Salon talks to the maker of a new documentary “Intent to Destroy,” about the making of a film on Turkish atrocities
Written by Tom Roston, November 26, 2017
What if, back in the ’90s, the U.S. State Department had leaned on Steven Spielberg and asked him to not make his movie “Schindler’s List” because it would upset our NATO ally Germany?
But that’s the question director Joe Berlinger asked when he recently discussed his new film, “Intent to Destroy,” a documentary that just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Tuesday. The nonfiction film deals with the Armenian genocide perpetrated by Turkey in 1915, leaving more than a million people dead, as told through the making of the narrative film “The Promise,” which hit theaters on April 21.
In referencing “Schindler’s List,” Berlinger wasn’t being overly dramatic. He was talking about an actual event in history from the 1930s, when another Armenian genocide film, “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh,” was in production but scrapped because Turkey pressured the U.S. State Department to lean on MGM to not make the movie. Berlinger (“Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” “Paradise Lost,” “Brother’s Keeper”), a nimble and revered documentarian, has managed to construct an incisive, emotional look at the genocide itself, as well as its representation, and lack thereof, in the movies.
Before “The Promise,” there had never been a mainstream telling of the genocide, thanks at least partly to pressure from genocide deniers aligned with the Turkish government. In “Intent to Destroy,” Berlinger talks to Canadian director Atom Egoyan, who describes being cajoled and intimidated to not follow through with making his independent film about the genocide, “Ararat,” which he released in 2002.