Influential Film Prompts Discussion on Genocide


On Memorial Day, Ellen Chestnut and Dee Kasabian sat down and shared their thoughts about the recently released movie The Promise. The film depicts a love triangle and portrays how people’s lives intertwine amidst the Armenian genocide. Chestnut and Kasabian have Armenian forebears who experienced the genocide. They described the film as “emotional and heart-rendering.” 

Chestnut and Kasabian explained that the Armenian genocide, which lasted from 1915 to 1923, was the Ottoman Empire’s attempt to forcefully deport and expel Armenians from present-day Turkey. Not unlike the deportation of Jews during the Holocaust, Armenians endured numerous abuses;  many died. Both said that religious differences and the need to finance the Empire’s involvement in World War I drove the Armenian genocide.  

According to Chestnut, there were also many small-scale genocides against Armenians in various places across Turkey. 

Chestnut said that the progression of key events in the film were accurate with their respective dates. She said, for instance, the day the actual genocide began matches the date shown in the film. The atrocities shown in The Promise are similar to those the Ottoman Empire committed during the actual genocide, Kasabian said. She pointed out that the government required Armenians to show their identification cards wherever they went, an action similar to the Germans forcing the Jews to wear a star in Germany. 

The film depicts forced labor and the arrest of intellectuals as ways to divide the group. 

Kasabian noted that Kirk Kerkorian funded the film, which was difficult to produce because of the political controversy surrounding the Armenian genocide. Kerkorian is an American businessman whose ancestors hailed from Armenia. He has provided more than $1 billion for charity in Armenia through his Lincy Foundation. The Promise is just one of 37 films made about the Armenian genocide, including 21 documentaries. 

“We both want to thank the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex for showing The Promise,” Chestnut and Kasabian said. A DVD of the film will be available in July. 

Chestnut said that to this day, the Turkish government questions the genocide’s existence. However, she alludes to the works of scholar and historian Taner Akcam, who studies the Armenian genocide and has done research proving its existence.

Furthermore, both said the movie evokes many memories about the stories their ancestors told about the genocide. Chestnut remembered her father telling her: “keep moving and never lose who you are.”

Ellen Chestnut is the author of Deli Sarkis: The Scars He Carried, the first-hand story of her father who witnessed the Armenian genocide.



Junlin “William” Chen is an Alameda Sun intern. He can be reached at