Intent to Destroy: Death, Denial & Depiction

Pulling back the curtain on mass murder censorship in Hollywood, Joe Berlinger’s thirteenth feature documentary INTENT TO DESTROY explores the violent history of the Armenian Genocide and legacy of Turkish denial over the past century while capturing the cinematic and political challenges of producing a historically meaningful, big-budget film in an environment rife with political suppression and threats of retaliation. Chronicling the true events of the 1915 Armenian Genocide that annihilated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, INTENT TO DESTROY examines how the first modern genocide, once a highly recognized global atrocity, has been obfuscated from history by the modern Turkish state. 

Throughout the film, Berlinger turns the camera on these efforts, exposing how Turkish officials have used diplomatic coercion to subvert international academia, forcefully muzzle advocates and use its geographic placement and geopolitical connections to strong-arm America and other key allies into accepting their version of history.  

More than politics, this film explores the cultural suppression Turkey has supported to promote their version of history, recounting the shuttering of the Americans films that have attempted to address the genocide due to governmental pressure to appease a strategic ally.  Provided unrestricted on-set access to THE PROMISE — the first mainstream film about the Armenian Genocide to successfully go into production — Berlinger followed the filming, using the behind-the-scenes experience as a lens to explore the reality and complexities of the actual genocide and Turkey’s century-long campaign of denial.

A mixture of cinéma-vérité, rarely-before-seen archival materials and interviews with former government officials, historians, filmmakers, artists and educators — as well as giving a voice to those who believe that a Genocide did not take place – the film is in the unique position of both capturing the shocking and complex history of the Armenian genocide as well as Turkey’s attempts to control the narrative, all while presenting the unfolding, real-time drama of bringing this long-ignored chapter of human cruelty to the big screen. By intertwining these three separate threads – the modern day production of THE PROMISE, the history of the genocide and the century of international repression – INTENT TO DESTROY coalesces to provide a comprehensive view on the atrocities of 1915 to 1923 and their resounding aftermath right up until the present day.