James Cromwell) comes right out and tells a Turkish authority, “You are using this relocation as a cover for the systematic extermination of the Armenian people.” And yet it should be noted that, as broken promises go, President Obama has never followed through on his 2008 campaign pledge: “… As President, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

Film Review: 'The Promise'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Gala Presentations), Sept. 11, 2016. Running time: 134 MIN.

Production

(Spain-U.S.) A Survival Pictures presentation of a Mike Medavoy, The Promise Prods., Survival Pictures production. Producers: Eric Esrailian, Mike Medavoy, William Horberg. Executive producers: Kirk Kerkorian, Ralph Winter, Denise O'Dell, Mark Albela, Anthony Mandekic, Patricia L. Glaser, Dan Taylor, Sheri Sani.

Crew

Director: Terry George. Screenplay: George, Robin Swicord. Camera (color, widescreen): Javier Aguirresarobe. Editor: Steven Rosenblum.

With

Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale, Daniel Giménez-Cacho, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Marwan Kenzari, Angela Sarafyan, Rade Serbedzija, Tom Hollander, Igal Naor, Numan Acar, Milene Mayer, Tamer Hassan, Alicia Borrachero, Abel Folk, Jean Reno, James Cromwell. (English, German, French dialogue)

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  1. Katya Gordon says:

    Excellent movie, a true story , great acting, no boring for a minute!

  2. Armine says:

    This was a very good film. The historical facts are there to see. It did immense justice to the ongoing plight of the Armenian people. It is time for the world to learn the truth of its history. The film was authentic and echoed what survivors have written about. The acting and directing was impressive. Thank you for such an incredible film.

  3. Rachel Mirkellian says:

    My husband is of Armenian decent. Up until I met my husband I was ignorant I hadn’t even heard of Armenia never mind the genocide. I have seen the previews and I plan to see this movie with my husband. Any movie that educates people about hidden/denied atrocities cannot be a bad thing.

    I am Irish, we need a move about the Irish slave trade. A subject that I only discovered a few years ago (I’m 46), that was never taught in our history lessons.

  4. Arthur Jon says:

    I don’t agree with you. It was an amazing, powerful movie with a clear message, everyone should see this movie, amazing cast.

  5. Gloria Florez says:

    I think is one the best pictures that I’ve ever seen.

  6. R J says:

    The author of this article seems to be confused.
    ” before hopping a train back to Siroun, the town where Armenians and Turks had long coexisted in peace”
    Armenians and turks never coexisted in peace. The turks killings and persecution of the Armenians predate 1915, and it was the turkish version of the final solution in 1915. The turks allowed Armenians to live because they were their doctors, scientists, artists, skilled workers, businessmen, and others, not because they like them.
    History is not your thing buddy, stick to movie reviews.

    • Ken says:

      “Armenians and turks never coexisted in peace. The turks killings and persecution of the Armenians predate 1915, and it was the turkish version of the final solution in 1915. The turks allowed Armenians to live because they were their doctors, scientists, artists, skilled workers, businessmen, and others, not because they like them.”

      This is very true.

      One of the main reasons of the Turkish persecution of Armenians – outside of the Muslim’s hatred of Christians – was probably envy…They were much better educated and more successful than the average Ottoman citizen. The Turks, who mostly couldn’t even read or write, became frustrated, because this minority showed them, how inferior they were, while their faith said them, that they were ‘superior’ to all other religions.

      The persecution of the Jewish people in Europe had a similar aspect of envy, I found doing research. Especially in Hungary they were so successful, that many well-known members of the elites were Jewish, including Olympia winners etc.. The non-Jewish Hungarians saw them as some kind of ‘threat’ because of their obvious, undeniable success.

      One document shows this with great clarity:

      Miklós Horthy, Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary (1920–1944) wrote in an Oct. 1940 letter to Prime Minister Pál Teleki the following: “As regards the Jewish problem, I have been an anti-Semite throughout my life. I have never had contact with Jews. I have considered it intolerable that here in Hungary everything, every factory, bank, large fortune, business, theatre, press, commerce, etc. should be in Jewish hands, and that the Jew should be the image reflected of Hungary, especially abroad. Since, however, one of the most important tasks of the government is to raise the standard of living, i.e., we have to acquire wealth, it is impossible, in a year or two, to replace the Jews, who have everything in their hands, and to replace them with incompetent, unworthy, mostly big-mouthed elements, for we should become bankrupt. This requires a generation at least.”

      So, it seems to be a similar pattern to what happened in the Ottoman Empire: An majority in crisis blames a successful minority for the own lack of success and tries to remove them from society, so that they can steal all their belongings. To morally justify this somehow, they usually engineer a pre-text like ‘unpatriotic behavior’ (the same with Jews and Armenians) or invent biological ‘arguments’ (inferior race) or religious reasons. But the actual reasons given are usually only an excuse for a deeper driving force: Envy and greed. Only the wish to steal all the belongings of the other group – without ever giving them back – makes mass murder a necessity. Otherwise they could have simply been deported and detained, just like the American Japanese in the US after Pearl Harbor. But deportation and security were never the motivations. It was about stealing another group’s wealth and eliminate them.

  7. Ana says:

    Despite almost all the critics giving this movie a low rating, I decided to watch this movie partly because all proceeds from the movie goes to various charities, which I happen to sponsor a couple. I don’t know if it was due to the low expectation, but I loved the movie. The story was really good, the performances were great, the movie was captivating and on top of that I learnt a very important fact in history that has been ignored for a long time. Every single person in the movie theatre was glued to their seat till the last credit rolled. I really recommend this movie.

    • Alexander Balian says:

      Me too ! A truly great movie. There is nothing wrong with telling the Genocide story along with a love story. Why not? Is this not true in life? Anyone who has been in war, (as I have), conflicts and all situations knows that love exists there too, The critics that bad mouth this movie are narrow-minded idiots that miss the point. Most of them have never experienced any of it., I am Armenian. My Mother’s father escaped from the Turkish Army after being conscripted . He swam out to a Greek Ship. The Captain gave him Asylum. That’s how he got to the USA (finally). His wife , my Grandmother had a male baby’s head cut off in her lap. The idiots who will not understand the point of this movie (Awareness), sit behind their computers, never having given anything but concern for their own life, and their miserable careers, do not even deserve to make a comment, free speech or not.
      To them and the lousy writers of this denouncement of the movie, I say get a life, get a purpose, or check out and leave. You deserve nothing more.

      Signed Capt A, G, Balian, United States Navy (Retired).

  8. I’m not surprised, that some “critics” will be “criticizing” and naming this film as “boring”. I wonder, that how much turkey paid these critics?
    The film is Must see and it’s based on true story. The B.S. writers are just trying to make money and trying hard to make sure this film will not get enough audience.
    Let’s see, that!
    Anyhow, the article was so stupid and boring, I couldn’t read to the second paragraph!

  9. The Coming Soon Movie The Promise is one of the most powerful stories told on screen the move. It is worth checking out this movie. Many Armenians have died in 1915, under the Ottoman Empire – i.e. The Turkish government. Please check out the movie on the internet and spread the word around all the Canadians and also on social media

  10. Nic Martin says:

    It’s kind of like “…meh…” moment after I saw the movie. What a waste of $21 for a ticket I would say. It’s long, slow, boring and most importantly tries to push a serious political agenda hiding behind a so called “love story”

    Totally and utterly waste of 2 hours I would never get back lol…

    • true story says:

      uneducated bastard

    • Alexander Balian says:

      There is only ONE THING we Armenians would like to see. It is not money. It is not benefits. It is not Government Assistance. It is not donations. It is not even a smile or a handshake. What it IS, is the understanding of what happened as a TRUTH, a significant factor in REAL HISTORY, not something that is to be hidden or remain in denial by the Turkish Government. The Turkish people understand
      what happened. But the Government simply will not admit it. Genocide cannot be hidden or DENIED.
      It is still happening in Somalia, Sudan, Africa and many other countries that many will never hear about. See George Clooney’s concerns for yourself. And understand that he had a lot to do with how this movie was formulated. Good for him. He did a great job. For the denouncing critics , would one of you stand up and tell me how 1.6 Million Armenians disappeared by intentional death if it was not Genocide? Nothing else is needed other than understanding what actually and factually happened was indeed and remains the TRUTH ! NOBODY CAN CHANGE THAT, like it or not !

    • EDO says:

      TO NIC MARTIN. MARTIN YOUR FATHER SAD THE SAME FOR YOU. WHAT A WASTE OF SPERM!!
      TURKS ARE ALWAYS COVERING THEM UP USING AMERICAN NAMES. BUT WHEN YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH YOUR TRUE COLORS SHOWS. DUMMMM TURKS. BY THE WAY IM COOKING TWO TURKEYS FOR THIS THANKSGIVING. LOLLL

  11. Jake says:

    I’m not sure this critic and I watched the same film. I’m neither Armenian nor Turkish. I was lucky enough to be present at the premier of The Promise in Toronto and was mesmerized by this story and it’s characters, as was everyone sitting around me. It is by far the best film I’ve seen this year. It was visually stunning and emotionally riveting. Terry George, the director, really took the audience through this journey of human triumph and survival with a great deal of emotion and care. The chemistry between Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) and Michael (Oscar Isaac) was undeniable. As for Christian Bale, this was his best performance in a long time full of intensity and passion. Let’s not forget the presence if Shohreh Aghdashloo who delivers an unforgettable performance.
    This film was really rich in emotion, remarkable for its depth in detail, and very powerful. It will tug at your heart and bring tears but will give you a sense of appreciation for human life. Highly recommend everyone to watch it.

    • dzovig122 says:

      As an Armenian, I truly appreciate your well-written comments Jake. The movie exactly describes of what has happened to my ancestors. One important factor that the USA President to this date, has not accepted that there was a genocide and the Turks need to apologize for their wrong doings and killing many Armenians… I am hopeful that the move The Promise, which is one of the most powerful stories told on the screen will make the USA President to admit that there was a genocide and Turks must be punished of what they did to the Armenians…

    • Nic Martin says:

      Lol I think he did. Jake, what were you on when you were watching the movie mate? I want to be on them myself lol

  12. Gayane says:

    Well written review.. Thank you

  13. “…no amount of pageantry can quite transcend the sheer boredom of sand.” One can only wonder what you must have thought of “Lawrence of Arabia.”

    • Brooke says:

      Right? This guy is bias and hardened as well as ignorant.

      • Taline says:

        5 MINUTES STANDING OVATION sums it all!
        This review cannot be accurate (only a bias opinion) for the audience has shown their true colours. When was the last time a movie received a standing ovation…? Think about that!
        The Promise is an epic movie that the turks DON’T want you to see based on TRUE EVENTS! The only fiction is the love triangle. Based on historical events with amazing actors, top notch filming & quality speaks for itself.

  14. Because you are not Armenian and did not have family members killed, a film like this cannot possibly send chills down your spine. I only saw the trailer then started to cry. After dozens of holocaust films, it is refreshing for our small group of unimportant people to be recognized for the pain and suffering we endured and the homes we lost. I have an uncle who died in Istanbul, and the Turkish government has threatened to dig up his grave if we don’t pay a $2000 ransom. And this is 100 years later.

    • Brooke says:

      I am so terribly sorry for your uncles sufferring at cruel hands. And current injustices. I found out I have Armenian blood in me because of this movie. I can’t imagine. I wouldn’t be here if whoever in my ancestors didn’t survive. Its little bit it’s not little to me. This reporter is insane he’s hardened close minded and an embarassment to Variety. I am banning variety because they are ok with publishing this article where he wrote “The Armenians survived. Its the survivors who wrote the history.” Is he calling Armenians liars? And he quotes HITLER about the Armenians being forgotten as in “Who remembers the Armenians?” And then states that that’s how this film will be. There’s so much anger in me over this article I can’t begin to explain it but I suspect he also would’ve reported that “No amount of pageantry” or media hype makes it real” if he were living back then. He’s a hypocrite and VARIETY should be completely humiliated this post was ok pushed in their name. But they’re not. And that’s why I’m banning them.

  15. Mehmet Korkmaz says:

    Why are you surprised that this movie feels overly didactic even though it is a product of a billionaire of Armenian origin who left a whole bunch of money to make a movie about the 1915 Armenian tragedy to influence public opinion? The events of 1915 were tragic but I would feel much more comfortable if someone who is not so rich and powerful and someone who probably cannot look at those events objectively weren’t behind this movie. In my opinion, it is not much different from a billionaire buying elections.

    By the way, as a person of Turkish origin but more importantly as someone who doesn’t believe in collective guilt I take issue with your statement that the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide won and their descendants remain in power. First of all, the perpetrators of the horrible massacres and expulsions immediately fled the country and most of them were assassinated by Armenians so it is factually wrong that they remained in power. Secondly, I know of no one in the Turkish government today who were even slightly alleged to be a descendant of a perpetrator. Unless of course, you think that all Turks then were involved in the killings and all Turks living today are descendants of the perpetrators. If you think so, I wouldn’t blame today’s Turks for being so defensive about the allegations of genocide. This kind of overreach would make everyone defensive. I, for one, am very well informed about my ancestors during the 1915 events. I know exactly where they were and what they did during that time frame. I am absolutely and 100 % sure that they were not involved even remotely with the killings of Armenians. I reject any and all personal responsibly. I wouldn’t be surprised that most members of the Turkish government would be able to say the same thing. Look, this issue is complex and your wholesale damnation of the Turkish nation smack more than a tad bit of arrogance and occidentalism. Your critique is almost as poor as the movie seems to be.

    • Gayane says:

      I am absolutely shocked how little you understand of the word “descendants” and what it means to inherit the wealth your ancestors took by murder, rape, killing, and torture… Hence your comments is absolutely as poor as your understanding of what denial, cover up and lying is all about from the Turkish side.. Good day..

    • Sarah says:

      DENY DENY DENY. DENY. I NOTICED YOU REFUSED TO USE THE WORD GENOCIDE. THATS MY FIRST PROBLEM WITH YOUR COMMENTS. AND IT SPEAKS THE LOUDEST. SECOND, NO ONE SAID THAT THE ACTUAL MEN IN STANDING ARE THE SAME YOUNG TURKS WHO COMMITTED THE GENOCIDE. NO ONE EVEN SAID THEY ARE THE DIRECT DESCENDANTS OF THE HANDS WHO TORTURED INNOCENT CHILDREN WOMEN AND MEN. WHAT IS BEING SAID IS THAT, THAT EMPIRE GOT INTO POSITION AND IS STILL STANDING TODAY BECAUSE OF IT’S ORIGINAL MEMBERS COMMITTING MASS EXTERMINATION RAPE TORTURE OF ARMENIAN WOMEN MEN AND CHILDREN. THAT THE TURK GOVT CAME INTO STANDING TODAY BY STANDING ON THE HEADS AND BODIES OF ARMENIANS AND REJOICING IN THEIR BLOOD WHILE THEY SCREAMED UNTIL DEATH TOOK OVER AS MERCY. AND FAILURE TO ADMIT THAT OR ACKNOWLEDGE THAT BY THE MASS SYSTEMIC EXTERMINATION OF INNOCENT CIVILIANS WHO WERE MINORITIES EVEN!- IS TO DENY THE PAST WHICH HAS BEEN BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT PROVEN TRUE. THE FACT THAT THE TURK GOVT WILL KILL AND IMPRISON ANYONE WHO SAIS ITS TRUE FURTHER ESCALATES THE SITUATION AND BULLIES PEOPLE INTO DENIAL AND REFUSAL TO SEE ORNEVEN FEEL SAFE TRYING TO SEE WHAT THE REST OF THE WORLD ALREADY SEES..TO REFUSE TO ADMIT THAT YOUR THRONE, OR YOUR POSITION IS POSSIBLE BECAUSE OF THE SLAUGHTERING OF CHILDREN, THE BRUTAL TYING UP AND WHIPPING OF HUMAN BEINGS UNTIL NOTHING BUT RAW BLOODY NERVES ARE ALL THAT SHOW-BY CUTTING CHOLDREN IN HALF-IS PURE DEEPLY IMBEDDED SICK TWISTED HORRIFYING EVIL. THERES NO WORD TO DESCRIBE THE EVIL THAT ONE HAD TO BE TO COMMIT SUCH TERROR. THAT AND MORE. HAVE YOU READ THE WRITINGS? THE SURVIVOR ACCOUNTS? THE POETRY OF HORRORS? WELL I HAVE. WOMENS BREASTS BEING CUT OFF AND GIRLS AND BOYS RAPED AND SLAUGHTERED INFRONT IF THEIR MOTHER AND FATHERS EYES? CHILDREN BURNED ALIVE BEYOND RECOGNITION? THAT EMPIRE STANDS ON LAND THEIR BLOOD SEEPED INTO AND BELONGED TO THEM WHOS BLOOD IS EVEN IN THE TREES THEY LEAN AGAINST AND BUILD THEIR HOUSES WITH. YOU ARE IN DENIAL SIR. AND THE PROBLEM IS NOT ABOUT WETHER YOU DESCEND FROM THEM. ITS ABOUT ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND RETURNING OF LAND TO ITS RIGHTFUL OWNERS. AND THE LARGEST CONCERN OF ALL AND FELT IN THE AIR BY ALL ARMENIANS-IS THE DENIYING OF IT MAKES IT POSSIBLE TO HAPPEN AGAIN. -THE ONLY-ONLY-POSITIVE THING I CAN SAY- IS THAT YOU ARE NOT WRONG IN SAYING THERE WERE A FEW GOOD TURKS – TURKS WHO TRIED TO WARN ARMENIANS AND GET THEM OUT DESPITE BEING PARTY TO THE GOVT. THEY TRIED TO HELP THEM ESCAPE WHAT THEY SAW COMING. THAT IS PROOF THAT THERES A REASON TO PAY ATTENTION PREPARE TO SURVIVE AND RUN WHEN ITS TIME. THERE ARE SIGNS. EVEN NOW. NEVER IGNORE THEM. AND MAYBE YOUR ANCESTORS WERE THE GOOD GUYS. MAYBE NOT. BUT MY PROBLEM WITH YOUR COMMENT ISNT TO ARGUE ABOUT YOUR ANCESTORS. IT IS YOUR REFUSAL TO ADMIT IT WAS AND CALL IT A GENOCIDE. AND IT’S PEOPLE WHO DO THAT, THAT DENY THE PAST THAT ARE CONDEMNED TO RE-LIVE IT.

  16. Michael says:

    It’s good that this movie was made, even if it’s not a great artistic success.

    There are very few worthy dramas about this chapter of history: “Ararat” (Atom Egoyan), “The Lark Farm” (Taviani Brothers), “The Cut” (Fatih Akin) are all worth seeing.
    I will definitely watch this one, too.

    These films help the audience to imagine the scale of the tragedy that has happened.

    But I have to agree with the reviewer on one point: I don’t think that subjects like genocide can be represented in this old-fashioned way anymore. Why “love triangles” ? Why all these conventions ?
    Look at “Son of Saul”: That movie showed the process of mass destruction without all that stuff.

    Another problem in the representation of the Armenian Genocide is, that there has never been a documentary like “Shoah” on this subject. This is truly a missing piece. Masterpieces like “Schindler’s List” or especially “Son of Saul” were strongly informed by Claude Lanzmann’s documentary work.
    They wouldn’t be the same without “Shoah”. Lanzmann made the audience connect to history through
    re-living it by witnessing the testimony of history. It’s still a radical and incredibly powerful work, that gives you a vivid sense of ‘what happened’ through the accumulation of perspectives and details.
    No work of art is able to ‘show it all’, but “Shoah” succeeded in representing the dead through the testimony of the living. The Armenian Genocide doesn’t have a document or work of art like that.

    I read in the ‘Armenian Mirror-Spectator’ that the Turkish-Dutch professor and genocide scholar Ugur Üngör wants to create an oral history book or film like that. He already recorded or shot many interviews: “Üngör himself would “love to make” a documentary using oral histories of ordinary people in Turkey who are children or grandchildren of eyewitnesses to the Armenian Genocide. He already has conducted many such interviews in 2002 and 2004-7, and may also write an article based on them. He points out that “Elderly Turks and Kurds often remember vivid anecdotes from family members or villagers who had witnessed or even participated in the massacres.” He does not have the resources himself to transcribe and publish these interviews and others but he feels that this would be a great project…” (Feb. 7, 2012). Read the full article online, please.

    The Armenian community needs to understand, that 2-hour-feature-fiction-films only can ‘teach’ in a superficial way about something as complex as genocide. They need additional tools.

    They need to understand, that nothing is more powerful and convincing than to listen to the testimony of witnesses and/or their relatives. An oral history book and especially an oral history film like that is still missing & it’s important for the future.

    Someone should contact Prof. Ugur Üngör and try to set up the project. It will only cost about 1% of what “The Promise” probably cost, but it will be of greater importance to history.

    Thank you

    • dzovig122 says:

      Very Well said. Turks need to recognize and apologize for their wrong doings and USA President must acknowledge that Turks did kill 1.5M of Armenians and they have to be condemned.

  17. Michael says:

    It’s good that this movie was made, even if it’s not a great artistic success.

    There are very few worthy dramas about this chapter of history: “Ararat” (Atom Egoyan), “The Lark Farm” (Taviani Brothers), “The Cut” (Fatih Akin) are all worth seeing. I will definitely watch this, too.

    These films help the audience to imagine the scale of the tragedy that has happened.

    But I have to agree with the reviewer on one point: I don’t think that subjects like genocide can be represented in this old-fashioned way anymore. Why “love triangles” ? Why all these conventions ?
    Look at “Son of Saul”: That movie showed the process of mass destruction without all that stuff.

    Another problem in the representation of the Armenian Genocide is, that there has never been a documentary like “Shoah” on this subject. This is truly a missing piece. Masterpieces like “Schindler’s List” or especially “Son of Saul” were strongly informed by Claude Lanzmann’s documentary work.
    They wouldn’t be the same without “Shoah”. Lanzmann made the audience connect to history through
    re-living it by witnessing the testimony of history. It’s still a radical and incredibly powerful work, that gives you a vivid sense of ‘what happened’ through the accumulation of perspectives and details.
    No work of art is able to ‘show it all’, but “Shoah” succeeded in representing the dead through the testimony of the living. The Armenian Genocide doesn’t have a document or work of art like that.

    I read in the ‘Armenian Mirror-Spectator’ that the Turkish professor and genocide scholar Ugur Ügör wants to create an oral history film like that. He already shot many interviews: “Üngör himself would “love to make” a documentary using oral histories of ordinary people in Turkey who are children or grandchildren of eyewitnesses to the Armenian Genocide. He already has conducted many such interviews in 2002 and 2004-7, and may also write an article based on them. He points out that “Elderly Turks and Kurds often remember vivid anecdotes from family members or villagers who had witnessed or even participated in the massacres.” He does not have the resources himself to transcribe and publish these interviews and others but he feels that this would be a great project…” (Feb. 7, 2012)

    The Armenian community needs to understand, that 2-hour-feature-fiction-films only can ‘teach’ in a superficial way about something as complex as genocide. They need additional tools.

    They need to understand, that nothing is more powerful and convincing than to listen to the testimony of witnesses and/or their relatives. An oral history film like that is still missing & it’s important for the future. Someone should contact Prof. Ugur Ügör and try to set up the project. It will only cost about 1% of what “The Promise” probably cost, but it will be of greater importance to history.

    Thank you

  18. Michael says:

    It’s good that this movie was made, even if it’s not a great artistic success.
    There are very few worthy dramas about this chapter of history: “Ararat” (Atom Egoyan), “The Lark Farm” (Taviani Brothers), “The Cut” (Fatih Akin) are all worth seeing. I will definitely watch this, too. These films help the audience to imagine the scale of the tragedy that has happened.

    But I have to agree with the reviewer on one point: I don’t think that subjects like genocide can be represented in this old-fashioned way anymore. Why “love triangles” ? Why all these conventions ?
    Look at “Son of Saul”, That movie showed the process of mass destruction without all that stuff.

    Another problem in the representation of the Armenian Genocide is, that there has never been a documentary like “Shoah” on this subject. This is truly a missing piece. Masterpieces like “Schindler’s List” or especially “Son of Saul” were strongly informed by Claude Lanzmann’s documentary work.
    They wouldn’t be the same without “Shoah”. Lanzmann made the audience connect to history through
    re-living it by witnessing the testimony of history. It’s still a radical and incredibly powerful work, that gives you a vivid sense of ‘what happened’ through the accumulation of perspectives and details.
    No work of art is able to ‘show it all’, but “Shoah” succeeded in representing the dead through the testimony of the living. The Armenian Genocide doesn’t have a document pr work of art like that.

    I read in the ‘Armenian Mirror-Spectator’ that the Turkish professor and genocide scholar Ugur Ügör wants to create an oral history film like that. He already shot many interviews: “Üngör himself would “love to make” a documentary using oral histories of ordinary people in Turkey who are children or grandchildren of eyewitnesses to the Armenian Genocide. He already has conducted many such interviews in 2002 and 2004-7, and may also write an article based on them. He points out that “Elderly Turks and Kurds often remember vivid anecdotes from family members or villagers who had witnessed or even participated in the massacres.” He does not have the resources himself to transcribe and publish these interviews and others but he feels that this would be a great project…” (Feb. 7, 2012) The Armenian community needs to understand, that 2-hour-feature-fiction-films only can ‘teach’ in a superficial way about something as complex as genocide. They need additional tools.

    They need to understand, that nothing is more powerful and convincing than to listen to the testimony of witnesses and/or their relatives. An oral history film like that is still missing & it’s important for the future. Someone should contact Prof. Ugur Ügör and try to set up the project. It will only cost about 1% of what “The Promise” probably cost, but it will be of greater importance for history.

    Thank you

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