Dr. Eric Esrailian can now make a glamorous addition to his CV: movie producer. The UCLA gastroenterologist played a major role in bring to the screen the “The Promise,” a historical drama about the Armenian genocide starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac.
The film centers on the horror that struck the Armenian people in 1915, when an estimated 1.5 million were exterminated in a wave of nationalism that swept through the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The Armenian Christians were thought to be aligned with the enemy Russians. To this day, Turkey denies the genocide occurred.
“There are numerous reasons why a film like that has not been made by Hollywood over the past century,” Esrailian told the Nation in an interview, “It is not as though people have avoided spending money producing other films for all these years. All elements—from studios to producers to actors to crew—have felt pressure or intimidation in one form or another.”
Armenian-American business mogul and friend of Esrailian Kirk Kerkorian first conceived of the project in 2010, but it didn't acquired real momentum until 2012 when Kerkorian set up Survival Pictures. When he passed away in 2015, the torch fell to Esrailian to ensure the project's survival, a task he did not take lightly.
“We wanted to carefully find the right people—committed people with sincere intentions in their hearts—to come together,” Esrailian said. “Thankfully, we were successful, and the result has been everything we hoped for. In addition, we also grew together as a family of people, both in front of and behind the camera. The entire project is thanks to the courage and dedication of Kirk Kerkorian, and people around the world will be thanking him for generations to come.”
The film premiered last September at the Toronto International Film Festival, and will be widely released in the U.S. on April 21.