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Path to screen for Armenian epic includes evading a knockoff

NEW YORK (AP)  "The Promise," the grandest big-screen portrayal ever made about the mass killings of Armenians during World War I, has been rated by more than 111,300 people on IMDb  a remarkable total considering it doesn't open in theaters until Friday and has thus far been screened only a handful of times publicly.

The passionate reaction is because "The Promise," a $100-million movie starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, has provoked those who deny that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred between 1915 and 1923 by the Ottoman Empire or that the deaths of Armenians were the result of a policy of genocide. Thousands, many of them in Turkey, have flocked to IMDb to rate the film poorly, sight unseen. Though many countries and most historians call the mass killings genocide, Turkey has aggressively refused that label.

Yet that wasn't the most audacious sabotage of "The Promise," a passion project of the late billionaire investor and former MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian.

In March, just a few weeks before "The Promise" was to open, a curiously similar-looking film called "The Ottoman Lieutenant" appeared. Another sweeping romance set during the same era and with a few stars of its own, including Ben Kingsley and Josh Hartnett, "The Ottoman Lieutenant" seemed designed to be confused with "The Promise." But it was made by Turkish producers and instead broadcast Turkey's version of the events  that the Armenians were merely collateral damage in World War I. It was the Turkish knockoff version of "The Promise," minus the genocide.

"It was like a reverse mirror image of us," said Terry George, director and co-writer of "The Promise." George, the Irish filmmaker, has some experience in navigating the sensitivities around genocide having previously written and directed 2004's "Hotel Rwanda," about the early '90s Rwandan genocide.

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