Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Armenian pundits...

Kavkazsky Uzel, Russia
April 20 2017
Armenian pundits play down large-scale drills in Azerbaijan

[Groong note: the below was translated from Russian]

Armenian pundits have opined that a large-scale army drill in
Azerbaijan is aimed at exerting psychological pressure on Armenia,
while official Yerevan complained about the drill to the OSCE,
Kavkazsky Uzel website reported on 20 April.

The Azerbaijani army is holding the large-scale drill on 16-21 April
to test the combat readiness of troops. The exercise involves up to
30,000 troops and over 250 tanks and armoured vehicles.

Armenia's Defence Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan said that
Yerevan complained to the OSCE about the drill. "Armenia has filed a
petition with the OSCE, saying that Azerbaijan did not inform the OSCE
member states about holding large-scale drills," Hovhannisyan was
quoted as saying.

He said that the OSCE's Vienna Document 2011 "On Confidence and
Security-building Measures" says that the OSCE should be informed if a
drill involves over 9,000 troops.

The head of the Modus Vivendi research centre, Ara Papyan, said that
the drill is aimed at exerting psychological pressure on Armenia.
"Azerbaijan realises that it will not manage to win a war and is
carrying out a creeping war against Armenia, trying to exhaust its
resources," Papyan was quoted as saying.

"The president of Azerbaijan has said repeatedly that the Karabakh
conflict will be resolved in a military way. The Azerbaijani army is
being trained for this now," he added.

Editor-in-chief of New Defence Order magazine Leonid Nersisyan said
the date of the drills was chosen to remind the Armenian side about
the April 2016 flare-up. He said that due to the large-scale drill the
Armenian army would be put on high alert which is disadvantageous for
the side wishing to launch an offensive, Kavkazsky Usel said.

The deputy head of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute, Sergey
Minasyan, said that the Azerbaijani army drill is aimed at
pressurising Armenia and breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh into making
concessions in the peace talks.

"The Armenian sides [Armenia and Karabakh], in turn, are employing a
deterrent policy, demonstrating to Azerbaijan that any threat to
resume hostilities will lead to serious consequences, which will
demonstrate that unleashing war was not worth it," Minasyan was quoted
as saying.

He added that during the drill Baku did not demonstrate any new
weapons which could cause Armenia's concern. There is military parity
between Baku and Yerevan, he said. "Azerbaijan has the edge on air
force, including UAVs, while Armenia has stronger air defence," he

RFE/RL Report 

French Presidential Hopefuls Woo Ethnic Armenian Voters
April 20, 2017
Emil Danielyan

Candidates for the 2017 presidential election in France (left to
right): Francois Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Marine
Le Pen and Benoit Hamon.

The four main candidates in France's tight presidential race have
lavished praise on the influential French-Armenian community and
called for closer ties with Armenia ahead of Sunday's elections.

Two of them, the conservative former Prime Minister Francois Fillon
and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, have also made pro-Armenian
statements on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in comments to the
"Nouvelles d'Armenie" magazine.

The French-Armenian publication asked Fillon, Le Pen, centrist
Emmanuel Macron and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon the same
questions and posted their written answers on its website
( this week.

"France and Armenia share a great friendship which I would like to
reinforce further," said Macron, the election frontrunner. This
"privileged relationship" should be specifically strengthened by
greater French investments in the Armenian economy, he added.

Macron spoke of his "admiration" for an estimated 500,000 French
people of Armenian descent, most of them descendants of survivors of
the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey. "Here Armenian culture
is an integral part of French and European culture," he said. "There
[in Armenia,] on the confines of the West and the East, it is an

Le Pen, who narrowly trails Macron in opinion polls, also paid tribute
to the French Armenians, saying that they "have contributed a lot to
our nation." "They are perfect examples of what I often say: French
nationality is inherited or deserved," said the candidate campaigning
on a tough anti-immigration platform.

Speaking about relations with Armenia, Le Pen said France must restore
its historical role as a "protector of the Christians of the East." On
the unresolved Karabakh conflict, she said: "I believe it would be
desirable for Azerbaijan and Armenia to reach an agreement allowing
Nagorno-Karabakh to be reunified with Armenia."

Fillon similarly declared that Karabakh was "arbitrarily detached from
Armenia" by Joseph Stalin in 1921. He also blamed Azerbaijan for the
April 2016 outbreak of the worst fighting in Karabakh in over two

"Faced with international indifference, Azerbaijan attempted to retake
by force Nagorno-Karabakh," said the center-right candidate who served
as France's prime minister from 2007-2012. "This deadly offensive
ended with a shaky ceasefire."

"The links between France and Armenia have always been strong #
Franco-Armenian friendship has long and beautiful days ahead," Fillon
went on.

Melenchon's spokeswoman, Charlotte Girard, also voiced support for
"privileged" ties with Armenia, citing the South Caucasus state's
"geostrategic importance" and the existence of the French-Armenian

Both Girard and Macron took more cautious positions on the Karabakh
dispute. The latter said that France should continue seeking a
peaceful settlement based on the principles of territorial integrity
of states and peoples' right to self-determination.

France has long maintained a warm rapport with Armenia. Its outgoing
President Francois Hollande and his predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and
Jacques Chirac, have paid high-profile official visits to Yerevan. The
Armenian government will underline these close ties when it hosts next
year a summit of La Francophonie, a grouping of over 70 mainly
French-speaking nations.

France also officially recognized the Armenian genocide with a special
law enacted in 2001. All four presidential hopefuls referred to the
1915 slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians as a proven fact that
should be recognized by the entire international community. Fillon
criticized Turkey for refusing to acknowledge the genocide, while
Macron signaled support for further efforts to criminalize its public
denials in France.

Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World
April 21 2017
Reflecting on the Armenian Genocide
Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Robert Melson. Professor Emeritus at Purdue University 

The major forum for scholarship on the Holocaust and other genocides, Holocaust and Genocide Studies is an international journal featuring research articles, interpretive essays, and book reviews in the social sciences and humanities. It is the principal publication to address the issue of how insights into the Holocaust apply to other genocides.

April 2014 marked the centenary of the initiation of mass murders of Armenians in Anatolia—events now known as the Armenian Genocide. As Robert Melson notes in the below introduction to Holocaust and Genocide Studies ’ virtual issue on the subject, Turkish governments have consistently denied that the persecutions resulted from a policy of genocide.

The six articles in the issue, including contributions by Donald Bloxham and Taner Akçam, examine various aspects of the Armenian Genocide and its denial.

Between the onset of World War I and the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923 approximately 1.5 million Armenians, or more than half of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population, died as a result of deportations, starvation, serial massacres, and mass executions. Though there were individual survivors, by the end of that period, the Armenian community in Anatolia had been essentially destroyed. Not only were Armenians killed, but surviving elements of their cultural heritage, including churches and works of art, were either obliterated or incorporated into the dominant culture—which now claimed that they were of Muslim or Turkish provenance.

These events constitute what has come to be known as the Armenian Genocide. Ever since, the Turkish state has denied that the Armenians were victims of genocide. The official argument has been that massacres occurred on both sides during the First World War, and that, to the extent that Armenians were targets of Turkish or Muslim violence, this was due to Armenian provocations and not to a policy of genocide.

The Turkish “provocation thesis” blames the Armenian victims for the genocide, asserting that Armenian peasants living in the eastern vilayets (provinces of the empire) had nationalist aspirations and were thus prepared to join the Russian invaders at the beginning of World War I. Further, these Armenians aspired to carve out an independent Armenia in eastern Anatolia, and this, according to the thesis, would spell the demise of Turkey.

Though there were individual survivors, by the end of that period, the Armenian community in Anatolia had been essentially destroyed.

Armenians therefore had to be eliminated in order that Turkey might survive. What Turkish deniers leave out is any discussion of independent Turkish nationalist motivations or of policies that included the destruction of Christian minorities in the empire.

Even before the war, the Young Turks had advocated for the creation of a homogeneous Turkish and Muslim society from the multicultural mosaic of the Ottoman Empire. They felt that only a unified state could defend itself against the European Great Powers, and especially from the Russians, who in their view wanted to destroy Turkey. The Young Turks believed that though all Christian minorities were obstacles to Turkish unification, the Armenians in particular constituted a “problem” that needed to be solved. The Armenians living in eastern Anatolia could claim to be the original inhabitants of the area, preceding the Turkish invasion and settlement by centuries. They clung to their culture, language, and religion, and were unlikely to assimilate and become Muslim and Turkish. Moreover, the Armenian peasant masses were concentrated in regions of eastern Anatolia that bordered Russia. The Young Turks argued that, were there to be a Russian invasion, Armenians would support the enemy. World War I provided the Young Turks with the excuse and opportunity to “solve” the Armenian “problem.” That solution, involving deportations, mass starvation, and serial massacres, added up to genocide.

The history of the Armenian Genocide, like that of the Holocaust, and like all history, creates puzzles that seem never to be completely resolved. Meanwhile, for the survivors of the genocide, and for their children and grandchildren, that history is neither academic nor official; it is personal, and it hurts. It is even more traumatic when its truth is denied and its victims are insulted.

New York Times
April 21 2017
Battle Over Two Films Represents Turkey’s Quest to Control a Narrative

If history was any guide, the director Terry George figured there’d be weirdness around his new film, “ The Promise ,” about the Armenian genocide. Sure enough, he was right.

One of the actors, Daniel Giménez Cacho, said he was contacted before filming by a Turkish ambassador. Keeping in line with Turkey’s official stance, the diplomat insisted that the genocide, in which nearly 1.5 million Armenians were killed, had never occurred. After the movie’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, it racked up 55,000 lowly one-star votes on the Internet Movie Database, which is quite something considering only a few thousand people had actually seen it at the three public screenings.

And then, six weeks before “The Promise” hit theaters this weekend came another film that shared uncanny parallels. Like “The Promise,” “ The Ottoman Lieutenant ” hinges on a love triangle set in Turkey during the early days of World War I. Unlike “The Promise,” “The Ottoman Lieutenant,” which stars Michiel Huisman and Josh Hartnett, was backed by Turkish investors and has been pilloried by critics for whitewashing historical events. 

The battle over these two new films represents just the latest front in Turkey’s quest to control the historical narrative. In 1915, Ottoman Turks, fearful that the restive Christian Armenian population would side against them in the war, began massacring Armenians and force-marching them to their deaths. The United Nations, the Catholic Church, the European Parliament, historians and scholars have roundly recognized the atrocities as a genocide, the 20th century’s first.

But Turkey has insisted that many people, both Turkish and Armenian, carried out — and bore the brunt of — wartime horrors, and that no concerted extermination effort existed. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, acknowledged in 2014 that Armenians had “lost their lives” and sent condolences to their descendants. But he implied that they were victims of a war in which all Ottoman citizens had suffered — rather than the victims of a genocide.

“The Ottoman Lieutenant” which tells of a dashing Turkish officer who helps save imperiled Armenians — while carrying on with an American nurse — reinforces that debunked Turkish narrative, detractors say. The American Hellenic Council, calling for a boycott, said the film was plainly aimed at undercutting “The Promise,” and falsely painted the genocide as two-sided.

“It’s a sort of mirror image of our film, but with a totally denialist perspective,” said Mr. George, adding that he suspects the Erdogan government had a hand in the rival film.

Yet as it turns out, there was bitter division among key players on “The Ottoman Lieutenant,” both during production and after. According to several people familiar with the project, Turkish producers oversaw the final cut, without the director’s knowledge.

The people familiar with the project said that tensions emerged on the “Ottoman” set after producers pushed to minimize depictions of Turkish violence against Armenians. Several people who worked on the project felt the final version butchered the film artistically, and smacked of denialism: Dialogue that explicitly referred to systematic mass killing had been stripped out. The director, Joseph Ruben, who refused to comment for this article, ended up doing no publicity for the film.

“As we were making the film, he always knew they could control the editing room, so this was a tightrope that he had to walk,” said Michael Steele, a first assistant director and producer on the film, referring to the Turkish producers. “Joe was so enraged by their version of events he attempted to take his name off the film, but he realized contractually he was obliged to remain silent.”

The producers, distributor and lead actors in “The Ottoman Lieutenant,” which according to has taken in just $241,000 since its release in March, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. 
The struggles over the two films are the latest in a series of attempts by Turkish interests to absolve their country of responsibility for the genocide, efforts that go back decades and have extended to Hollywood.

In the 1930s, MGM scuttled a plan to make a movie about the killings after Turkey exerted intense pressure on the State Department and the studio itself. When the Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, who is of Armenian descent, was making “Ararat,” his 2002 film about the genocide, he was deluged with threats and told that Armenians in Turkey might be harmed as a result. An ultranationalist group later threatened Turkish theaters planning to show the film, resulting in canceled screenings.

“The Promise,” which stars Oscar Isaac as an Armenian medical student and Christian Bale as an American journalist, was unfettered by studio pressures. The film’s financier was Kirk Kerkorian , the colorful Hollywood mogul and casino magnate, and the son of poor Armenian immigrants, who before his death in 2015 at 98, pledged $100 million toward the film, making it the biggest budget picture about the genocide yet.

“He felt if we don’t shine a light, we’re doomed,” said Eric Esrailian, a lead producer with Survival Pictures, Mr. Kerkorian’s production company.

Still, precautions were taken. Mr. George, whose credits include “Hotel Rwanda” (2004), said he ensured that “The Promise” was made under the radar, with no publicity. Production took place in Portugal, Malta and Spain, and there was tight security on the set.

Joe Berlinger, who embedded with the “Promise” production to shoot a documentary about the genocide, said everyone on the set was concerned about safety. “A lot of that is overblown — I think we’ve gone from historical assassinations to digital assassinations,” he said. “But we all had this nebulous fear.”

Mr. Berlinger said he repeatedly reached out to Turkish officials for his documentary, “Intent to Destroy,” and was eventually invited to Ankara for meetings on the condition that he not bring recording devices or his crew. The Turks also refused to say who he’d be speaking with. He demurred. (The film is to play the Tribeca Film Festival next week.)

“I felt like it would be a useless trip and one that was potentially dangerous, frankly,” Mr. Berlinger said. It was in “Intent to Destroy” that the actor Mr. Giménez Cacho revealed that a Turkish ambassador had bombarded him with denialist propaganda, which Mr. Berlinger believes is part of a Turkish campaign to discourage people from tackling projects related to the genocide.

Whether “The Promise” does well or not at the box office this weekend, it continues to garner attention. In the week leading up to its release, it racked up thousands more votes on . It’s at 126,000 votes and counting, largely split between 1-star and 10-star ratings. And last week, Kim Kardashian West, arguably the world’s most famous Armenian American, tweeted her support of the film, having visited Armenia in 2015 to highlight the genocide.

There are no plans yet to release “The Promise” in Turkey (“The Ottoman Lieutenant” will open there May 19 ). Either way, Taner Akcam, a leading historian on the genocide and a professor at Clark University, said that officials there might characterize it as Armenian propaganda made with Armenian money, if they say anything at all. “Silence, this is their usual strategy,” he said.

“The Promise” opens this weekend by design. April 24 marks the 102nd anniversary of the first stage of the genocide, when hundreds of Armenian intellectuals were arrested in Istanbul, a date Armenians worldwide commemorate each year.

“The genocide is burned into the soul of the Armenian diaspora,” Mr. George said. “And until they get some kind of recognition, it’s not going to go away.”

The filmmaker Joe Berlinger, seen here in New York in 2012, embedded with “The Promise” during its production for his documentary, “Intent to Destroy,” about the Armenian genocide. On the set, he said, “We all had this nebulous fear.”

New York Times
‘Sherlock Holmes of Armenian Genocide’ Uncovers Lost Evidence

For more than a century, Turkey has denied any role in organizing the killing of Armenians in what historians have long accepted as a genocide that started in 1915, as World War I spread across continents. The Turkish narrative of denial has hinged on the argument that the original documents from postwar military tribunals that convicted the genocide’s planners were nowhere to be found.

Now, Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who has studied the genocide for decades by piecing together documents from around the world to establish state complicity in the killings, says he has unearthed an original telegram from the trials, in an archive held by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

“Until recently, the smoking gun was missing,” Mr. Akcam said. “This is the smoking gun.” He called his find “an earthquake in our field,” and said he hoped it would remove “the last brick in the denialist wall.”

The story begins in 1915 in an office in the Turkish city of Erzurum, when a high-level official of the Ottoman Empire punched out a telegram in secret code to a colleague in the field, asking for details about the deportations and killings of Armenians in eastern Anatolia, the easternmost part of contemporary Turkey. Continue reading the main story

Later, a deciphered copy of the telegram helped convict the official, Behaeddin Shakir, for planning what scholars have long acknowledged and Turkey has long denied: the organized killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians by the leaders of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, an atrocity widely recognized as the 20th century’s first genocide.

And then, just like that, most of the original documents and sworn testimony from the trials vanished, leaving researchers to rely mostly on summaries from the official Ottoman newspaper.

Mr. Akcam said he had little hope that his new finding would immediately change things, given Turkey’s ossified policy of denial and especially at a time of political turmoil when its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has turned more nationalist.

But Mr. Akcam’s life’s work has been to puncture, fact by fact, document by document, the denials of Turkey.

“My firm belief as a Turk is that democracy and human rights in Turkey can only be established by facing history and acknowledging historic wrongdoings,” he said. Continue reading the main story

The gutted and abandoned interior of an Armenian monastery, north of Diyarbakir, Turkey, which, according to locals, is now used to house livestock. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

He broadened his point to argue that much of the chaos gripping the Middle East today was a result of mistrust between communities over historical wrongdoings that no one is willing to confront.

“The past is not the past in the Middle East,” he said. “This is the biggest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East.”

Eric D. Weitz, a history professor at the City College of New York and an expert on the Armenian genocide, called Mr. Akcam “the Sherlock Holmes of Armenian genocide.”

“He has piled clue upon clue upon clue,” Professor Weitz added.

Exactly where the telegram was all these years, and how Mr. Akcam found it, is a story in itself. With Turkish nationalists about to seize the country in 1922, the Armenian leadership in Istanbul shipped 24 boxes of court records to England for safekeeping.

The records were kept there by a bishop, then taken to France and, later, to Jerusalem. They have remained there since the 1930s, part of a huge archive that has mostly been inaccessible to scholars, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Mr. Akcam said he had tried for years to gain access to the archive, with no luck.

Instead, he found a photographic record of the Jerusalem archive in New York, held by the nephew of a Armenian monk, now dead, who was a survivor of the genocide.

While researching the genocide in Cairo in the 1940s, the monk, Krikor Guerguerian, met a former Ottoman judge who had presided over the postwar trials. The judge told him that many of the boxes of case files had wound up in Jerusalem, so Mr. Guerguerian went there and took pictures of everything.

The telegram was written under Ottoman letterhead and coded in Arabic lettering; four-digit numbers denoted words. When Mr. Akcam compared it with the known Ottoman Interior Ministry codes from the time, found in an official archive in Istanbul, he found a match, raising the likelihood that many other telegrams used in the postwar trials could one day be verified in the same way.

For historians, the court cases were one piece of a mountain of evidence that emerged over the years — including reports in several languages from diplomats, missionaries and journalists who witnessed the events as they happened — that established the historical fact of the killings and qualified them as a genocide.

Turkey has long resisted the word genocide, saying that the suffering of the Armenians had occurred during the chaos of a world war in which Turkish Muslims faced hardship, too. Photo

Tripods used for hanging people during the Armenian genocide that started in 1915. Credit Culture Club/Getty Images

Turkey also claimed that the Armenians were traitors, and had been planning to join with Russia, then an enemy of the Ottoman Empire.

That position is deeply entwined in Turkish culture — it is standard in school curriculums — and polling has shown that a majority of Turks share the government’s position.

“My approach is that as much proof as you put in front of denialists, denialists will remain denialists,” said Bedross Der Matossian, a historian at the University of Nebraska and the author of “Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire.”

The genocide is commemorated each year on April 24, the day in 1915 that a group of Armenian notables from Istanbul were rounded up and deported.

It was the start of the enormous killing operation, which involved forced marches into the Syrian desert, summary executions and rapes.

Two years ago, Pope Francis referred to the killings as a genocide and faced a storm of criticism from within Turkey. Many countries, including France, Germany and Greece, have recognized the genocide, each time provoking diplomatic showdowns with Turkey.

The United States has not referred to the episode as genocide, out of concerns for alienating Turkey, a NATO ally and a partner in fighting terrorism in the Middle East. Barack Obama used the term when he was a candidate for president, but he refrained from doing so while in office.

This year, dozens of congressional leaders have signed a letter urging President Trump to recognize the genocide.

But that is unlikely, especially after Mr. Trump recently congratulated Mr. Erdogan for winning expanded powers in a referendum that critics say was marred by fraud.

Mr. Shakir, the Ottoman official who wrote the incriminating telegram discovered by Mr. Akcam, had fled the country by the time the military tribunal convicted him and sentenced him to death in absentia.

A few years later, he was gunned down in the streets of Berlin by two Armenian assassins described in an article by The New York Times as “slim, undersized, swarthy men lurking in a doorway.”
Christian Bale historic romance The Promise is targeted by Turkish online trolls who deny the Armenian genocide
Raf Sanchez
21 APRIL 2017 

The makers of The Promise, a Hollywood film about the Armenian genocide, knew their movie would not go down well in Turkey, where acknowledging the mass slaughter is illegal.

What they didn’t expect was tens of thousands of negative reviews from people claiming to have seen the film - before it was even released.

The Christian Bale picture appears to be the target of a concerted campaign by Turkish cyber trolls who hope to destroy it before it is widely released in cinemas.

The film currently has more than 120,000 reviews on, the online movie ranking website. That is almost double the number of reviews for Beauty and the Beast, which was released last month and seen by millions around the world.

The online onslaught appears to have been directed partly from places like Incisozluk, an anarchic Turkish forum where digital trolling campaigns are often marshaled.

Several pages urged their followers to head to IMDB and give The Promise one star out of ten, the lowest rating possible.

“This a lesson that you don't f*** with Turks. We'll kick your a****! This is just a start,” wrote one user.

“F****** liars made a movie about so-called Armenian genocide,” wrote another. “Please if you have a membership vote one star.”

Mike Medavoy, producer of The Promise, said those complaining about the film should "move on" and accept historical fact.

"I couldn't understand why this film hadn't been made before," he told The Telegraph. "Now I know."

Mr Medavoy, who as vice president of production for Universal was responsible for films such as Rocky, Terminator and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, said he did not anticipate so strong a backlash against this film.

Charlie Chaplin was once in talks to tell the story, he later found out, but the film was dropped under Turkish pressure.

"And nowadays it's perhaps even more relevant - with what's going on in Syria. There are people who still deny the Holocaust, too."

The 67-year-old producer, whose films with his own company include Black Swan, Shutter Island and The Thin Red Line, said he was not aware of the sensitivities before he embarked on the film, but "knew there would be some issues" when the film team came to him with the idea.

He was not warned off the film, though.

"If they did, they'd have gotten to the wrong guy," he said.

The campaign seems to have worked but also triggered an equal and opposite backlash from Armenians and other supporters of the film. Out of the 126,000 ratings on the site 63,000 of them are ten stars and 61,000 are one star. There are barely any rankings inbetween.

“Very proud there is a movie coming out about the Armenian genocide,” wrote one user who gave it a ten-star rating. “My great grandparents survived this genocide and went through hell.”

The £78 million movie was bankrolled by Kerkor Kerkorian, an Armenian-American businessman who was determined to spread awareness of the genocide even if the film did not make profit. It is directed by Terry George, an Irish filmmaker who also directed Hotel Rwanda, about the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The Promise stars Bale as an American reporter who covers the killing and Oscar Isaac as a young Armenian medical student who gets caught up in the slaughter.

Around 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by Turkish soldiers and mobs in the final days of the Ottoman empire. In 1914 there were around two million Armenians living in Ottoman-controlled territory. By 1922, after years of killings and displacement, there were fewer than 400,000.

Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale are part of a love triangle in the film CREDIT: JOSE HARO/OPEN ROAD FILMS VIA AP

Turkish citizens can be prosecuted for talking about the genocide and no US president has ever formally acknowledged the slaughter out of fear of angering Turkey, a Nato ally. Barack Obama promised he would recognise the genocide when he was a candidate but backtracked on the promise once he was elected.

A Turkish-funded film called The Ottoman Lieutenant was released several weeks ago and appears to be an effort to counterbalance The Promise.

Both films feature are set in the same period and centre around a love triangle but the Ottoman Lieutenant, which features Ben Kingsley, portrays the genocide as a series of sporadic killings rather than an organised campaign by the Ottoman government.

Mr George, the director of The Promise, called The Ottoman Lieutenant "an alternative fact-type smokescreen".

“It’s not hard to see the motivation. Clearly, they had to have gotten wind of us making this film,” he told Hollywood Reporter.

Bale has been outspoken about the genocide since becoming involved in the film and said it was “tragically relevant” at a time when the Islamic State (Isil) is trying to wipe out Yazidis, Christians and other minorities.

Asked what he would say to Turks who denied that the genocide ever took place, Bale told MovieWeb: “There's a false debate that's been created, like climate change. As though there's strong evidence on one side, as on the other. There isn't. There isn't just as strong an argument. The evidence backs up the fact that it was a genocide.”

Yahoo! News
April 21 2017
Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac's 'The Promise' Headed for Epic Box-Office Meltdown: Forecasters
Nick Schager  
Epic starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac , helmed by a critically respected director like Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) would seem like a decent bet with mainstream moviegoers. And yet this Friday’s debut of The Promise is shaping up to be a big loser on the balance sheet, at least according to this weekend’s box office preview at The Hollywood Reporter .

In her forecast, THR ’s Pamela McClintock writes that things are looking exceedingly bleak for the Bale-Isaac romantic drama, which is set against the backdrop of Armenian genocide. Produced for $100 million by the late Kirk Kerkorian via his Survival Pictures, The Promise is predicted to net only about $4 million domestically, which — considering what that means for its prospects in subsequent weeks — is a doomsday scenario. While producers are downplaying such a situation, claiming that what’s really important is that all theatrical receipts go toward funding nonprofits (including Elton John’s AIDS foundation ), there’s no way to truly sugarcoat its expected box-office crash and burn.

Eric Esrailian, now in charge at Survival, told THR where he places the blame: “It became clear that the government of Turkey was going to have an influence on this movie. One of the most insidious realities of our existence in the United States is that foreign governments can control art. I would say at the highest levels from different studios, we were just basically told that no matter how good the film would be, it was never going be released by certain companies. I think that that’s truly shameful, but it’s just a reality that we had to deal with.”

What’s left unsaid by Esrailian, however, is the more basic reality that, as large-scale film budgets soar, so too do the financial risks. Deadline recently reported that the Scarlett Johansson -led Ghost in the Shell remake stands to lose around $60 million (after costing close to $250 million to make/promote). And both Ghost in the Shell and The Promise come on the heels of a 2016 in which numerous tentpole spectaculars took a huge financial bath , including Alice Through the Looking Glass (estimated $70 million loss), Allied (somewhere in the $75M-$90M range), The BFG (close to $100 million), and Ben-Hur (as much as $120 million).

That studio filmmaking is a dicey financial proposition is nothing new; movie moguls have been producing epic flops for decades. But with costs only on the rise, films like The Promise may soon become gambles that make even the most spendthrift of financiers think twice.

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