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‘We are still here’: The Promise

Tuesday 2 May 2017, by Lucineh Danielian

’We are still here’ are the final words uttered by Oscar Isaac in The Promise, which depicts the harrowing story of the Armenian genocide, the very first genocide of the twentieth century, yet a genocide still denied to this very day.

Set in 1915 Constantinople, it opens with a pleasant and colourful vista of Armenian tradition and culture, before taking a much darker turn with the lead up to the genocide. This film undeniably represents so much more to many people than mere Hollywood blockbuster fare.

What this film does so subtly is to portray the truth about the significant events of 1915, as what they have been proven to be time and time again: genocide. The Armenian genocide is and remains the first genocide of the twentieth century, yet is also one of the most hidden historical truths of the world of today, genocide that was committed through slaughter, abuse, power, violence, yet a genocide that continues to be denied. A genocide labeled a civil war, a clear denial of its true nature. A genocide said to be a lie, yet a further denial of the truth.

Yet The Promise does not seek to detail the slaughter of 1915. Rather, its objective is to inform, to educate and to share a piece of history of one nation through the characters portrayed by Oscar Isaac, Charlotte le Bon and Christian Bale, and the love triangle at play between them, as they are caught up in the violence.

There will be a lot of controversy around this film. This piece may provoke controversy in itself. After all, the film portrays a genocide denied by some of the most powerful countries in the world, including the Ottoman Empire itself, today’s Turkey, and their powerful allies. Yet director Terry George has dared to make a film avowedly calling the 1915 events a genocide so openly and internationally and this in itself is a definite sign of progress.

’Our revenge will be to survive’, so elegantly put by Charlotte le Bon, is a statement which went on to become reality, a reality that lives today through Armenian souls all over the world, fighting for justice to be heard. And in many ways, The Promise brings justice.

Of course, it will be up to viewers to make their own judgments, but going to see it will be a form of justice in itself. Why? Simply this:

1915, year of the Armenian genocide.

1915, survival of a nation.

One hundred and two years on, ’we are still here’.

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