Poster for the upcoming film The Promise.
Poster for the upcoming film The Promise. (Courtesy of Open Road Films)

The University of California, Los Angeles is launching a new human rights institute with some help from Hollywood.
The Promise Institute for Human Rights is being funded with a $20 million gift partially generated from profits of the upcoming film “The Promise.” The movie, which opens in the United States on Friday, centers on the Armenian genocide that began in 1915 and resulted in the deaths of more than 1.5 million people. It stars Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac.
Most major law school donations come from individual alumni, philanthropists or charitable foundations.
“The Promise Institute is so named because UCLA and the UCLA School of Law are making a commitment to keep the promise to the victims of human rights abuses—that we will create the tools and train people of integrity and talent to address these crises,” said the film’s lead producer, Eric Esrailian, who spearheaded the effort to establish the institute. “Out of the darkness of the Armenian genocide and our film, we will bring light into the world to help people who need it today.”
Human rights tragedies not unlike the Armenian genocide continue today in places such as Syria and South Sudan, and the world is still grappling with a refugee crisis, said Esrailian, a doctor who is also on the faculty of UCLA’s medical school.
UCLA’s law school already has a slate of human rights programming, including collaborations with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the United National Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food. Faculty and students have worked with human rights groups in India, South Africa, Honduras and Bangladesh.
The new institute will expand on those efforts, bolstering course offers and experiential opportunities for students, as well as provide a platform for further research and policy recommendations. The institute also will bring human rights scholars and practitioners to campus for events and symposia, as well as create student fellowships.
“This visionary gift is a giant step toward making UCLA Law the premier center for human rights in Southern California,” said law Dean Jennifer Mnookin. “While the school already has a strong record of human rights scholarship and activity, The Promise Institute will greatly enhance our program and have an impact felt around the world.”
Contact Karen Sloan at On Twitter: @KarenSloanNLJ
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