Story of Armenian genocide gets told on big screen

It’s a part of world history that's often ignored - the Armenian genocide. For the first time, it will be played out on the big screen “The Promise” opens Friday and is co-produced by an Armenian from San Mateo.

A San Mateo couple bought out a movie theater Thursday to share the film with their Armenian and non-Armenian friends for a special screening. The hope is to learn about this tragedy and to not forget.

Opening Friday, “The Promise" is the first Hollywood movie about the 1915 Armenian genocide.

“The Armenian genocide of 1915 has become one of political denial and it's one where we have a large population here in the United States and yet our own government won't recognize genocide,” said Ara Jabagchourian.

Ara and Lori Jabagchourian bought out the 282-seat theater to share a painful yet important part of their heritage. Their ancestors escaped the genocide.

“It’s become the forgotten genocide and it's unfortunate that such atrocities are occurring today,” said Lori Jabagchourian.

The historical drama is a love story set against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide. More than one million Armenians were murdered on orders of the Turkish government of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish government has yet to acknowledge the genocide, making the film difficult to finance and distribute. “The Promise” co-producer is San Mateo native Eric Esrailian.

“Both political, and I would say, social reasons is why the film has been denied, why the story has been denied and for so many years I think that was already a barrier to getting it off the ground,” said Esrailian.

Alex Bastian is a descendant of survivors of the Armenian genocide. He saw the film reliving his grandfather’s pain.

“Our wounds remain open until we do get recognition,” said Bastian. “It's not something that impacts the Armenian community. It's something that impacts all of humanity,” said Bastian.

“It’s a movie that we can show to the youth to the middle school,” said Grace Andonian, principal of KZV Armenian School.

The principal of the only Armenian school in Northern California plans to bring her students to watch it. All of them are hoping to raise awareness of an issue not many people know about.

“It was all new information to me,” said Derek Becker of San Francisco. “We have interesting political ties to Turkey There's always a desire to put it on the side table, but the fact of the matter is the word genocide was coined with the Armenians went through.”

The release comes as Armenians mark the 102nd anniversary of the genocide. All proceeds of the movie will be donated to nonprofits and charities around the world.