Films with a Charitable Heart


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Photo by Jake Hills

The film industry has been kept its head above water even in the toughest of economic times, with the global box office revenue forecasted to peak at $50 billion in 2020. Steven Spielberg recently hit the $10 billion mark with his sci-fi blockbuster Ready Player One, and recently, Black Panther hogged the market, earning close to $1.2 billion, making it the biggest moneymaker among Superhero films. It’s fun to read about the vertiginous box office takings enjoyed by some of the world’s top commercial directors, but also fascinating to hear about filmmakers who are using their art to give back.

This is very much the case of Survival Pictures’ The Promise, starring Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, and Christian Bale. The film has a release date of April 21. If giving back while enjoying a stunning cinematic experience focused on pivotal historical events is your scene, don’t miss out on this one.

A Watershed in Modern History

The Promise, directed by Terry George, centers on the Armenian genocide under the Ottoman Empire in 1915. On April 24 that year, hundreds of eminent Armenian intellectuals were arrested by the Ottoman government during World War I, in an attempt to eradicate this population. As noted by Pulitzer Prize winner, Peter Balakian, the event was “the first time that the nation-state uses technology, its advanced military communications, legislation and the nationalist ideology for the purpose of eradicating a targeted ethnic group in a certain period of time.”

Paying it Forward

The Promise made the news recently for all the right reasons, when its producers announced that all proceeds from the film would be donated to non-profit organizations, including Sir Elton’s John’s AIDS Foundation. EJAF Chairman,  David Furnish, noted that “Such giving has never happened with a film of this scale, we wanted the world to know about it, and we are incredibly grateful.” Survival Pictures arose from humanitarian philanthropist, Kirk Kerkorian’s interest in producing films about Armenian culture and history.

Individuals Making a Difference

The case of The Promise is rare indeed in the industry, though there have always been individuals who are interested in giving back. Sometimes, the choice of the film being produces itself is key. Take Sugar, directed by the visionary, Rotimi James Rainwater, famed for his work with homeless youth in the documentary Lost in America and produced by Elliott Broidy, known for his charitable endeavors. As noted on producer Broidy’s IMDB page, the film deals with a woman’s posttraumatic stress after living on the streets. The director was homeless himself for nine months while he took care of his dying mother in Orlando, Florida, an experience that opened his eyes to the plight of homelessness in America. Another important film was Blood Diamond, starring Leonard DiCaprio, which sought to increase awareness about the illegal trade of diamonds.

Showing Solidarity

A number of celebrities have made big donations on an individual scale from the proceeds of their films. Ben Affleck recently announced his intention to donate any profits from Miramax or Weinstein Co. films to charity. George Lucas pledged over $4 million from the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney to educational charities.

It is difficult to find filmmakers who are willing to give 100% of profits to charity. However, history reveals that there are many ways that the film industry has given back, either by highlighting worthy issues or donating part of their earnings to select causes. As audience members, we too can give do our share by supporting those who are trying to ease the plight of those in need.


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