The Promise hits theaters this week with hopes to not just entertain but also inspire viewers. Chris (played by Christian Bale) and Michael (Oscar Issac) find themselves in love with the same woman, Ana (played by Charlotte le Bon). Their lives are upended when the Turkish government joins forces with the Germans, and a mass killing of the Armenian people ensues. Both Ana and Michael are Armenian and find themselves in a fight to save their lives and the lives of their people.
The love story is compelling and the film is beautiful, full of rich gold tones and breathtaking scenery. But the story behind the story is the fact that the Turkish government refuses to recognize their actions as genocide. Not many knew about it at the time, and layers of forgotten years now cover the tragedy. Director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) and producers like Ralph Winter (X-Men 2) want to share the long-neglected story of the suffering of the Armenians.
Producer Ralph Winter took the time to answer a few questions for Hollywood Jesus readers.
What initially attracted you to this project?
The story, the subject, and growing up in Glendale [where approximately 30% of the population is Armenian], my Armenian community friends.
Even before its release, The Promise stirred up Turkish loyalties. The Washington Post reported 62,000 one-star ratings on IMBD. Suspected to be the work of internet trolls, IMBD took down the sabotaging reviews. This represents ongoing controversy about the war-time events in Turkey—were they simply “atrocities” or did they cross the line into “genocide?” Winter says the cast and crew didn’t experience much opposition first-hand.
Did you encounter any pushback from the Turkish government while making The Promise?
Some actors were questioned by local embassies. Daniel [Giménez Cacho], in particular, questioned by Turkish ambassador in Mexico, asking why he was working on a fake project. We were prepared during production with our own security team but encountered no direct issues.
We learn important lessons from history. Films are an ideal medium for communicating those lessons. They can connect a compelling story to historic events which impact viewers. The Promise will introduce a significant but unknown event to many moviegoers. I asked Winter what lessons he hopes moviegoers take away from the film?
Never forget–to retell the story, and to hold those accountable today for the same things. We see the same things happening in Syria today. And they simply see how Turkey got away with the same over 100 years ago. Awareness is key to holding those responsible. We would like others outside the Armenian community to recognize the genocide that has taken place in 1915 and hold those accountable.
In an effort to promote an anti-genocide call to action, Survival Pictures launched a #KeepThePromise social impact campaign. The campaign received several celebrity endorsements, including Elton John, Andre Agassi, and Ryan Gosling. Their message: never stay silent about injustice.
Injustice is only enabled by silence, and this has played out in horrific ways over the past 100 years. Many times over, justice has lost to silence. So let’s start speaking up. Tell the world about the Armenian Genocide, and every genocide taking place across the globe. (The Promise to Act)
The Promise opens in theaters nationwide April 20. Find a full review of The Promise here.