FF73 - The Promise

Intro by Ben Harrison

If you don't know much about the Armenian Genocide there is a reason for that: Suppression of this atrocity has been going on for more than 100 years. People throw around the word "allegedly" to give themselves cover for accusations that may be problematic or legally actionable. At its most trivial you see the word used in newspaper stories about celebrity scandals, other times you'll see it wielded in a geopolitical arena. There it is far more destructive.

It all started with the Ottoman government arresting Armenian intellectuals and community leaders. The Turks deported and eventually murdered 1.5 million Armenians through forced labor, starvation, and death marches. This was after being robbed and raped, so pretty much the blackout bingo of atrocities - allegedly. Anyway, the reason you may not know about this moment in history is that the Turkish government, along with many others, has denied what happened was a genocide, insisting that the deaths were not deliberate or systematically orchestrated, but just a consequence of mass-relocation or deportation.

And look: It was the run-up to World War I, so you can't just have a bunch of Russian sympathizers in your midst, right? But while the attempt at Armenian extermination was unsuccessful, there is a different kind of erasure going on today, and that is the denial that these crimes against humanity existed in the first place. As the Armenian diaspora grows in communities around the world, the survivors and their descendants aren't even given the dignity of that recognition.

It is one thing to try and end the existence of another culture, to deny having done so on the basis of a semantic argument is just insulting. It is not like it is ignored everywhere: 29 countries and 48 of these United States recognize the Armenian Genocide as a bona fide historical event, but Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States as a country do not. Give it up for states rights, I guess?

It is against the backdrop of this event that The Promise takes place, a 2016 film directed by Terry George. It depicts the atrocities with unflinching clarity and gives us three composite characters through which to experience it in the configuration of a love triangle: Christian Bale is Chris, an AP reporter. Charlotte Le Bon is Ana, a worldly governess who has lived in Paris, and Oscar Isaac is Mikael, a country boy who has moved to Constantinople to study to become a doctor.

And before we get too far from it, can we just talk about triangles for a moment? Wouldn't it seem as though in a love triangle each point would be in love with the other? While Chris Myers and Mikael Boghosian are both in love with Ana, you don't see Chris and Mikael having smoochy feelings toward each other. Does that make this an isosceles love triangle? A scaling love triangle? I don't know how math works!

Anyways, these three interact with the atrocity in different ways. If it weren't for the love that Chris has for Ana, his Armenian lady friend, his job and his ethnicity would almost certainly keep him at a safe remove. As for Ana: her idealism keeps her in the center of the conflict as does her growing love for Mikael, our main character. For him the violence visits unendingly, his grief and anger growing with everything he witnesses, but in the end: Can this doctor take a life after pledging to a life of saving them?

Our revenge will be to survive on today's Friendly Fire as we watch a film they don't want you to see: The Promise.

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