Armenian Genocide: ‘The Promise’ Truth, ‘Ottoman Lieutenant’ Lies, Per History [Opinion]

The Armenian genocide is a dark period in world history, and one that is systematically denied — to this day — by the Turkish government that perpetuated the crimes. There are two new films set against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide: The Promise, which will be released nationwide on April 20, and The Ottoman Lieutenant, out in limited release now. The Promise tells the truth about the historic events that took place in 1919; and the other, The Ottoman Lieutenant, plays fast and loose with the truth (in other words, it perpetuates falsehood).

Let’s take a look at how these two very different films deviate so different from the reality.

To understand where The Promise gets it right, and where The Ottoman Lieutenant gets it wrong, we have to go back in time and understand what, exactly, happened during the Armenian genocide.

According to the official website of the History Channel, in 1915, the Turkish government began expelling Armenians from the Ottoman Empire. Between massacres and deportations, all told, nearly 2 million Armenians were killed at the hands of Ottoman officials. To this day, Turkey systematically denies the genocide ever happened (calling the events, instead, “a consequence of war”) and the mere mention of the genocide in Turkey is illegal.

Despite the Turkish government’s systemic denial of the Armenian genocide, there was one man who sat up and took notice: Adolf Hitler.

In 1939, during the infamous Obersalzberg Speech — wherein, a week before the Nazis invaded Poland, Hitler detailed the systemic extermination of the Poles — Hitler himself mentioned where he got the idea for genocide from, and how he hoped that the end result would be the same for him.

“I have placed my death-head formation in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Hitler’s associates also confirmed that what the Fuhrer called “the Armenian solution,” in private, was his inspiration for the subsequent extermination of the Polish people.

And this is why The Promise — which stars Christian Bale, Charlotte LeBon, and Oscar Isaac — gets the details of the Armenian genocide right, while The Ottoman Lieutenant — whose biggest “star” is Josh Hartnett — gets it totally and completely wrong. The former tells a poignant love story set against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide, while the latter completely denies the Armenian genocide ever happened.

Writing for the Flick Filosopher, MaryAnn Johanson condemns The Ottoman Lieutenant, telling the filmmakers that they should “be ashamed of themselves” for their atrocious denials.

“This is a movie that is trying to change the past by erasing it, tweet by enshrining ‘alternative facts’ into cinematic history, and by distracting you from its denial with a nice white lady falling in love with a handsome and honorable soldier. This is a denial of genocide close to a par of that which denies WWII’s Holocaust of the Jews, and everyone involved in this production should be ashamed of themselves for abetting it.”

On the other hand, according to The Hollywood Reporter, The Promise has a very powerful Hollywood ally: Sir Elton John. In a statement about the film, John emphasized that he — and the Elton John AIDS Foundation — was pleased to stand behind such a powerful, accurate, and heartbreaking film.

“Through our friendships with the Manoukian family and producer Dr. Eric Esrailian from UCLA, David and I became more personally aware of the Armenian Genocide and its timely relevance to social issues today. At EJAF, we are committed to #KeepThePromise and raise awareness about this powerful film that uses classic storytelling to inspire people to take action today.”

In short, if you want to see the truth about the Armenian genocide, you need to see The Promise.

[Featured Image by The Toronto International Film Festival]