Raising Awareness Through Art

The Promise Institute owes its founding to Dr. Eric Esrailian, producer of the film The Promise. As the first feature film to tell the story of the Armenian Genocide, The Promise is a powerful example of the way art can connect history to action. The Armenian Genocide began in 1915, and in time more than 1.5 million people would perish in an atrocity driven by ethnic and religious intolerance.

Following the film’s premiere, Dr. Esrailian and fellow producer Anthony Mandekic used the film’s proceeds to launch our Institute. “The Promise Institute is so named because we are making the promise to refugees and people suffering from injustice that we will create the tools and train the people to address these crises.”

Actor Oscar Isaac in a still from the film The Promise

The film was directed by Terry George (director and co-writer of Hotel Rwanda) and stars Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Angela Sarafyan and an international cast. Esrailian produced The Promise with Phoenix Pictures chairman and fellow UCLA alumnus Mike Medavoy and veteran film producer William Horberg.

Esrailian and Anthony Mandekic, formerly president and CEO of Tracinda Corporation, were also the co-managers of Survival Pictures, which was founded by the late Los Angeles businessman and legendary philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian. Survival Pictures was specifically established to tell this story of perseverance and human endurance, its complementary documentary Intent to Destroy, and to secure U.S. government recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The films, and the accompanying social impact campaign, were used by human rights activists and advocates to finally accomplish this goal in 2021.

“In this project, we are carrying on the work of Mr. Kerkorian, creating positive social impact and informing people around the world about atrocities, and our shared responsibility to recognize and prevent them.”

Dr. Eric Esrailian, Producer, The Promise
Learn More About the Making of “The Promise”
Behind-the-scenes still from production of "The Promise" - a cameraman captures a bonfire of Armenian's possessions as they were forced to flee because of the impending genocide
Filming on set of a bonfire destroying the possessions of Armenians who were forced to flee in hopes of surviving the approaching horrors. Though the term “genocide” was not used at the time, the attacks on Armenians constituted genocide and campaigns for recognition are ongoing some 100+ years later.
Charlotte LeBon and Oscar Isaac in a still from the film "The Promise"
Actors Charlotte LeBon and Oscar Isaac shown during a scene on Musa Dagh – the mountain where 5,000 Armenians fleeing genocide held out against attacks for 53 days in 1915.
A still from the film "The Promise"
A work camp was recreated for the film, highlighting how the barbaric cruelty of the practice predated both World Wars and featured in the Armenian Genocide.

Behind-the-Scenes Documentary

A sister documentary to The Promise was produced alongside the film: directed by Joe Berlinger, Intent to Destroy captures the cinematic and political challenges of producing a historically meaningful, big-budget feature film in an environment rife with political suppression and threats of retaliation.

Poster for the Documentary film Intent to Destroy.
Learn More About the Documentary