The New York Times: ‘Intent to Destroy’ Shows That the Armenian Past Is Not Over

Written by Ken Jaworowski, November 9, 2017

A level-headed documentary lies behind the hot-blooded title of “Intent to Destroy: Death, Denial & Depiction.” While there may be no completely dispassionate way to discuss its topic — the Armenian genocide — the film’s balance of emotion and composure helps make its stories even stronger.

Some 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in the early part of the 20th century. What should be an accepted fact remains a provocative topic, as the Turkish government continues to ignore or deny the events and, as it has for a century, coerce businesses and push other governments to do the same.

Joe Berlinger, the director, uses old footage of survivors and insights from historians to provide an overview of the crimes. He also embeds himself with the cast and crew of “The Promise,” a recent fictional film set around 1915 that explores the fighting and mass killings. Mr. Berlinger’s plan is smart as well as symbolic — evidence shows that the Turkish government has often pressured studios into shelving movies about the genocide.

Discussions on the film set are intertwined with historical analysis, and there are explorations of crowd psychology, revisionism and German cooperation with the Ottoman Turks; it’s no stretch to see how the massacre of Armenians helped lay groundwork for the Holocaust.

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The Frame: ‘Intent To Destroy’ director Joe Berlinger: ‘Armenians deserve their ‘Schindler’s List”


Joe Berlinger’s documentaries, which include “Paradise Lost” and “Brother’s Keeper,” have often focused on the justice system.

Written by Michelle Lanz, November 13, 2017

His new film, called “Intent to Destroy,” takes an unusual angle about what many people consider to be a miscarriage of justice. The film looks at how Hollywood has depicted the Armenian Genocide, and how it also has been pressured — and agreed — to ignore that story.

The Turkish government refuses to acknowledge — and even denies — what historians broadly agree was the Ottoman Empire’s extermination of about 1.5 million Armenians starting in 1915.

Berlinger takes an interesting approach to telling this story. He frames his documentary around the making of another movie — last year’s historical drama, “The Promise,” directed by Terry George and starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac. The film is set in the Ottoman Empire on the eve of World War I and follows Isaac as a  young Armenian medical student.

The Frame’s John Horn recently spoke with Berlinger.

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Deadline: Joe Berlinger Risks Turkey’s Ire With Armenian Genocide Doc ‘Intent To Destroy’


Oscar-nominated filmmaker Joe Berlinger doesn’t mind taking on some powerful forces.

Written by Matthew Carey, November 10, 2017

He squared off with oil giant Chevron in Crude. In the Paradise Lost trilogy, he went up against prosecutors in the notorious case of the West Memphis Three. With his latest film, Intent to Destroy, he’s running afoul of the government of the Republic of Turkey.

“Bring it on, that’s my attitude,” Berlinger tells Deadline.

Intent to Destroy, which recently qualified for Oscar consideration, recounts the Armenian Genocide that began in 1915 — the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians that most historians believe was planned and implemented by the Ottoman state in its waning years. The film likewise explores the policy of genocide denial vigorously maintained by modern-day Turkey, which rose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

“I was not really interested in just telling the story of the genocide. But I wanted to tell the story about denial,” Berlinger says. “To me only part of the film is about the actual facts of the genocide. The rest of the film is about the aftermath of denial, the mechanism of denial.”

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Village Voice: “Intent to Destroy” Offers a Meditative History of the Armenian Genocide


It’s a movie about a historical crime, but it’s also a movie about another movie

Written by Alan Scherstuhl, November 8, 2017

In Intent to Destroy, documentarian Joe Berlinger attempts to assemble a sort of meditative history of the Armenian genocide and its century-long cover-up by the Turkish government out of a curious source: behind-the-scenes footage of the production of Terry George’s film The Promise, a sweeping historical saga with movie stars and first-rate production values, financed independently and released in the spring of 2017.

As a film, The Promise is interesting for its subject and the struggle to get it made, rather than its own drama or technique; Intent to Destroy uses The Promise as something of a guide, as our entree into the history, as if the filmmakers assume that we need to see Oscar Isaac to care about the extermination of millions. “There’s a scene in the movie where Christian Bale goes and attempts to take pictures of what’s happening to the Armenians,” one of the many interviewees tells us, his words illustrated with a clip from The Promise. He continues, “In the real world, it was forbidden to take pictures of anything.” That leads to an enlightening discussion of the practicalities of the Ottoman Empire’s mass murder of Armenians.

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Salon: The Armenian genocide is still being denied: “This human tragedy has been allowed to be treated as a debate rather than actual history”

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?

Ludicrous, right?

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.

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San Francisco Chronicle: Interview with Director Joe Berlinger

Jewish film fest honors doc filmmaker Joe Berlinger.

Joe Berlinger, 55, has been one of the nation’s most influential documentary filmmakers for the past 25 years, since producing “Brother’s Keeper,” a seminal film that helped change the documentary form by using narrative feature techniques to tell non-fiction stories.

Berlinger’s long list of credits includes “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” and the “Paradise Lost” trilogy, which followed the wrongful imprisonment case of the West Memphis Three. The latter project ultimately led to the release of the trio — and garnered an Oscar nomination.

Now, Berlinger — whose new film, “Intent to Destroy,” concerns the Armenian genocide of 1915 — is being honored with the Freedom of Expression Award at this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

And it all started with some American Express commercials:

Q: How did you become a documentary filmmaker?

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No Film School: Review

‘Intent to Destroy’: What It’s Like to Expose One of Hollywood’s Most Horrifying Untold Stories.

Joe Berlinger, a prolific documentarian, discusses ‘Intent to Destroy,’ his latest hot-button film.

Some say that the most groundbreaking movies Tribeca Film Festivalhas to offer are in the documentary category. Intent to Destroy, the latest from prolific documentarian Joe Berlinger, is no exception. Like his other work—most notably the Paradise Lost trilogy—this is a film that does not shy away from controversy; instead, it encourages the viewer to draw their own conclusions based on the powerful examination of all sides of an issue.

Using the framework of a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Terry George’s The Promise, Berlinger dives into the history of the Armenian genocide—what happened, how it was covered up, and why the world refuses to acknowledge it.

What Berlinger has produced will give you chills. Intent to Destroy is unlike any other historical account. With deft craftsmanship and a sensitivity to nuance, Berlinger breaks down the 1915 slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turkish state and the ensuing cover-up, a story that has been systematically silenced by America and Hollywood ever since. The documentary is an engaging portrait of a nation of people brought to their knees—a nation of people that is still rebuilding, 100 years in the wake of the devastation. It’s a grim portrait of our world, which chose diplomacy and censorship in place of humanitarianism.

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POV Magazine: Review of ‘Intent To Destroy’

Review: Hot Docs Festival 2017

Intent to Destroy
(USA, 115 min.)
Dir. Joe Berlinger
Programme: Special Presentations (International Premiere)

Veteran doc filmmaker Joe Berlinger’s explosive 2016 film Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru was one of the most exciting features at last year’s Hot Docs festival. The seasoned award-winning director returns this year with Intent to Destroy, an engrossing film-within-a-film about the shooting of The Promise, a historical fiction feature about the Armenian genocide.

Certainly, the film industry loves a doc about what it does—and it is a passionate line of work—but Intent to Destroy raises the stakes of this inward-looking examination significantly. Berlinger embeds himself and his crew within the production of The Promise, a feature that takes place within the 1915 Armenian genocide in which 1.5 million people were killed by Ottoman Turks. Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), The Promise is a highly politicized and controversial project to undertake, considering the Turkish government’s total erasure of the massacre from official discourse.

The documentary’s exposition unfolds fairly conventionally at the outset: the facts and narrative behind the genocide are introduced lucidly by voice-over and subject matter experts, perhaps as a pre-emptive nod to the fact that audiences may not be familiar with the particulars of this oft-ignored historical event (I certainly wasn’t). However, as Berlinger begins to look deeper into the whys and hows of the contemporary denial of the genocide by Turkey (and other governments, including the United States), the significance of the documentary’s focus on a feature production becomes obvious, ultimately pointing to nothing less than the power and influence of mass media, particularly the film industry itself. Berlinger delves deeply into history books, political alliances, economic factors, and inter-governmental relations in order to show the shocking degree to which historical records can effectively be wiped clean (and entire populations misled) in the interests of a powerful few.

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