Two first-time US filmmakers have accused The Water Diviner of ignoring the alleged slaughter of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks a century ago.
The Australian drama directed by Russell Crowe is the “highest profile piece of propaganda ever produced in the service of genocide denial,” Garin Hovannisian and Alec Mouhibian say in an open letter to Warner Bros., the film’s US distributor.
Hovannisian, an Armenian-American, and Mouhibian, a Los Angeles-based writer, co-directed 1915 The Movie, a psychological thriller which follows a director (Simon Abkarian) who stages a play at the Los Angeles Theatre to honour the victims of the Armenian tragedy.
As protesters surround the theatre and a series of strange accidents spread panic among his actors, the ghosts of the past reappear.
Published last week in The Wrap, their letter refers to the US release date of The Water Diviner, April 24.
They write, “The problem is that April 24, 2015, also happens to be the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which was perpetrated by the very Turkish government whitewashed by The Water Diviner.
“It was on April 24, 1915 — the night before the Gallipoli landing — that the Young Turk regime set into motion its unprecedented plan: the efficient deportation and slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians and the destruction of their homeland of thousands of years.
“To this day the Turkish government denies that a genocide ever happened. Through lobby groups in Washington, professors at Ivy League universities, and studios in Hollywood, it has been on a quiet century-long campaign to rewrite the history of 1915.
“Mr. Crowe’s film goes to show how successful this campaign has been. Nobody watching The Water Diviner would know that Armenians had ever existed in the Ottoman Turkish Empire — let alone that they were being exterminated there in the first genocide of modern history.
“Of course we do not know how Mr. Crowe and now Warner Bros. have ended up here — by ignorance alone or by bad luck — so we remain polite in how we ask you to consider the consequences of what you are about to do.”
In part the letter could be seen as an attempt to generate publicity for 1915 The Movie, which opened in US cinemas last Friday and is available on demand from April 22.
According to the Los Angeles Times review, “The film plays out like a pensive, high-minded version of Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Amid thespian antics, it contemplates weightier ethical dilemmas such as personal tragedy versus collective grief, artistic license versus historical responsibility, revisionist history versus corrective narrative, forgetting versus moving on.
"It's one creative way to do justice to such a monumental topic when full-blown re-enactments aren't within the budget.”