Terry George hopes Genocide film will help people accept history

Terry George hopes Genocide film will help people accept history

PanARMENIAN.Net - In an interview published on Thursday, September 8, Variety spoke with director Terry George about his recent movie “The Promise”, one of the hottest titles to be screened at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, and which could incite controversy over its portrayal of the Armenian Genocide.

George earned critical raves with 2004’s “Hotel Rawanda,” an unflinching portrait of courage in the face of human cruelty that nabbed Oscar nominations for its script and for stars Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo. Now, the Irish screenwriter and director is shining a light on another dark chapter in history with “The Promise.”

The drama stars Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, and Charlotte Le Bon as the various points in a romantic triangle between a medical student, a journalist, and a woman during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire.

Asked why he decided to dramatize history surrounding the Genocide through a love story, George said: “All the great films like “Dr. Zhavago” or “Reds” tell a personal story, and a love story seemed like a great way to take people through an event that is alien to them. Producing a piece of entertainment is an effective way to educate people. Even “Hotel Rawanda” was essentially a love story between Paul [Rusesabagina] and [his wife] Tatiana set inside a bigger political context. Robin Swicord’s script [for “The Promise”] was a straightforward love story, and I introduced the notion of a love triangle.”

As to why the Obama administration won’t acknowledge that this was genocide, the director cited Turkey’s strategic power as the main obstacle.

“Obama promised the Armenian community that he would when he was running for election and he reneged on that promise. But successive American governments have failed to, as well. First it was the Cold War and Turkey’s position on the Soviet border made it vital. Now it is essentially the borderline between Europe and Asia, and the war with ISIS and the war in Syria, which gives Turkey a lot of control over how this story is told.”

George said he hopes his film will make people come to terms with history. It’s one of the great forgotten catastrophes of the 20th century, he said, adding that the word genocide was coined to describe what happened to the Armenian community.

“I’m not sure that [stage protests when the film screens at Toronto] is on their radar yet. I’m sure that the Turkish government will react the same way that they react when the anniversary of the genocide rolls around every year, which is to deny it,” he said.

Addressing the difficulty he faces making challenging movies in popcorn-obsessed Hollywood, the helmer expressed hope that studios commit resources to making serious dramas.

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