Christian Bale historic romance The Promise is targeted by Turkish online trolls who deny the Armenian genocide

Raf Sanchez
Christian Bale stars in The Promise and has spoken out against denial of the Armenian genocide - Open Road Films

The makers of The Promise, a Hollywood film about the Armenian genocide, knew their movie would not go down well in Turkey, where acknowledging the mass slaughter is illegal.

What they didn’t expect was tens of thousands of negative reviews from people claiming to have seen the film - before it was even released.

The Christian Bale picture appears to be the target of a concerted campaign by Turkish cyber trolls who hope to destroy it before it is widely released in cinemas.

The film currently has more than 120,000 reviews on IMDB.com, the online movie ranking website. That is almost double the number of reviews for Beauty and the Beast, which was released last month and seen by millions around the world. 

Oscar Isaac also stars in the film Credit: Jose Haro/Open Road Films via AP

The online onslaught appears to have been directed partly from places like Incisozluk, an anarchic Turkish forum where digital trolling campaigns are often marshaled.  

Several pages urged their followers to head to IMDB and give The Promise one star out of ten, the lowest rating possible.  

“This a lesson that you don't f***  with Turks. We'll kick your a****! This is just a start,” wrote one user. 

“F****** liars made a movie about so-called Armenian genocide,” wrote another. “Please if you have a membership vote one star.”

Mike Medavoy, producer of The Promise, said those complaining about the film should "move on" and accept historical fact.

"I couldn't understand why this film hadn't been made before," he told The Telegraph. "Now I know."

Mr Medavoy, who as vice president of production for Universal was responsible for films such as Rocky, Terminator and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, said he did not anticipate so strong a backlash against this film.

Charlie Chaplin was once in talks to tell the story, he later found out, but the film was dropped under Turkish pressure.

"And nowadays it's perhaps even more relevant - with what's going on in Syria. There are people who still deny the Holocaust, too."

The 67-year-old producer, whose films with his own company include Black Swan, Shutter Island and The Thin Red Line, said he was not aware of the sensitivities before he embarked on the film, but "knew there would be some issues" when the film team came to him with the idea.

He was not warned off the film, though.

"If they did, they'd have gotten to the wrong guy," he said.

The campaign seems to have worked but also triggered an equal and opposite backlash from Armenians and other supporters of the film. Out of the 126,000 ratings on the site 63,000 of them are ten stars and 61,000 are one star. There are barely any rankings inbetween. 

“Very proud there is a movie coming out about the Armenian genocide,” wrote one user who gave it a ten-star rating. “My great grandparents survived this genocide and went through hell.”

The £78 million movie was bankrolled by Kerkor Kerkorian, an Armenian-American businessman who was determined to spread awareness of the genocide even if the film did not make profit. It is directed by Terry George, an Irish filmmaker who also directed Hotel Rwanda, about the 1994 Rwandan genocide. 

The Promise stars Bale as an American reporter who covers the killing and Oscar Isaac as a young Armenian medical student who gets caught up in the slaughter. 

Around 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by Turkish soldiers and mobs in the final days of the Ottoman empire. In 1914 there were around two million Armenians living in Ottoman-controlled territory. By 1922, after years of killings and displacement, there were fewer than 400,000

Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale are part of a love triangle in the film Credit: Jose Haro/Open Road Films via AP

Turkish citizens can be prosecuted for talking about the genocide and no US president has ever formally acknowledged the slaughter out of fear of angering Turkey, a Nato ally. Barack Obama promised he would recognise the genocide when he was a candidate but backtracked on the promise once he was elected. 

A Turkish-funded film called The Ottoman Lieutenant was released several weeks ago and appears to be an effort to counterbalance The Promise. 

Both films feature are set in the same period and centre around a love triangle but the Ottoman Lieutenant, which features Ben Kingsley, portrays the genocide as a series of sporadic killings rather than an organised campaign by the Ottoman government.   

Mr George, the director of The Promise, called The Ottoman Lieutenant "an alternative fact-type smokescreen".  

“It’s not hard to see the motivation. Clearly, they had to have gotten wind of us making this film,” he told Hollywood Reporter

Bale has been outspoken about the genocide since becoming involved in the film and said it was “tragically relevant” at a time when the Islamic State (Isil) is trying to wipe out Yazidis, Christians and other minorities. 

Asked what he would say to Turks who denied that the genocide ever took place, Bale told MovieWeb: “There's a false debate that's been created, like climate change. As though there's strong evidence on one side, as on the other. There isn't. There isn't just as strong an argument. The evidence backs up the fact that it was a genocide.”

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