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A couple of days ago, the big-budget drama The Promise was screened at The Vatican. Director Terry George, producer Eric Esrailian and some of the actors were at the screening, and Variety says the whole affair was “a clear sign of Catholic Church support ahead of the film’s upcoming U.S. release.”

Whether that means that the Catholic Church loves the movie, well, that’s perhaps not so clear. But to just screen the movie at all was indeed a strong statement that will ruffle feathers in Turkey.

The Promise, starring Oscar Isaac,  Charlotte le Bon and Oscar winner Christian Bale, takes place in cosmopolitan Constantinople at the dawn of World War I. While Christian Armenians had lived in peace for centuries in Constantinople and throughout Turkey, the war heralded a new, intolerant and tragic era as the ruling Ottoman Empire collapsed. About 1.5 million Armenians were said to have been killed during what’s known as the Armenian Genocide during and immediately after the war.

But Turkey has long denied that any such genocide ever took place, and its officials tend to bristle when anyone suggests that it did.

Take, for instance, when Pope Francis visited the closed border between Armenia and Turkey last year and wrote a touching missive in an Armenian memorial book. “Here I pray with sorrow in my heart so that a tragedy like this never again occurs, so that humanity will never forget and will know how to defeat evil with good,” he wrote. “May God protect the memory of the Armenian people. Memory should never be watered-down or forgotten. Memory is the source of peace and the future.”

Turkey issued a strong rebuttal, with Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli called the comments “greatly unfortunate” and saying they exhibited a “mentality of the Crusades.”

Clearly, the Vatican isn’t backing down.

Given Turkey’s denial that Armenians were purged during and after World War I, The Promise itself is a significant statement. It reportedly took about $100 million to make. And while early reviews haven’t been exactly glowing, I’m going to be interested to see it, particularly in how it deals with the religious tensions obviously in play.

Here, take a look at the trailer and see if you agree.

YouTube Preview Image

The Promise rolls wide April 21.



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