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March 10, 2007 — From the arts & culture section
All of the articles that appear below are exclusive to the Armenian Reporter
1. The Motor City welcomes an Armenian news gypsy
2. Talk about a bad hair day . . .
3. Hello out there. . . . Who among you will win the Saroyan Contest?
4. Arshak II opera premieres in Yerevan
5. New horizons for the only diaspora-produced 24-hour TV channel
6. Theater: An intimate hour "On the Couch" (by Aram Kouyoumdjian)
7. Theater: "A Lost Letter" leads to musings on corrupt politicians
(by Jenny Kiljian)
8. Nour’s music bridges cultures and histories; New York City concert
on March 18
9. Restoring Armenia’s film legacy (by Betty Panossian-Der Sargssian)
* The genius of Da Vinci
* Getting prepared for Da Vinci
10. Stories of Armenian cinema unveiled: The Lonely Walnut Tree
1. The Motor City welcomes an Armenian news gypsy
There are thousands of them in the U.S. – news gypsies – young men and
women climbing the ranks of the mainstream television news business by
starting their careers in small television markets, moving up one job
at a time to midsize markets, and then to top-five markets like New
York and Los Angeles.
There are more than 200 Designated Market Areas or DMAs, and perhaps
only a dozen Armenian-Americans working as newscasters and television
anchors. Silva Harapetian is one of those dedicated Armenian-American
professionals in the television news business. She started in one of
the smallest DMAs and is now seen on the airwaves of Detroit, the
nation’s 11th largest television market.
Silva has been living the news gyspy lifestyle for nearly a decade
now, working her way up to the Detroit DMA. "I have worked and dreamed
for this opportunity for all my life," says Detroit’s wdiv "Local 4"
TV news reporter. Prior to her new gig in the Motor City, Silva was a
news reporter in Austin, Texas. Before Texas, Silva worked in Lawton,
Oklahoma. Before Lawton, she was in Bakersfield, California – a market
she broke into by working as a radio reporter in Fresno, California.
Silva was born in Iran and witnessed the Iranian Revolution and the
Iran-Iraq War. Her family fled to Germany, where the Harapetians set
up a home before moving to the United States two years later. "For as
long as I can remember I have been passionate about telling stories,"
says Silva. "Perhaps it is my own life journey that drives me to give
people an opportunity to have their voice heard."
Silva is a graduate of the University of Southern California and has
been honored by the California Associated Press and with two
Associated Press Radio Awards. While it takes a lot of get these
honors, hearing from viewers means a lot more. Armenian Reporter
readers in the Detroit area are urged to look for Silva and other
Armenian reporters on TV. And why not drop each of them a note, an
e-mail or postcard to encourage them as they make their way up through
the highly competitive and somewhat nomadic career journey to network
2. Talk about a bad hair day . . .
Esther Chelebian Tognozzi’s 15 minutes of fame hit her like a tornado,
turning her life upside down. After Queen of Pop Britney Spears popped
into Esther’s Southern California hair salon and asked that her head
be shaved, Esther’s brush with fame began.
What followed after Spears and the paparazzi had come and gone were
live trucks from local and network television stations, dozens of
interviews and hundreds of calls from all over the world. Esther
received calls from England, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Germany,
"After a few days, I said no to any type of interview," Esther tells
the Armenian Reporter. "The more the press covered the story, the more
people called. I said no to Dr. Phil and Larry King because I think
there are more important things happening in the world than some
confused little girl who chose my hair salon to shave her head."
Esther says Britney appeared to be in some kind of a trance or under
the influence of medication. She says the superstar was talking about
how people were trying to get her kids away from her and that he
mother was going to be upset about her shaved head. "That little girl
needs help," says Esther. "She desperately needs psychiatric help. She
needs to take care of herself and her two children."
"I told the last news crew from MTV," says Esther, "that it’s really
sad news channels were reporting breaking news about Britney when
there are people dying in wars right now, when there are people dying
of hunger. So what, if an actress shaved her hair? You know what, it’s
just hair. In a few months, it’ll grow back."
At the urging of a savvy promoter, Esther put the hair on sale on
eBay, the Internet auction site. The promoter told her that Esther
could ask for a million dollars for Britney’s hair, and Esther thought
she could donate the money to charities like the Echmiadzin orphanage
After eBay removed the posting, because there was no way the hair
could be verified as Spears’, Esther’s promoter decided to create a
private site The website, before it was shut
down by Spears’ managers said: "This is it, the opportunity of a
lifetime. You can be the proud owner of Britney Spears’ hair,
extensions, the Omega clipper used to cut it all off and even the can
of Red Bull she was drinking at the time. You also get her blue Bic
Lighter and this valuable domain and website to use for publicity
purposes. This is the Ultimate Britney Spears Experience! It is a
piece of history that can not be duplicated!"
At the end of the week, there was no auction, Armenian orphans
weren’t going to see a penny, and Esther wanted nothing to do with the
media. "Dr Phil wanted to know how this has impacted my life, Larry
King has called six or seven times, and I think it was overkill."
Esther says it would have been thrilling and exciting if she was
featured on network television for something other than Britney Spears
coming into her salon. "I felt disgusted that people were calling me
from New Zealand, bombarding my salon," she says. "Even my clients
couldn’t get through to me. My clients were afraid that I wasn’t
working anymore. This whole thing has upset me. It has turned my life
upside down. I told my husband that I want to burn the hair."
Esther says when she was approached about selling the hair for a
million dollars, she thought it was a joke and went along with it. "My
father was being honored for his 50th anniversary in the ARF, my
daughter was in a debutant ball, and it was a tough week," she says.
"A guy approached us with a business venture, and we went along with
it. After all, I could have helped the orphans."
Then, says Esther, she realized that the hair could end up in the
hands of people who would want to test it to see if Spears was on
drugs. "I couldn’t live with myself if anything I did would hurt that
little girl," says Esther, recalling how Britney’s own bodyguards
opened the blinds on her windows to allow paparazzi to take pictures
of Spears as she shaved her head. "They wanted the paparazzi to take
pictures," Esther says. "Britney was smiling at the cameras. She knew
what the bodyguard was doing. This is Hollywood. No coverage is bad
coverage. Even bad coverage is good coverage.
3. Hello out there. . . . Who among you will win the Saroyan Contest?
The deadline for the annual William Saroyan Story Writing Contest is
March 12, and judges will announce the winner in six categories on
April 12. This year’s contest is themed, "Coming Home," and entries
have been received from elementary, middle and high schools as well as
"Each year, we look forward to reading the creative stories from the
participants," says John Kallenberg, chair of the William Saroyan
Society. "It is our hope that the stories written by these students
will help create future professional writers thereby perpetuating the
legacy of William Saroyan."
4. Arshak II opera premieres in Yerevan
Arshak II, an opera by the Armenian composer Tigran Chukhadjian, was
staged March 3 and 5 at the Alexander Spendiaryan State Academic Opera
and Ballet Theater in Yerevan. This was the premiere of a new
The production was directed by Gegham Grigoryan, one of the leading
tenors of the opera theater, and conducted by Karen Dourgaryan.
Arshak II is set in 4th-century Armenia, when the glory of
Arshakuniants dynasty was at its peak.
The air of the king’s palace smells of treason, and King Arshak
struggles to maintain his powers. His Greek queen, Olympia, Prince
Tirit, and other royals want to limit his powers, but King Arshak,
with the help of his loyal Drastamat, reestablishes order at the royal
5. New horizons for the only diaspora-produced 24-hour TV channel
In May 1989, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Southern
California committee launched a one-hour television news program
called Horizon (ho-ree-zon). The all-volunteer effort was in response
to the dramatic turn of events taking place in postearthquake and
preindependence Armenia. In less than two months, when Horizon
celebrates its 18th birthday, the channel will be reaching out to
bigger audiences with new and innovative programming.
"The growing Armenian population in Southern California didn’t have
immediate access to the developing stories coming out Armenia in
1989," says Harry Vorperian, the newly appointed executive producer of
Horizon TV. "We had the Asbarez newspaper, but we realized the most
effective way to reach the masses with the images and stories of what
was happening in the homeland was through television."
Under the direction of its first executive producer Garbis Titizian,
Horizon TV began at a time when there was no public access to the
Internet, no online video transfers, no videophones, and no cheap
Videotapes of Karabakh-movement mass rallies, the Sumgait massacres,
and the independence referendum were sent from Armenia to Glendale via
hand couriers. Tapes were rushed from one airport to the next, edited
in Glendale, and broadcast on KSCI TV, UHF channel 18 in Southern
California. Soon there were weekly broadcasts on UHF stations in
Fresno, San Francisco, and on cable in Boston.
Thanks to cable television mandates, the cable operator in Glendale
allocated Horizon TV a few additional hours of airtime in the early
1990s. Because of the increase in demand by viewers, Horizon launched
its 24-hour cable television station in the late 1990s and has since
been serving the Southern California Armenian community as the only
24-hour local cable channel. In addition to cable, Horizon also
broadcasts on the Internet and via satellite to homes throughout the
United States, Canada, and Mexico.
"The best of our original programming comes from our news
department," says Vorperian. "We have several live newscasts
throughout the day as well as talk shows, entertainment programming,
and programming that comes to us from outside producers." Horizon is
known for its multicamera coverage of the annual Navasartian Summer
Games as well as its Christmas and New Year’s specials.
Vorperian, who is a graphic arts designer, got involved with Horizon
as one of the many volunteers who helped launched the one-hour program
in 1989. He has since helped design the sets, the graphics,
and look of the station, as he does for other clients like the
Hayastan All-Armenian Fund Telethon and the Cafesjian Museum
In January, Vorperian accepted an offer to take the reigns of
Horizon TV full time, and he is planning a relaunch of the channel in
May. "We are going to have a whole new look, new feel, new programming
a lot more variety," says Vorperian. "Our goal is provide quality
programming with the help of young, talented producers and their fresh
6. Theater: An intimate hour "On the Couch"
by Aram Kouyoumdjian
"On the Couch with Nora Armani" may not be an engrossing title, but
it’s an apt one; the theatrical solo performance it describes is an
intimate, casual affair. Though modest in scope, Armani’s monologue is
always sincere and often touching, but only occasionally remarkable
throughout its languorous 60 minutes.
Loosely structured around autobiographical anecdotes, "On the Couch"
is a personal piece written and performed by Armani, an esteemed
actress of stage and screen. It touches on Armani’s acting career, her
relationships (both familial and romantic), and her identity as a
woman of Armenian ancestry who was born in Egypt and has lived a
transnational existence in England, France, and the United States.
The oft-produced show has already toured a half-dozen major U.S.
cities, as well as London; in Paris, Armani has performed a French
version. Just recently, she was "On the Couch" at the Luna Playhouse
in Glendale during a limited four-performance engagement from January
26 to 29.
"On the Couch" is slow to find and settle into a rhythm. In fact,
its opening sequence is a bit of a nonstarter: Armani steps onto the
stage while pretending to be talking on her cell phone. She is
"surprised" to encounter an audience, quickly ends the call, and
gently instructs that all handsets be turned off. The moment proves
glaringly artificial and creates a distancing effect at the very
outset of the show.
Armani then claims to notice – again, "unexpectedly" – a certain man
in the audience whose presence makes her uncomfortable. She confides
to the audience that she had a past with this man and proceeds to use
him throughout the show as a reference for a running commentary on
relationships. Unfortunately, the contrived setup yields too few
observations of any depth (or, at least, fresh humor), settling
instead for clichés. Apparently, men are still odious beasts for never
putting the toilet seat down.
"On the Couch" begins to bloom with Armani’s recitation of "Meeting
You at the Underground Station." Through precise, graceful gestures,
Armani offers an exquisite physicalization of Gillian Allnut’s poem.
Armani’s own writing gains traction and poetic resonance as the show
progresses and shifts its focus to her ethnic roots.
Armani’s recollections hark back to her great grandfather, a jeweler
from the historically Armenian province of Erzurum. They touch on
quaint Armenian traditions (such as aghchig-des, the ritual of a
formal visit to the home of a prospective bride) and invoke ancestral
memories of horrific persecutions. Particularly bonechilling is
Armani’s account of her grandmother cursing the perpetrators of the
genocide that she survived.
Armani herself spent her early life in Egypt, and she has
fascinating stories to share of the era under Gamal Abdel Nasser – an
era that witnessed the Suez crisis and a rise in nationalism that led
to an exodus of minorities from the country. These passages of "On the
Couch" are revelatory, since little has been written about the
Armenian community of Egypt. Yet, the glimpse they provide is cursory,
leaving much material unmined.
Director Francois Kergourlay creates a fluid movement scheme for the
piece, ensuring that it remains visually engaging at all times.
However, the performance he elicits from Armani is, at times, too
mannered and affected. Nevertheless, Armani establishes and maintains
a direct connection with the audience, thanks to her natural talent
The cozy setting of the Luna Playhouse facilitates that connection
between artist and audience, though certain instances – such as Armani
straining to "see" the audience or disclosing that the mysterious man
from her past has changed his seat – become unintentionally funny in a
venue where the third row is also the last. And while Luna deserves
plaudits for its enterprising spirit, its production suffers technical
deficiencies, including some lighting miscues on opening night and a
set best described as mix-and-don’t-match (with the exception of an
elegant burgundy chaise longue serving admirably as the titular
Of course, the merits of solo performances rarely depend on
technical elements. Indeed, "On the Couch" may be variously flawed,
but its best moments achieve a caliber of writing and execution as to
make the hour "with Nora Armani" an entirely worthwhile one.?
7. Theater: "A Lost Letter" leads to musings on corrupt politicians
By Jenny Kiljian
PASADENA, Calif. – On February 25, while much of Hollywood’s royalty
were treading the red carpet in anticipation of the Academy Awards,
and millions of people anxiously awaited the opening of the envelopes,
a group of about 160 loyal theater-goers feted the opening of the AGBU
Ardavazt Theater Company’s latest play, "A Lost Letter" by Ion
Caragiale, at a gala dinner party in Pasadena.
"Some people stayed home tonight to watch the Oscars, and that’s sad
for me," rued Krikor Satamian, the play’s director. "The glitz,
glamor, and big names – what’s behind it is all consumerism,
deception, and opportunism. But, I’m happy that those who are here
were not fooled. Here, we have the most ethical Oscars. There are no
winners or losers, because everyone is a winner."
Satamian praised his cast for their dedication to the theater
company. "They’ve spent months rehearsing – sacrificing time with
their families – in order to further the Armenian arts," he said.
"They may not be professional actors, but that willing dedication is
commendable. They are truly Oscar-worthy."
"A Lost Letter" (O Scrisoare Pierduta) was written in 1884, and is
set in the Romanian capital of Bucharest. For the purposes of staging,
costuming, and set decoration, Satamian brought the play into the 21st
century – but without losing any of the treachery, blackmail, or
scandal. The play, which many consider to be Caragiale’s masterpiece
as a playwright, is a comic satire about political corruption that
explores the triumph of a blackmailer in a provincial government
The titular letter is penned by the wife of an unnamed political
party’s chairman to a government official who is her paramour. The
letter is lost and found by aspiring politicos who use the letter to
blackmail their way into winning the election or garnering support for
their party’s candidate.
Caragiale’s depiction of the events surrounding this election is
highly cynical; there isn’t a character whose motives are not
questionable or unethical. Indeed, one of the characters complains,
"How difficult it is to work for a political party. The ones in power
eat, drink, and make merry, while those of us who volunteer wind up
working like donkeys."
And, according to Satamian, it’s the truth. "It demonstrates how
corrupt politicians are, and demonstrates what it means to say
‘politics makes strange bedfellows,’" he said. "The same things are
happening in the United States, the European Union and in Armenia.
Anywhere you look, you will find corrupt politicians driven by
Maro Ajemian played the role of Zoya Trahanash, the letter-writing
wife who is the only female in a cast of more than a dozen men.
Ajemian, too, said she believes in the timeliness and topicality of
the play. "What does a politician’s personal life have to do with
politics?" she posited. "But, that’s what politics has always been –
scandal in one form or another, whether it’s about money or sex. The
same still applies today, to every country."
Satamian and Ajemian likened Caragiale to Hagop Baronian, whose
Armenian plays share that same ability to transcend the time in which
they were written. "They are classical themes, which make for timeless
plays," said Satamian. "We’re on the threshold of the primaries and
what’s on stage parallels what’s happening in the United States –
politicians lying and mud-slinging to get ahead."
For Roupen Harmandayan, who plays Madame Zoya’s secret lover,
there’s a simple route to the heart of the matter: "Women rule and men
are their puppets. They have the last word, and Caragiale knew that a
long time ago." After all, he explained, whether it was her dignity at
stake or her husband’s political party, this woman managed to exploit
all the men to her personal advantage.
The audience appreciated the comic and political elements of the
play. "Satamian has done it a little differently this time, going for
something that’s more political," said one audience member. "It’s both
funny and appropriate; it translates itself well into Armenian and it
still makes sense in the year 2007."
The Ardavazt Theater Company has staged more than 40 plays since its
inception in 1980. The plays, which have been both in English and
Armenian, have ranged from romantic and comedic to dramatic and
For the actors, being part of the theater company has proved to be
an exciting and worthwhile endeavor. "It’s been lots of fun, and I’ve
met many good people," said 30-year-old Ari Libaridian. "I’ve learned
to be more disciplined and patient when it comes to acting, and to
make whatever part I play – small or big – be more important." With
five plays under his belt, Libaridian said that the theater company
has also broadened his appreciation for the Armenian language. "I’ve
learned that Armenian is an easy language that flows off the tongue. I
enjoy communicating my lines and creating my character with our rich
Ajemian has been in nine plays, including two operettas. Being part
of the Ardavazt Theater Company fulfilled a lifelong dream of hers to
be on stage. "My childhood dreams came true because of Ardavazt. I
never had the opportunity to act, and now I have a wonderful group of
people around me who support my craft."
"A Lost Letter" runs through March 31 at the AGBU Pasadena Alex
Manoogian Center Theater, 2495 E. Mountain St. An April 1 performance
will take place at the Huntington Beach Central Library Theater, 7111
Talbert Ave. For more information or tickets, call (626) 794-7942.?
8. Nour’s music bridges cultures and histories
* New York City concert on March 18
On Sunday, March 18, the musical group Nour will perform at the Miller
Theater on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. The
group plays Armenian, Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, Greek, Assyrian, and
Ladino – a Judeo-Spanish language spoken among Sephardic Jews. Nour is
made up of Ayda Erbal (vocals, daf, dumbek, and percussions), Ozan
Aksoy (vocals, saz, kaval, ney, and percussions), Bedross Der
Matossian (keyboards, shvi, duduk, and vocals), Z Umut Turem (oud and
vocals), and Ramzi El Edlibi (daf, dumbek, riqq, davoul, percussions,
and vocals). Ayda Erbal and Bedross Der Matossian submitted this
Q: Why is your band called Nour?
A: We were looking for a name that would embrace the richness of
cultures with which Armenians have been neighbors for centuries. We
wanted to tease the idea of boundaries and fixed identities. Although
Armenian music can be distinguished from others by its melodic
structure, most of the rhythms on which Armenian music is based have
been shared with other cultures for so many centuries that it’s very
difficult to tell who owns what. Plus, for us, the name Nour was an
innovative way to hint at the Armenian identity as a cosmopolitan one.
Historically, since Armenians had a strong trade tradition with
dispersed colonies all over the world, they always were multilingual.
And as you know Nour means "pomegranate" in Armenian and "light" or
"divine light" in Arabic. Because of the peculiarity of Turkish
language – an amalgam of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, with many
loanwords from Armenian – it also means "divine light" in Turkish.
Meanwhile, since Arabic and Hebrew are both Semitic languages sharing
common lexical roots, the name also resonates with Ner, which means
"candle" in Hebrew.
The pomegranate is a symbol that transcends many cultures, in both
their pagan and monotheistic traditions. It symbolizes fertility,
sanctity, abundance, and marriage in Armenian, Greek, Hebrew, Chinese,
and Persian mythology. Armenians think there are 365 seeds in a
pomegranate – one for each day of the year. In Judaism, pomegranate
seeds are said to number 613 – one for each of the Bible’s 613
commandments. In Islam, the pomegranate is one of the fruits of
heaven, and every pomegranate on earth is thought to contain one seed
from heaven. In Buddhism, the pomegranate is one of the three blessed
fruits along with citrus and the peach. In Persian mythology, King
Isfandiyar eats a pomegranate and becomes invincible.
Q: What made you decide to sing in Turkish and Kurdish?
A: Yes, Armenian cultural development was terribly severed by the
Armenian Genocide. But that should not be the pretext to neglect or
abandon a whole array of cultural achievements in the Ottoman Empire
and later in the Middle East. For example the musical contribution of
Armenian musicians composing in the tradition of classical Ottoman
music is very well known and documented. Their achievements are
insurmountable. Such names as Tatyos Efendi, Bimen Shen, Nigoghos
Agha, Karnig Garmiryan, Baron Parunak, and especially Hampartsum
Limonciyan – who revolutionized the notation system of Ottoman
classical music – are true treasures and inalienable parts of our own
heritage. The fact that they composed in the Ottoman language becomes
almost irrelevant if you listen to their music and if you understand
how altogether they are part of a tradition mostly populated by
Armenians, Greeks and Jews of the empire.
Other than that there is one picture – and there are thousands of
publications like it – that made me think about the relationship
between Armenians and the Turkish language. It’s a historical document
that I took a picture of. I was touring Ellis Island a couple of years
ago, and I encountered in the Legal Papers section of the Ellis Island
Museum Collection a literacy test given to the Armenians fleeing
genocide. The text is an interesting amalgam of Armenian and Turkish:
the script is Armenian, the language is Turkish. The Ellis Island
authorities used to give this excerpt from the Bible to anybody who
was over 15 to test whether they were literate. This boldly reminds us
of something that we, as students of history and politics, were
already aware of. The majority of Armenians fleeing the empire could
not read the Armenian language but only the script, and they produced
thousands of pages in this hybrid language, Armeno-Turkish. Indeed if
one follows the discussions of replacing the Arabic alphabet in the
first constitutional period of the empire (1876-78), Armenian script
was widely discussed as a substitute because of the phonetic
similarities between the two languages. So Ottoman language – although
it’s painful for some to come in terms with – was and is a part of our
Q: We’re not all students of history and politics. What’s in this
A: Most of the musicians of Nour are Ph.D. students in social
sciences! We are planning to make our website a locus to study and
disseminate this rather unknown chapter of our heritage; we will also
provide information about several aspects of Anatolian Armenian music.
Q: What is in your repertoire?
A: We played at the Armenians and the Left conference last April. Our
band and the organizers were on the same page regarding the
lesser-known chapters of our history and the fact that Armenians
always were masters of the languages of the lands they lived in
besides furthering their own language. So we had this larger project
of unearthing and recording the lamentations and songs that were sang
by Armenians during deportations. Professor Verjine Sivazlian from
Armenia spent decades collecting and documenting some of these songs –
almost exclusively sang in Turkish. However, we do not know the melody
of many of these songs.
"Der Zor Collerinde" (In the Deserts of Der Zor), which we are
singing for the first time since 1915 in a public setting comes from
such documentation. The Library of Congress put online this very
interesting collection originally recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell
as part of the Northern California folk music project which was
conducted in the 30s. "DerZor Collerinde" is part of the same
collection. So we took the base song and we rearranged it for the
audience of the conference.
Q: Where is Noor situated in terms of its musical genre? Is it totally
a new musical endeavor?
A: I’ll start with your last question: Yes and no. Yes, because we are
the first multiethnic band that makes Anatolian music without
polishing and without belittling the historical dimension. In other
words, we do not subscribe to a rather superficial narrative of plain
brotherhood that can be caricaturized in the saying of "Oh! I have
Turkish friends" or "Oh! I play with Kurdish musicians." But, on the
other hand, I do not want anybody to think that we are a political
band, because we are not. None of the songs that we are singing are
politically motivated. We are basically singing folk songs and
composing in that tradition.
However we are, as a band, aware of the fact that all parts of our
shared culture are very precious. I would say No to your last question
because we are a continuation of an already existing tradition
pioneered by such great composers and arrangers as Ara Dinkjian, Onno
and Arto Tunçboyaciyan, Garo Mafyan or Arame Tigran – who composed
extensively in Kurdish. We will be singing an Arame Tigran song that
night. We have four people from the Middle East in this band: myself,
Ozan Aksoy, Bedross Der Matossian, and Ohannes Berin who did not just
grow up on Western music but mostly on Ara Dinkjian and later Night
Ara Dinkjian’s genius for example is such that he was able to
capture the hearts and minds of millions of people from Greece to
Israel, including Turkey. His music, which is part of our concert
repertoire, is lyricized in many languages, transcending boundaries
and cultures without having the public relations dollars of an already
existing huge music market on his back.
Onno Tunçboyaciyan, on the other hand, can be considered one of the
founding fathers of Anatolian pop music. Thus one can say that Nour,
although in its infancy, can be situated in the continuum of this
musical genre. However, we are rearranging folk songs by trying new
rhythmic patterns and by the inclusion of traditional instruments such
as nay, kaval, oud, duduk, shvi, and a multitude of percussions.
For more information about Nour’s concert, click and point to
9. Restoring Armenia’s film legacy
* Betty Panossian-Der Sargssian tours the Da Vinci laboratory at
Hyefilm and finds high technology deployed to save the vast film
archives of Armenia’s largest film studio.
Almost a year ago, Hyefilm began the process of restoring and
digitizing Armenia’s classic films. Almost 50 films have been rescued
from slow, steady decay.
Those film makers who are still alive and currently live in Armenia
are involved in the process of restoring their films. Just before our
visit to the laboratory, cinematographer Albert Yavouryan was there to
take part in the restoration and revival of his film, Menavor
Enguzeni. (See more about the film on pages C13-15.)
"During the restoration and digitization processes, our prime
concern is to maintain the authors’ intent in these films. We invite
the directors and cinematographers to take part in this process. This
makes our work easier, and we benefit a lot from their experience,"
Rouben Hovhannisyan, the director of CS Films (Hyefilm) told the
Armenian Reporter. (CS Films is owned in part by the Cafesjian Family
Foundation, which also owns the Reporter.)
"We were lucky with Menavor Enguzeni, as its cinematographer, Albert
Yavouryan, is still alive. But we can’t consult with film makers who
are no longer around," he added.
"The directors and cinematographers of the films being restored know
the exact nuances of the original frames," explains Janna Petrossyan,
the coordinator of lights and color in this project. Over the years,
the colors on films changes. She finds that film makers remember the
exact shades, and can help bring them back.
That has been the case for Menavor Enguzeni. The colors that Albert
Yavouryan had obtained had faded and his presence at the laboratory
helped regain the exact shades.
But the directors of most Hyefilm films have either been long
deceased or live abroad. In such cases, the specialists at the
laboratory work with their experienced eyes and hands. "In such cases
we carefully standardize the colors", explained Edgar Baghdasaryan,
the lights and color coordinator for the Da Vinci restoration system,
adding that they don’t have the right to add extra color or change the
format of the scene. "We just clarify the color a bit."
At the Da Vinci laboratory we witnessed the amazing process of
restoring the film archives. The technicians showed us how the white
spots are detected one by one by the restoration system and then
cleaned. The restored frames are then passed to the Da Vinci system
for color grading and enhancement.
* Truer than the original?
In the movie, Barev, Yes Em (Hello, it’s me), filmed 30 years ago,
there were scenes where the director had wanted the thoughts of his
hero to be pictured in the form of a mirage, with a single-colored
tone. But at that time they didn’t have the facilities to do that at
Hyefilm. "Thanks to the Da Vinci system, the 30-year-old idea of the
director’s came to life," said Ms. Petrossyan.
Cooperating with the technicians who have mastered the use of Da
Vinci, Ms. Petrossyan checks lights and colors, drawing on her years
"Specialists from England and Hollywood have trained and retrained
us for long periods of time," Edgar said. Da Vinci provides a big
range of possibilities in the film restoration world and to master
them needs time and effort. "From time to time the program is updated
and specialists come to Armenia to retrain the best of our
specialists", added Mr. Hovhannisyan.
In the restoration section, where the frames are cleaned, the
specialists work for 24 hours over three consecutive shifts. It is
because "the technicians have to complete a section and then pass to
another one", explained Ms. Petrossyan. Arman, a technician working on
the restoration process added that a complete section of the film is
10 minutes long. It takes a whole 24 hours to undergo all the
processes of cleaning and restoring and to prepare it for Da Vinci.
CS Films intends to bring the number of restored films up to 460.
"They consist of Hyefilm full-length features, shorts, documentaries,
and animations," Mr. Hovhannisyan notes. The original negatives are
taken from the archives of CS Films and the National Film Library of
Armenia. In addition, some negatives come from Russfilmafont in
Moscow. "Let us not forget that these films belong to Russia and that
they have agreed to put them at our disposal," said Mr. Hovhannisyan,
adding that Armenia is the only former Soviet state that has the
exclusive right to borrow the original negatives of these films and
For the past 15 years, the archives of Armenian cinema faced a great
danger. The films were decaying and seemed doomed to eventual loss.
The storerooms were not kept at suitable temperature. Two years ago CS
Films acquired the exclusive rights to reuse, restore, and digitize
the films. "This is a very important mission, since cinema speaks
chapters about the culture of a country. I consider myself and all
those people involved in this restoration process lucky to take part
in this important historical process," said Mr. Hovhannisyan.
Now that the task of restoring and digitalizing Hyefilm films is
under way, CS Films is gradually preparing the ground for new film
production: the plan is to rebuild Hyefilm studios and to start making
new films. This is somnething the Armenian public both in Armenia and
outside is anticipating eagerly.
The genius of Da Vinci
In the revival and film restoration laboratory of CS Films, Da Vinci’s
Resolve digital mastering suite and Revival color image restoration
systems are being used for digitizing and restoring Hyefilm’s
important film archives.
Using original negatives stored for decades in the Soviet State Film
Library in Moscow, CS Films is restoring, enhancing, and preserving
Armenian film archives dating back to 1924.
The Resolve and Revival systems at Hyefilm are connected in a common
storage area network (SAN), enabling users to have access to the same
materials without having multiple copies between systems. CS Films use
Revival to restore films; the program provides tools for removing
dirt, dust, grain, scratches, flicker, and noise, while also providing
image stabilization. Once the restoration process is complete, the
film files are instantly accessible by Resolve for final color grading
and image enhancement. The Resolve system also provides the required
deliverables such as SD and HD video for television broadcast, as well
as scanner files for film output for cinema release or archive
For more information:
Getting prepared for Da Vinci
The films to be restored at Da Vinci first undergo a manual
preparation period in the laboratories at Hyefilm.
"We have to moisturize the negative films with special devices and
then strengthen them" explained Larissa Stepanyan, the chief engineer
at CS Films.
"Prior to digitizing a film, we compare its double negative and
positive copies and make use of the one better preserved". Then, at
the Hyefilm laboratories, the specialists begin to develop the film:
deposits on the film are checked, and then solid dirt is manually
wiped off of the film. During the checkup cracks may be noticed.
Because of the dry climate in Armenia, the negative films get very dry
over the years and crack easily. So the fractures are repaired, and
the whole film is evened out to fit easily in the scanner of the Da
Vinci system. Then the film’s sound track is cleared with a chemical
This whole process cleans the film externally from dust, scratches,
flicker and noise. "The abovementioned are fundamental for make the
film fit for the Da Vinci."
10. Stories of Armenian cinema unveiled: The Lonely Walnut Tree
It’s fair to say that Menavor enguzeni (Lonely Walnut Tree, 1986,
director F. Dovlatyan) is one of the luckiest films of the Armenian
cinema, as a lot of archival material about it has been preserved. Mi
filmi badmutiun (The making of a film), on Armenia TV, tells the
"Menavor enguzeni is one of the few movies about which we have found
abundant information", Anna Terjanyan, the host and writer of the
program, told the Armenian Reporter, explaining that back then, when
the film was made, it was obligatory to have the production process
filmed for the record. The material would be sent to Moscow as a kind
of promotion. Most of these "films on films" have been lost. It is not
clear whether they have been destroyed, lost over time, or sent to
Moscow and vanished there. "With luck we have found the making of
Menavor enguzeni," which is a ten-minute long film telling how that
film was made. The producer, the director, and the actors are
interviewed for that short. "Here we see many scenes shot from another
angle so as to show how the work was done," Anna added.
A funny scene rediscovered in the film on the film is the funeral of
one of the characters. Among many other interesting details, the
audience will see how the actor wears the make up of a dead man and
lies in the coffin. But because he had other duties on the set, Mi
filmi badmutiun will show him rising from the coffin and shouting
orders through a megaphone.
Besides offering interesting information, this episode of Mi filmi
badmutiun is special because it will show actual pictures of the
events and people described in the narration: "We don’t just say that
during the shooting such and such occurred, but we show them as well.
It was more interesting and refreshing for us to make this episode."
As for the actors, the episode has been rich in that sense as well.
Fifteen actors were interviewed for this occasion, a record number for
the program. "Our correspondent in Moscow interviewed Armen
Jigarkhanyan, Nersik Hovhannisyan, and we are waiting for the
interview tapes with Levon Sharafyan and R. Atoyan, both of whom live
in the United States. We have found people, who after being shot in
this film, have disappeared from the scene. It is very interesting to
discover what time has done to them," said Anna.
"I want people to see this film one more time, because it is one of
the films of the Armenian cinema that has not been appraised as it
should be. Perhaps seeing it with better technical quality will help
us reevaluate it".
Menavor unkouzeni will air on Armenia TV on Monday, March 12, after Mi
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