Genocide Film Attacked With 55,105 One-Star Ratings After Only 3 Screenings

October 24th, 2016 11:20 AM

It has been more than five weeks since The Promise debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, but the independently financed historical romance has yet to secure a distributor. Producer Eric Esrailian believes the reason is Turkey’s strong genocide denialist lobby.

Hollywood has generally not shied away from portraying genocide stories on film, but that rule has not applied to the 1915–1922 Armenian massacre. Because Turkey continues to deny its culpability for the 1.5 million deaths that resulted from the conflict, any media discussion of the historical period is often fraught with tension.

According to Variety film reporter Brent Lang, this controversy may explain the reason that distributors have balked at picking up the film which follows a love triangle set in the Ottoman Empire on the brink of the genocide. “I’ll just say that there are some studios that have business interests in Turkey, and you can form your own opinion,” Esrailian told Lang.

The film’s producers also believe that the denialist lobby has skewed ratings downward on IMDb – a database that allows viewers to evaluate films. “The day after we screened the movie, 70,000 people went on IMDb and said they didn’t like the movie,” explained co-producer Mike Medavoy. “There’s no way that many people saw the movie after one screening. There aren’t that many seats in the theater.”

Currently, after a total of only three screenings, the film has a whopping 86,553 ratings (to put that in perspective, according to Lang, 2016's highest grossing movie – Finding Dory  – has only 72,833). Nearly 64% of those ratings are one-star. Just over 35% are ten-star. It's clear to see that issues well beyond cinematographical quibbles are at play. 

Ararat, a 2002 genocide film that delved into the theme of denial, faced similar backlash. Disney-owned Miramax distributed the movie, but as a result, the entertainment company received thousands of negative emails that ended up crashing its website.

According to Ararat writer/director Atom Egoyan, the effort to air and discuss the events of 1915-1922 on film is going to be a “tough ride.” As far as The Promise is concerned, it doesn’t help that President Obama has neglected to keep his own promise to recognize the genocide.