Local Armenians hope Fresno premiere of 'The Promise' will raise awareness of Armenian Genocide

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The movie premiere also happens to coincide with Armenian Remembrance Day, and local Armenians say it starts a conversation more than a century overdue. (KFSN)

Fresno's Armenian community packed into movie theaters to support "The Promise" Friday night. It's one of the first Hollywood movies to take on the controversial Armenian Genocide.

The movie premiere also happens to coincide with Armenian Remembrance Day, and local Armenians say it starts a conversation more than a century overdue.

Inside Theater One at Manchester Stadium is the opening of a historical drama based on a denied reality.

"We know what our story is about, but we wanted to tell it to the American public," Garo Khatchikian said.

"The Promise" is a film set during the Armenian Genocide - the slaughter of thousands of people by the Ottoman Empire. Armenians say Turkey not only denies the killings but has tried to hijack the narrative of what happened.

"There have been so many movies that have tried to be made about the genocide that has been blocked by the Turkish government and, unfortunately, the state department," premiere organizer Nayiri Saghdejian explained.

More than 200 people filled the private screening Friday that was sponsored by Armenian National Committee of America leaders Nayiri and Abraham Saghdejian. Many of those in attendance were community leaders of Armenian descent, and almost all of them came with stories about their grandparents' narrow escape.

"My great grandmother and grandfather came through the genocide," Fresno Unified trustee Brooke Ashjian said. "One day everything was fine and they had jobs and property and the next day they had nothing."

The film was financed by the late Kirk Kerkorian, who was born in Fresno to Armenian immigrants. Movie-watchers say it's important that, like Kerkorian, they not forget their roots.

"We're going to fight to the end until justice has prevailed," Khatchikian said.

It's their promise to those they lost to ensure a similar tragedy doesn't fall on another part of the world.

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