Q&A with Armenian Author and Translator Ara Baliozian

Q&A with Armenian Author and Translator Ara Baliozian

Born in Athens, Greece and educated in Venice, Italy, Baliozian lives in Kitchener, Canada and is the recipient of many prizes and grants for his literary work.

For Artsakh

Thank you so much for unifying with us for a great and worthy cause.With your help we raised just over 28k, which we've rounded up to 30k.The total has now been sent to Armenia Fund, a humanitarian organization providing on the ground aid for the Republic of Artsakh.“Once we stand shoulder to shoulder, we can move mountains” Armenian proverb
BREAKING: Azerbaijan President Discovers Armenian Apricot in His Kitchen

BREAKING: Azerbaijan President Discovers Armenian Apricot in His Kitchen

On Wednesday afternoon proud owner of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev returned to this Baku apartment to find an Armenian apricot on his kitchen counter. Aliyev had just returned home from surfing in the Caspian Sea, when he came face to face with his least favourite fruit.
Transnational Solidarities: Angela Davis, Hrant Dink and the Armenian Genocide

Transnational Solidarities: Angela Davis, Hrant Dink and the Armenian Genocide

“Hrant Dink remains a potent symbol of the struggle against colonialism, genocide, and racism.” Those are the words of Angela Davis, renowned scholar, activist and Black civil rights icon. Now a professor emerita at the University of California Santa Cruz, Davis has re-emerged as a leading voice in the era of a burgeoning civil rights movement spurred on by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, calling the now global moment “extraordinary” and different to anything she’s experienced in the past.

Garry Charles

First Yerevan to Van Flight Takes Place

First Yerevan to Van Flight Takes Place

For a brief 35 minutes, it was as if the closed border between Turkey and Armenia did not exist: a direct flight took off in Yerevan and landed in Van, the first of its kind. It was an unprecedented journey from one current capital of Armenia to another, more historical one.
Armenians Gather to Protest Being Labelled Filthy

Armenians Gather to Protest Being Labelled Filthy

  On the evening of January 8th 2018, Comedian and host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah was accused of referring to Armenians as “filthy” in a joke made during his show.       The Glendale Police department were immediately notified. Officers spoke to eye witnesses who confirmed they had not seen anything because the punchline had gone over their head.  However, news of Armenians being un-clean had already begun circulating on social media. Protest groups were quick to mobilize. A spokesman for the Armenian Bureau of Outlandish Demands stated that they would like Trevor Noah to apologize, resign as host and spend 40 days and 40 nights in solitary confinement in Khor Virap, a monastery located near Ararat province, Armenia. Congregating outside a nearby large building, between 700 - 900 Armenian demonstrators turned up with placards demanding an immediate apology. “Let’s get one thing straight - we’re not filthy. Everyone know’s we’re the cleanest of them all” said Hayk Jemikyan, a local sunflower seed shell distributor.   Eliza Demurjian, president of the Mass-Makoor Guild of America, a private members' club founded in Boston in 1901 for clean-minded Armenian individuals, had flown over especially for the protests accompanied by a 25 person-strong team.  “We strongly dispute these false charges and are here because we feel we've been heavily slandered.” Annabel Sarkissian, a member for 22 years, proceeded to show bystanders photographs of the interior of her home on her iPad. One taken at 9am, midday and 10pm in the evening. “Look, it’s clean. Morning, noon, night, always spotless.”   Nearby Armenian residents who were previously unaware of the accusations were encouraged to open their front doors to allow curious by-passers to go inside and inspect their immaculate premises.  Eddie Tabakyan, a local backgammon player was keen to invite people in for a guided tour of his home. Visitors were shown the living room, bathroom, kitchen and the garage where an ad-hoc dinner buffet had been set up, serving a variety of Armenian finger foods to guests.  Mr. Tabakyan later sat for an interview on his plastic wrapped sofa, but as his wife was vacuuming nearby at the time, his statement was indecipherable.  The majority of visitors agreed that the home was immaculate, however one individual (who wishes to remain anonymous) did raise concerns about a dog on the premises. “There was a dog sat at the dinner table eating stuffed grape leaves with yogurt. This made me feel a little uneasy.” Mr.Tabakyan later voiced his displeasure at these comments, stating that as the dog is a Maltese-Poodle mix, doesn’t smell or shed, was welcome at their dinner table on special occasions.   Demonstrators began to disperse later that night, but more protests are expected to take place online.    Trevor Noah has been unavailable for comment, but sources close to the TV host state that he is aware that Armenia was the first Christian nation on earth and that Winston Churchill’s favourite drink was Ararat Brandy.    This story will be updated as more information is made available.

The World to Come: Q&A With Hip Hop Artist Danny Krikorian

Music is the only thing that really makes sense to Danny K. The Riyadh-born hip hop artist and producer based in Florida who is both Syrian and Armenian recently released his self-produced debut album, “The World to Come,” playfully unpacking his multi-pronged identity and paying tribute to his roots through lyrics and melodies that give the often complicated issues of finding out who you really are a refreshing new take. Though “The World to Come” is his largest project to date, Krikorian, who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 7-years-old, has always looked to music for solace. “Whenever the world became too harsh, I retreated to my piano, I sang my melodies, wrote my lyrics and lashed out at the world,” he says. A lifelong hip hop fan who came to the genre through his love of lyricism, Krikorian got his start as “Krikos” in the music industry after producing a remix track by Brazilian-American hip hop artist NIKO IS called “Floss” which featured Talib Kweli. NIKOS IS and Krikorian founded a collective together called “Colours of the Culture” and have known each other since they were teenagers. Floss became a hit, played live for audiences across the world. Influenced by everyone from Eminem, Kanye West to Radiohead and Greek composer Vangelis, Krikorian cites his father as his biggest inspiration. “His musical collection is outrageously thick and cultured,” he says. “When you hear earthy flutes and eastern ballads, that’s my father’s touch. I take pride in the music he has shown me and exposed me to.” Danny K chatted with Ara the Rat about music, his single “Lavash,” reading coffee cups and his ongoing quest to discover his Armenian identity through music and hip hop.   Your album, The World To Come, just dropped. How are you feeling? Perhaps the most accurate description of how I feel is fulfilled, at least to a certain degree. This project has been in the works for quite some time now. It required a lot of time, sacrifice, dedication, and faith. Almost everything I do has a spiritual component to it, even in its creation. So in a sense, by putting this album out to the world, I am fulfilling not only my personal ambitions, but my spiritual purpose.     What’s your cover art about? The album cover is a graphic design I put together. It’s three pieces; the blue wall; the frame; and finally the image in the center. This image captures the sentiment and aesthetic I am trying to convey so well. It is borrowed from Armenian filmmaker Sergei Parajanov’s, “The Color of Pomegranates,” a biography of the life of famed poet and musician Sayat Nova. Sayat Nova’s life is reminiscent of the trials I experienced growing up in a sense; lost in translation, caught between various cultures and identities, all expressed similarly through lyric, poetry & music. There is a famous line of his: “I am the man whose life and soul are torture.” This reminds me of my trials as an Armenian-Syrian immigrant in the US without living without the normalcy & perks of formal citizenship - not to mention just being an Armenian-Syrian and the cultural and historical implications therein.   You grew up in Florida after moving to the U.S. in 1996 from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Tell me about your family background and journey to the U.S. Being born in Riyadh, for an Armenian, is not exactly an ideal scenario. My father often balked at the closed society in which he had to work. The reality for many Middle Easterners was to find work in Saudi Arabia and send money back home. Armenians had found refuge, and essentially weaved themselves into the very fabric of Middle Eastern society.   What do you remember from your time in Riyadh? I don’t remember very much about Saudi Arabia except my neighborhood complex which is probably because of the limitations in the country. I remember playing soccer with the neighborhood kids and beating them all 5 against 1. I was a champion. In fact, I believed in my heart that soccer might be my dream. I was really good! My dad’s love for Damascus, and Syria generally, is something I’ve never in my life compared anything to. It was not only his and his father’s, and his grandfather’s refuge. It was his culture. The tolerance, diversity, the Syria which he knew, defined us. Even religiously, my family was almost uniquely liberal. There was always a strict notion of faith and obedience to God and principles of familial obligation; but intellectually, my family was very open. This left them estranged in a country like Saudi Arabia. That’s why perhaps my family decided it was time to leave.   Where did they end up going? It was either back to Syria, where money was scarce; or to consider visiting America; a land my father had only dreamed of visiting. His father, Yervant Krikorian (my grandpa) came to America in 1920, the first ever Armenian-Syrian to attend MIT. He was forced to return home, and his brilliance, unfortunately, never saw the light of day, since, the Middle East, for the most part, had little appreciation for such brilliance. So coming to America was like breathing life back into my father.   Yervant Krikorian   Your new album and some of your previous music explores your Armenian identity. Why do you think you sought out to explore your heritage through your art? The exploration of my heritage came quite naturally. Since my early youth I wrote poetry, and overtime more and more cultural influences found their way in. I was always in tune with my Armenian identity, thanks to my father, who made sure to lecture me over the years on the extensive history of our family name, who we were related to, and where our ambition comes from. “We are proud Armenians!” He would proclaim. Armenians make the best of everything. The best coffee; the best mechanics; the best shoe designers; engineers. In every sense of the word, I was Armenian. The concept for this album - the title - The World to Come - draws on religion and eschatology. As the album’s overall sound and the lyrics came together, it became evident to me that I was searching even deeper for a sense of selfhood and identity.     Let’s talk about the song “Lavash.” After listening to it so many times, I find myself randomly saying, “I’m with the Armenians cooking up some bread.” What was the concept behind this track? “I’m with the Armenians cooking up some bread…” The play on words, “Stacking this bread” is a phrase used in hip hop denoting making money. I realized I had just written the “hook” or chorus. I felt like I was tracing the footsteps of my destiny with every lyric I wrote. I knew I had to do this, like I was being guided by some greater force. When I realized what sorcery had just been crafted, I knew I had to shoot a video. That’s when I remembered there was an Armenian restaurant close by, that sold Lavash, as well as another small local cafe actually named Lavash! It was a wrap by then… Perhaps more importantly and subconsciously, I felt it to be a duty. An innate desire and obligation to express not only my musicality but my Armenian identity and to make known our trials and triumphs as a people. When I was much younger, my father would speak of the Genocide. I remember my uncle from California visiting us when we first came to the states. He handed me a System of a Down CD. It was like my baptism. Haha. My attachment to my Armenian identity; this pride; coupled with a sense of a reawakening in the Armenian community globally; prompted me to delve deeper into the greatest minds of our rich heritage.     You also filmed a really great video for “Lavash.” Huge props for actually finding a restaurant in Orlando called Lavash and also some Lavash to toss around in an Armenian deli, which was awesome. How did it all come together? Actually filming the video for Lavash was an adventure of its own. The warmness with which the Armenian community received me and opened their doors to resources was humbling. The owners of the restaurant are Russian-Armenians, very nice fellows, though I must say, as we filmed the scene, I couldn’t help but feel I was living out a scene of a mobster movie. I had a duffle bag in my hand, walking by booths filled with Eastern European families. I’m pretty sure I saw a mother wave her hand over her child’s eyes as I walked by with my duffle bag, but that could have just been my imagination, or paranoia rather. The best part was convincing me to toss the Lavash bread while customers were shopping. I almost felt I was disrespecting my culture and heritage, which the videographer reassured me wasn’t the case. “Come on its funny you have to!” The look on the cashier’s face was priceless.         How did you get your start in hip hop? My roots in hip hop are unique, the way I came into it that is. I’m from the generation of 1988. This generation grew up in the apex of hip-hop’s concluding golden era. That meant BIG & Tupac had just passed; and artists like Eminem & Jay-Z were left to the fill the void. I came to the states in 1995 - at 7 years old. I had heard a little bit about hip-hop, names like Wu-Tang, Rakim and Tupac were familiar, but upon arriving in the US I was introduced to Bone Thugs; Biggie; Snoop Dog; etc. To me, I was growing up in foreign territory. Anything I knew about rhyming had to do with poetry. I loved poetry as a kid so I would write simple ones. It wasn’t until I became more familiar with this emerging artist, Eminem, who I felt like I could identify with in terms of style and sentiment. I was introduced to this thing called battle-rapping, which in my days was so popular on the internet. Kids would text battle each other; like spitting verses in person to see who could outdo the other. That’s where I really developed my rapping skills; my lyricism; wordplay; multis.   Why do you think you gravitated towards this genre more than others? I didn’t grow up in the slums - in fact slums are almost scarce in Orlando - with some exceptions - but I definitely didn’t grow up like the privileged kids of Dr. Phillips, a rather affluent part of the city. Growing up in an apartment complex, for 20 years, really influenced me, as a human being, but also as an artist. My struggle with immigration papers and just being an Arab-speaking Armenian-Syrian minority in the US, was enough to make me feel more comfortable with other minorities. I naturally gravitated to hip-hop because that was our shelter. Our refuge. Our abode. I remember there was this African-American family that lived in my neighborhood. I became such close friends with each member of that family. I remember going to their house for the first time and seeing the older brothers’ studio. It wasn’t anything special, but for the time, it was like I had just visited the mecca of rap. It was an apartment bedroom. They saw something special in me. I remember they handed me a CD of snares and kicks. I still have that cd somewhere.   In your Instagram stories you’re always making Armenian coffee, do you ever read your fortune? If so, what was your latest one? Coffee is a Gift from God. Like many natural things. When I drink it, it is almost a religious experience. A ritual, rather. But there is nothing like Armenian coffee. The right, careful balance of cardamon with the darkened roast of coffee beans - ground probably somewhere in south America - the balance is everything. But that first sip, whether you are drinking it with a cigarette, by itself, with a joint…It's like therapy. Like the morning sun when it rises. A form of poetry in its own. I’ve certainly had my fortune read; my mother is an expert. I asked her to do one especially for this occasion - here what she saw: “Somebody's watching me, there are multiple ‘eyes’ on me. I'm standing, reaching to grab something, and it’s not far from my grasp, but there are what appear like two mountains in front of me. There is a fish like creature, swimming below me, which symbolizes a gift of money coming my way.” . Purchase Danny K's new album on iTunes  Stream on Spotify Other tracks: soundcloud.com/mynameisdannyk   Social Media: instagram.com/mynameisdannykfacebook.com/DannyKrikoriantwitter.com/mynameisDannyK    
'ArmComedy' Duo Changing Armenia One Laugh at a Time

'ArmComedy' Duo Changing Armenia One Laugh at a Time

Originally published by The Armenian Mirror Spectator ArmComedy comedians Narek Margaryan (left) and Sergey Sargsyan will be performing their first-ever stand-up shows in Boston, Glendale, and San Francisco to benefit the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenia Tree Project. The two comedians from Armenia write and perform their own satirical news show, called “ArmComedy,” three times a week on the ArmNews TV channel. They have had many prominent guests on their show, including Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, various Armenian ministers and politicians, including opposition figures, filmmakers, singers and even American comedian Conan O’Brien during his 2015 visit to Armenia. Like many political satirists, their intellectual and fresh approach to news attracts a wider audience than straight political academic analysis. Their straight-faced, suited presentation of the news, has won over many fans. They both have academic backgrounds, but these are in ostensibly unrelated fields. Margaryan has a doctorate in English while Sargsyan has one in philology, and both have been lecturers in Armenian universities. Their unusual path to the professional world of comedy was a long one. After finishing their studies, they used their linguistic skills to find jobs in international development organizations and developed new specialties. For example, Sargsyan worked for various US government-funded development projects in Armenia concerning elections, political party programs, and corruption for seven years. Margaryan said this line of work taught them a lot about politics, as “we could see a lot of things from the inside — how politics works or doesn’t work. We found a lot of inconsistencies and ironies.” Sargsyan added, “Anti-corruption is an area you don’t study in the university.” During this period, they tried to write some satiric articles, and found that though the reports and serious language prepared by the political organizations in which they worked got little attention, they, in Margaryan’s words, “could bring focus to issues of interest through satire, and it worked.” The two had become friends at the university, when they found they had a common sense of humor. Sargsyan exclaimed that they were the only “Simpsons” fans in Armenia. While studying at the university they performed at some functions and tried to make people laugh. Even as young children, they both were class clowns or cut-ups, and would get yelled at by their parents for joking too much. They eventually began to do standup comedy in a Yerevan club in 2007. Margaryan said it all started out as a fun side activity, a hobby on the side, until it began to be noticed. By 2009 they had turned their energies to preparing a satiric news site. They discovered George Carlin and then the Onion.com online, which gave them inspiration. The website turned into a web series on CivilNet’s internet TV channel, and after two years, in 2012, they began airing on a regular network television. The switch from international development jobs to fulltime comedy was not taken well by their parents. Sargsyan said that his mother said, “You mean to say you are quitting your international development job, a real job, for joking!…It took a lot of convincing and explaining that this is fine.” On the other hand, the international organizations and especially the expatriates working there supported this career change. They shared the English-language articles written by the duo with others, and expected that they would move in this direction, though they were doing well in their development jobs too. He jokingly said that he was doing so well in his job that he basically eliminated corruption while he worked in that field. Of course, after he left, it picked up again. In addition to writing and performing their show, which they do three times a week, they also have written four movie scripts, of which two have been produced (they only starred in one of them). As the television season in Armenia is from September to July, they only get one month off. They usually write one movie a year, so they have a full schedule. Sargsyan noted, “One of the most frustrating experiences and moments in my life was when I googled the script writing staff of the “Daily Show” and I saw 14 people working on each show. They have the same amount of time and same amount of shows as us. We realized that we should have demanded a writing staff in the very beginning.” Despite the tight schedule, they enjoy their lives. As Margaryan said, “We are in that happy spot where your hobby is your job,” and what they do comes easily to them. His colleague said, “We just watch the news and the script is already forming in our brains. We already know what this guy has said, and how many controversial things are in this or that political moment, so it comes very naturally and quickly.” They file away in their minds all kinds of information about whose uncle works where, and what statements people made in the past, in order to bring it up when inconsistencies arise. When asked about whether their satirical treatment of institutions or people in power in Armenia has led to any dangerous repercussions for them, Sargsyan responded that “There is a certain balance, and you keep pushing the line further and further. … There is usually some kind of physical risk. But people who would have been offended three years ago have now learned to laugh at themselves, hopefully also through us pushing them toward that understanding that it is okay to be self-ironic, to laugh at your own mistakes. We try not to have personal insults, but mock the situation and lead the person to understand that he is funny.” Margaryan said that a major difference with American shows is that in Armenia they cannot directly call someone an idiot. It seems that their show has had a concrete effect on politicians’ behavior. Margaryan noted that there was such a case in parliament. He said, “When they had a ridiculous lull in discussion they said, ‘oh come on now, ‘ArmComedy’ is going to show this’ — and yes, we did. So maybe there is a little mind shift in that way.” Furthermore, when the show focused public attention on specific issues, it had the most success in engendering change. Sargsyan said that cases of great excess in government spending were good examples. The government spent $300,000 on a bio-toilet that does not work. For a few months, the show focused its attention on this, and the government ended up declaring it to be a mistake. It never again bought such a toilet that does not work at such a great price. Ministers buying luxury cars paid for by the public are another example. Sargsyan said they used exaggeration, like saying government officials might as well buy Jacuzzis too, to get a greater reaction. Margaryan mentioned another difference with American shows. Jon Stewart, formerly of “The Daily Show” can call US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a turtle on his show, and would never run into McConnell’s grandmother in the supermarket. On the other hand, he and Sargsyan run into people’s uncles and grandmothers all the time, and it is very real. Sargsyan said, “Sometimes they just stop talking to us forever.”  Luckily, Margaryan said, they also have large numbers of people who support the show loyally. Last year, after the April War in Artsakh, “ArmComedy” produced four English-language episodes on the situation in Karabakh. Sargsyan noted that they got a big viewership. People from America watched it, including people from the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian Tree Project (ATP). This led the two organizations to decide to host the first US tour of “ArmComedy.” Arpi Vartanian, regional director of the Assembly, declared, “Anytime you watch their show or talk to Narek and Sergey, you realize the depth of their comprehension of current issues in Armenia, the US, and elsewhere, especially by their amazing capacity to present these issues through non-partisan comedy. By sharing these young talents with America, we are able to bring our nations closer, perhaps bridge some gaps, and strengthen US-Armenia ties. We are bringing a piece of Armenia home to Armenian Americans.” Sargsyan joked: “I am a big fan of trees. Some of my best friends are trees.” Margaryan declared, “We have been dying to have a chance to write and do standup in English because almost all of the comedy we watch is in English, and the way of our thinking is basically in English. When we write our Armenian shows, we would write first in English and see if it were translatable into Armenian. So, this is a chance for us to really go ahead and do the jokes we always wanted to do. English has such a great structure — it is really convenient for comedy.” Sargsyan then interjected, “But to be clear, when it comes to sad stuff, we always think in Armenian.” The two noted that the idea of mockumentaries and standup, especially standup based on personal problems, itself comes from the US and the West. Nearly all American television series are watched in Armenia and have great influence. At their forthcoming American shows, they explained, there will be a general introduction of Armenia and America through satire, some paradoxes, and some things which will seem unusual or ironic from a foreign perspective about Armenia. They plan to draw cultural and political parallels. They said they would not avoid the orange elephant in the room and would talk about current affairs internationally. Another topic they will tackle at the show will be the Armenian sense of humor. They said that Armenian humor is primarily Armenocentric, with everything having to be about Armenians as the center of the universe. Margaryan said that as comedy and tragedy are really close, the difficult Armenian historical experience may be why Armenians have similarities with the Jews culturally. Perhaps comedy is a coping mechanism for both peoples. Sargsyan said it is important to note that Armenians have taken over the comedy scene in Russia, “so we have taken over one of the great powers.” Margaryan interjected that actually both superpowers are run by Armenians and China will be next. Margaryan went to school in Russia and both he and Sargsyan speak fluent Russian, and therefore, in addition to performing in Armenian, they also have some episodes of their television show in Russian. In other words, they joked, they are ready no matter what the result of the next world war will be.   “ArmComedy” English-language performances will take place in: Winchester Town Hall, Boston, April 28 Stars on Brand, Glendale, May 4 Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, San Francisco Bay area May 6  To purchase tickets please visit Armenia Tree Project's website   Official T-Shirts & Tote Bags can also be purchase at Ara the Rat, with all proceeds going towards helping #MakeArmeniaGreenAgain  
Top 5 Reasons You Should See The Promise

Top 5 Reasons You Should See The Promise

  If you're of Armenian descent and you haven't been living under a coffee cup, you've heard of The Promise - or at least the buzz surrounding the film. By this point, you're either excited by the prospect of seeing it or sick of people talking about it. No matter what you're thinking, here are a few reasons to contemplate before seeing The Promise when it hits theaters in the U.S. and Canada on April 21st.    1. All profits are going to charity In a rare move, Survival Pictures, the production company created by Armenian-American businessman and philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian that produced and financed “The Promise” will be donating all proceeds from the theatrical run of the film to non-profit organizations.  Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, who produced the title track for the film, will also be donating proceeds from the song to the International Rescue Committee, a global organization that aids refugees and people whose lives have been impacted by conflict and disaster. The film's proceeds are slated to go to the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) as well as other human rights and humanitarian groups. “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,” Elton John recently told the Hollywood Reporter. “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.”   2. It was one of Kirk Kerkorian’s last wishes Kirk Kerkorian’s life is the quintessential self-made, rags to riches story: born to a poor family of Armenian immigrants in Fresno, Calif., Kirk “Krikor” Kerkorian left school in the 8th grade and went from amateur boxer, to private pilot to businessman, eventually amassing a multibillion-dollar fortune and becoming an instrumental force and pioneer in developing the Las Vegas strip as we know it today. Throughout his various business ventures, including building the world’s largest hotel several times over, investing in film production companies and claiming a stake in the American auto industry, Kerkorian gave over $1 billion in charity to Armenia through the Lincy Foundation helping to rebuild northern Armenia after the devastating 1988 Spitak earthquake, renovating cultural institutions and financing the highway connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.  Creating Survival Pictures was in essence the last part of his robust legacy, a homage to his roots he wanted to leave to the world about a forgotten human rights crisis that flung survivors to all corners of the globe. Producer Eric Esrailian is the man Kerkorian entrusted with his wish. Esrailian told an audience at the Toronto International Film Festival that The Promise took almost seven years to make.  “The film…really wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for Kirk,” Esrailian said. “We talked about the film as a concept for several years and he was overexcited about somebody doing it. During his life it was something that he was thinking about, and he put the ball into motion.”   3. It’s the first time a film about the Armenian Genocide has been successfully made for a mass audience Let’s back up a few decades - this isn’t the first time a film has been made about the Armenian Genocide. There’s been “Ravished Armenia” (1919), “Ararat” (2002) and Fatih Akin’s “The Cut” (2014). There was also Elia Kazan’s classic, “America, America,” (1963) which depicted the journey Greek and Armenian Anatolians took to America in the backdrop of atrocities against them. But due to a number of reasons, including budget, execution, limited funds and meddling from Turkey (more on this later) these incarnations never reached their full cinematic potential. The making of The Promise is important, because it’s the first time the Armenian Genocide has been depicted for such a mainstream audience on a wide scale. Costing nearly $100 million to make and starring Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac of Star Wars fame, Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo and French-Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon (and several prominent actors of Armenian descent including Angela Safaryan, Kevork Malikyan and Roman Mitichyan) the film follows Kerkorian’s original, focused vision. In an interview with Deadline, Esrailian talked about executing the film after Kerkorian passed away in 2015. “We wanted a powerful story about our culture and heritage. He said to make it epic, to make sure it had a love story,” Esrailian recalled, adding that Kerkorian specified he wanted it to have leading actors and remind him of the films that people considered great when he was growing up. Because of Turkey's continued denial of the Armenian Genocide and various business and political ties between America and Turkey, producing a film about the Armenian Genocide has always been a challenge in Hollywood. In the 1930s, MGM decided to produce an adaptation of the Franz Werfel novel, "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh," before the Turkish government pressured the movie studio to drop it. In more recent years, both Mel Gibson and Sylvester Stallone were tied to reviving it, though their efforts were also stalled by Turkish meddling. The Promise itself has faced similar challenges. There were distribution issues, which the filmmakers and others like Atom Egoyan who made the 2002 film "Ararat" have linked to the "denialist lobby" being very well organized. The film's IMDb page fell under the attack of internet bots, receiving over 86,000 user votes for one-star ratings, despite the fact that the movie hadn't even been released yet.    4. The opening weekend’s box office sales are critical in securing a long theatrical run for this film and the continued impact it can have. “The Promise” is being released in America and Canada on April 21st, just a few days before the worldwide annual commemoration of the Armenian Genocide on April 24th. Its performance during opening weekend will determine just how many people both in North America and the world see the film, and more importantly, learn about the horrors and aftermath of one of the 20th centuries first human rights disasters. "A bad opening will usually kill a movie and kills all the potentials of the movie," says Bob Levin, the former president of worldwide marketing and distribution for MGM, adding that all the other things like television, home video and DVD that are tied to the release. "All those other revenue strings on a global basis are so driven by that success or failure in the domestic box office. And so that is driven by that opening. It becomes critical for the entire lifeline of the movie." A 2009 study in the Journal of Academy of Business and Economics also determined that opening weekend box office revenue is not just an important source of income, but "a crucial preliminary indicator of long-run financial performance of a motion picture."    5. It highlights the connection to the kind of human rights abuses that are still continuing today. The Armenian Genocide, or that of Assyrians and Greeks during the same time period doesn't exist in a vacuum. Over 100 years on, humans in various parts of the world have continued to experience immeasurable tragedy - from the Holocaust to the Rwandan, Bosnian, Cambodian and Guatemalan Genocides as well as war crimes and other crimes against humanity that have taken place in Sudan and Syria, where close to 500,000 people have died in the Syrian Civil War, which descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors have also been impacted by.  There are now over 4.8 million Syrian refugees outside of Syria requiring humanitarian assistance.  Their stories, in many ways, mirrors the trauma that Armenians suffered a century ago. The film's producers have kept this connection in mind, as recently expressed in a letter by Esrailian. "We hope to inspire people to take action to help those in the world today and to promote peace, love and tolerance in the world for people of all backgrounds," he wrote. Esrailian also mentioned in a Deadline interview, that Kerkorian wanted to not just make a film, but help people too. "By making films that have this kind of social impact and them making sure the proceeds are donated to help others makes a second impact," he said. The fact that The Promise has gotten this far  - made possible by Kerkorian's initial vision - is in itself pioneering. It sets the wheels in motion for not just more people to learn about the events that changed the course of Armenian history forever, but to do more to stop them from happening again.