From left, David Furnish, Dr. Eric Esrailian, Sir Elton John

Elton John Presents ‘The Promise’ at His Academy Awards Party

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HOLLYWOOD — At the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF)’s 25th annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on Sunday, February 26, at West Hollywood Park, Sir Elton John and his husband, David Furnish, introduced Open Road and Survival Pictures’ new film, “The Promise,” which tells the story of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey at the outset of World War I. Written by Terry George and Robin Swicord and directed by Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”), “The Promise” stars Oscar Issac, Christian Bale and Charlotte Le Bon.

“We have only to look at the horrific HIV/AIDS outbreak that followed in the wake of the Rwandan genocide in the mid-1990s to understand the direct connection between human rights atrocities and public health crises like the AIDS epidemic,” said EJAF Founder Elton John. “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. The film’s theme #KeepThePromise can be interpreted as keeping the promise to remember and learn from the atrocities of the past, as well as keeping the promise to end AIDS. 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. We are honored to share the important timing of our Oscar-night event to introduce people to ‘The Promise.’”

Speaking on Monday, February 27, Esraliaian said, “I became friends with Elton and David because of Vatche and Tamar Manoukian so it all comes back to Armenians supporting one another again. When discussing the concept of art for social impact and sharing our story, Elton and David suggested using their legendary Oscar party as a way of launching the film into the entertainment world consciousness at the conclusion of award season. Now in for the next few months, we can try to put the focus on this historic project which is unprecedented on so many levels. It was a tremendous honor and we are just getting started. The official trailer will be in theaters beginning March 3!”

In addition to sharing EJAF’s vision for championing human rights, “The Promise” team at Survival Pictures has taken the unprecedented step of making the commitment to donate all proceeds from the film to nonprofit organizations including EJAF and other human rights and humanitarian groups. As part of this commitment and to inspire Party guests to give generously, Survival Pictures matched the pledges guests made to EJAF via text and live auction purchases made during EJAF’s Academy Awards Viewing Party.

“Such giving has never happened with a film of this scale, we wanted the world to know about it, and we are incredibly grateful,” said EJAF Chairman David Furnish. “We are honored to announce this generosity, thanks to the late philanthropist and humanitarian Kirk Kerkorian, on the eve of EJAF’s 25th annual Academy Awards Viewing Party. Not only is ‘The Promise’ committing to support EJAF’s work, but matching funds will be provided to inspire donors even more throughout the event and live auction.”

Survival Pictures has also developed a social impact campaign for “The Promise” to help educate the global public about the genocides and mass atrocities of the 20th and 21st centuries, the discussion about the legal definition of genocide, and historical denialism. The impact campaign will inform and inspire people to take action so they become part of the anti-genocide movement led by human rights organizations like EJAF as well as change-makers dedicated to ending crimes against humanity and bringing perpetrators to justice.

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The film sets a love story in the midst of the growing unrest in 1914 Turkey leading up to the horrors of the Armenian Genocide. As the Great War looms, the mighty Ottoman Empire is crumbling. Constantinople, the once vibrant, multicultural capital on the shores of the Bosporus, is about to be consumed by chaos. Michael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac) arrives in the cosmopolitan hub as a medical student determined to bring modern medicine back to Siroun, his ancestral village in Southern Turkey where Turkish Muslims and Armenian Christians have lived side by side for centuries. Photo-journalist Chris Myers (Christian Bale) has come here only partly to cover geo-politics. He is mesmerized by his love for Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), an Armenian artist he has accompanied from Paris after the sudden death of her father. When Michael meets Ana, their shared Armenian heritage sparks an attraction that explodes into a romantic rivalry between the two men. As the Turks form an alliance with Germany and the Empire turns violently against its own ethnic minorities, their conflicting passions must be deferred while they join forces to survive even as events threaten to overwhelm them. Promises are made and promises are broken. The one promise that must be kept is to live on and tell the story.

“The Armenian Genocide must, of course, never be forgotten and should be recognized, but our current headlines show that the same patterns of human rights violations are being replicated in too many parts of the world today,” said Esrailian. “We are honored to have the support of Elton, David, and the entire EJAF family, and by joining forces, we can help the people in the world who need assistance right now.”