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#KeepThePromise: Hollywood sheds light on Armenian genocide

Big-budget Hollywood movie ‘The Promise,’ a war drama about the Armenian genocide during the Ottoman era, was released this month. The hashtag #KeepThePromise, calling on people to never forget, has been trending on social media.

The film is set during World War I in Constantinople (now Istanbul), where the Turks are carrying out a large-scale massacre of the Armenian population, later recognized as genocide. The release of the film was timed to coincide with the date of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day – April 24.

In the film, the historical events are narrated through a fictional love story between a humble Armenian druggist Mikael, played by Oscar Isaac, and a beautiful young artist named Ana, played by Charlotte Le Bon. Ana is bound to Chris (Christian Bale), a firebrand AP war correspondent reporting on the events in Turkey.

“If you don’t learn from your history, you’re destined to repeat it,” “Empires fall. Love survives,” “Revenge is to survive,” are slogans from the poignant saga. The hashtag #KeepThePromise has since being trending on social media.

One more ‘tricky’ detail about the film is that none of its leading actors are Armenian: Isaac is a Guatemalan-American, Le Bon is French Canadian, and Bale is English.

READ MORE: German parliament acknowledges Armenian genocide amid intense Turkish pressure

The topic of silencing the media is subtly touched upon in the film. A scene that has been shared on social media shows a Turkish officer asking Bale’s character what he, an AP reporter, was doing in Constantinople. “Reporting on the war,” Chris answers, but the officer interrupts him, saying “There is no war here. Merely the evacuation of the civil population to a safer region.”

“Watching a film shouldn’t only be about fun. That isn’t the most important thing. And it can be very rewarding to watch things that aren’t just about shiny objects and loud noises,” Isaac told Metro newspaper, adding that the movie sheds “light on a part of history that people have attempted to erase.” 

Terry George, who directed the film, told the Independent that The Promise “allows people with no knowledge or interest in the Armenian genocide to enjoy the film in the way of these great old political dramas made in the last part of the 20th century.”

“Because we’re all going about our day, doing our jobs, trying to get good at what we do, falling in love with people – and at the same time there’s incredible horrors happening right now in that very same part of the world [in modern-day Syria]. There’s all of the same stuff going on again,” he said. 

Numerous celebrities reacted to the movie, urging people to “keep the promise” and never forget the massacre of Armenian people.

Sylvester Stallone called it “a true and incredibly important historical drama” on Facebook.

“We are all children of immigrants. I’m Barbara Streisand I vow to keep the promise to never forget,” American singer, actress, director, and producer Barbara Streisand said.

“Let’s #KeepthePromise to never forget and to promote human rights wherever we are & however we can,” English singer, pianist, and composer Sir Elton John wrote.

RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, who is of Armenian descent, attended the premiere of The Promise in Moscow and praised the film.

“I cried through the whole movie. It’s amazing. Please, watch it,” Simonyan said on Twitter.