Thomas Logoreci
Filmmaker, writer and sometime festival programmer living in Tirana, Albania.

ARMENIAN GENOCIDE: Essential documentary fact checks Turkey’s sinister record of historical erasure.

Intent To Destroy

Joe Berlinger

Survival Pictures, 2017, 1h 55min.

“Who, today, remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?” is a quote attributed to Adolf Hitler as the Nazis prepared for the total destruction of the European Jews. Yet an online search for the exact wording of this 1939 quote reveals numerous websites either claiming Hitler never spoke these words or that the Armenian Genocide didn’t actually occur.

Intent to Destroy

One hundred years after 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by the Turkish Ottoman Empire, Academy Award nominated documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Paradise Lost) uncovers the profoundly bitter truth behind Turkey’s continual campaign of genocide denial.

The authoritarian regime of Turkish leader Recep Erdogan routinely spends millions in public relations fees to deny the Armenian Genocide, a carefully planned mass killing that calls into question modern Turkey’s very existence. Berlinger’s Intent to Destroy chronicles the systematic elimination of the Christian Armenians, and the manner this highly charged history has been depicted (and sometimes not depicted), particularly in the movies.

The film’s opening third comprehensively details the calculated deportations and death marches that nearly wiped out Turkey’s Armenian population from 1915 to 1923, the first time twentieth century means were utilized to eradicate a population. Berlinger’s assortment of historians makes the compelling case that the seizure of Armenian property and wealth paved the way for the creation of a Turkish upper and middle class.

Intent to Destroy structures this complex narrative by very effectively framing it within the making of a big budget Hollywood film about the Armenian Genocide. Joe Berlinger managed to embed himself on the set of The Promise, a one hundred million dollar dramatic epic, ambitiously touted as the Armenian Schindler’s List, directed by Oscar winner Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) and starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac.

Intent to Destroy

Owing to Turkey’s powerful denial machine, The Promise was shot in Spain, Portugal and Malta substituting for turn of the twentieth century Ottoman Empire. Though director George tried to keep the production low profile during filming, Turkey still does its best to make its menacing presence known. After Spanish actor Daniel Gimenez Cacho casually announces in a red carpet interview he’s been cast to play an Armenian priest in The Promise, Spain’s Turkish ambassador summons Cacho for a meeting in order to present him with a few handy volumes of denialist propaganda.

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