Armenian Reporter – 3/17/2007 – Arts & Culture section

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March 17, 2007 — From the arts & culture section
All of the articles that appear below are special to the ARMENIAN REPORTER

1. WAR AND PEACE at the Tribeca Film Festival
2. Homeland & diaspora on film
3. San Francisco Film Festival wants your film
4. Ken Davitian scores new role in GET SMART
5. Davitian to appear in upcoming indie feature FLOAT

6. Q&A with STONE TIME TOUCH filmmaker Gariné Torossian (Paul Chaderjian)

7. An exclusive, in-depth interview with "La Grande Dame" of Armenian
Cinema, Actress Arsinée Khanjian (Paul Chaderjian)

8. In her own words: Shooting in Bulgaria (by Arsinée Khanjian)

9. The return of opera to the Opera House: A new production of opera
Arshak II opens in Yerevan

10. Continuing the literary legacy of "the Attic" in the 21st century:
Weekly talk show features Armenian literary and cultural personalities
(by Paul Chaderjian)

11. Genocide and Egoyan (by Paul Chaderjian)

************************************* **************************************


1 . WAR AND PEACE at the Tribeca Film Festival

Vardan Hovanesyan’s docudrama A STORY OF PEOPLE IN WAR AND PEACE has
been chosen by the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival, which will take
place from April 25 to May 6. The film calls itself the first
international documentary about the Karabakh war, because it was
coproduced by the likes of the BBC, ARTE, and UNESCO. Hovanesyan, a
Karabakh war veteran, used footage he shot 12 years ago to tell the
story of the liberation war. The filmmaker tracked down some of those
who survived the brutal war and interviewed them for the film.
Producers at Bars Media in Armenia tell the ARMENIAN REPORTER that the
film has been screened at the Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen
film festivals. The Tribeca screening will the its U.S. premiere, and
an Armenian-language version of the film will be screening in Yerevan
later this year.



* * *

2. Homeland & diaspora on film

Contemporary Armenian society through the eyes of two filmmakers is
the theme of a film night organized by the Hamazkayin Boston chapter.
"The Armenian Homeland and Diaspora: Reflections of Two Filmmakers"
will take place on Friday, March 23 at 7 p.m. Organized by the Boston
chapter of Hamazkayin, the Amaras Art Alliance, and the Harvard Film
Archive, the program will examine the eastern and western sides of
Armenian society. The films of directors Nigol Bezjian and Harutyun
Khachatryan will be featured. Nora Nercessian from the Golden Apricot
Film Festival is scheduled to talk. Khachatryan’s 82-minute film is
called RETURN OF THE POET (Poeti veratartse). Bezjian’s 35-minute and
15-minute films to be screened are ROADS FULL OF APRICOTS and VERVE.


http ://

* * *

3. San Francisco Film Festival wants your film

The 2008 San Francisco Film Festival is a year away, but organizers
are already asking for submissions. The deadline for VHS or DVD copies
of documentaries, features, shorts, and experimental or animated films
and videos is June 1. The festival will take place February 15-17,
2008, and its mission is to share with the public films made by
Armenians and films that have Armenian themes.


* * *

4. Ken Davitian scores new role in GET SMART

The biggest Armenian box office draw this year has another big role
coming up. Actor Ken Davitian, whose movie BORAT hit DVD stands this
week, will be part of the upcoming GET SMART feature. Davitian will be
playing an evil sidekick of KAOS agents in a movie based on the Agent
Maxwell Smart’s adventures on the small screen. Davitian will be
playing opposite 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN’s Steve Carell, who will play
Agent Smart. Alan Arkin will be playing the Chief of Control.

"It’s really an honor for me to work on this," says Ken. As long as he
doesn’t speak Armenian in this role. And while he is preparing for the
role, Davitian can be seen hanging out at his sandwich shop next to
the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. It’s called the Dip. (For real. No pun


* * *

5. Davitian to appear in upcoming indie feature FLOAT

Principal photography has wrapped up on writer-director Johnny
Asuncion’s feature costarring Hrach Titizian. Ken Davitian also has a
small role in the film, which is about a middle-aged ice cream shop
owner, who ends up living with his 20-somethings employees after
leaving his wife. The film is set in Glendale, where producers say
they received a lot of help from the local Armenian community. In
addition to playing a lead role, Hrach Titizian is producing the film.
Hrach may be familiar to fans of 24, THE NINE, LAS VEGAS, and THE
SHIELD. He’s played several roles on these shows as well as on an
upcoming Jamie Foxx-Jason Bateman feature titled THE KINGDOM.


*********** ************************************************** **************

6. Q&A with STONE TIME TOUCH filmmaker Gariné Torossian

Gariné Torossian, whose STONE TIME TOUCH will be shown in New York
City this week, spoke to the ARMENIAN REPORTER’s Paul Chaderjian.

PC: I would love to know about your Berlin experience, what you felt
while seeing the film up on the screen, what the audience reaction was
afterward, and how this will affect your career as a filmmaker.

GT: For me screening in Berlin was very important for various reasons.
This was the world premiere of STONE TIME TOUCH in the Forum section
of the festival. I had showed my second short film GIRL FROM MOUSH in
Berlin in the Panorama section. These two films connect in that they
are both about the issue of imagined versus the true homeland. The
Berlin Film Festival is a very important festival and a launching
ground to be invited to various other festivals. Upcoming, I will be
showing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Hot Doc Documentary
Film Festival in Toronto, Vision du Reel in Switzerland, and Karlovy
Vary in the Czech Republic.

Seeing my film on the big screen was magical. The theaters are of
superb quality and as a result all the work I put on my film shows at
its best on the screen. The audiences here were fantastic. People
showed a genuine curiosity in the style and subject of the film. It
did sell out three times and the Q?&?As after the screenings were very
stimulating. I was truly satisfied by the experience in every way. As
a filmmaker, being accepted in the Berlinale is a big deal. For me,
especially, showing my first feature in such a reputable festival is a
huge encouragement. I have shown shorts in the Panaroma section of the
festival four times in the past and have had a retrospective at the
Arsenal section in 1998.

PC: Tell me how you got started in film, when you realized your
passion, where you studied and what you’ve done that you’re proud of
so far.

GT: I have always been interested in the arts and in artists. I
started with fashion design at 12 then moved on to photography and
painting and then to film. I am self-taught. I felt with film I could
include everything and felt that it suited my temperament most. Also,
I felt there is a world within filmmaking that is unlimited. I find my
films always bring me to unfamiliar territory or territory that I
cannot reach without film. I am happy that my work has had the
exposure it has, and it is through that that I can express and
experience. I feel like an explorer as a filmmaker, and I love that.

PC: Also, revisit the idea behind the film. What did you set out to
document and how do you tell your story? Whose story is it? Where did
you shoot and whom did you interview?

GT: I set out with a particular mission on making this film. I knew
what I was looking for, that is the homeland I had imagined for so
many years. I had a strong need to find it at this point in my life.
Although I had a mission I was open to find it without a plan. I went
to Armenia for two months and met people, and by chance encounters I
was guided through a very adventurous process to find what I was
looking for.

I wanted to explore all aspects of the culture with a strong focus on
Armenian women. I went to various different villages, meeting a
survivor, women working in the village and in Yerevan with artists. I
had a protagonist who played the tourist going to Armenia for the
first time to explore.

Within this story is the story of Arsinée Khanjian, who speaks about
her fourth trip to Armenia and how her relationship to Armenia has
changed with time. She travels through Armenia experiencing different
regions and different social conditions, also relating to us her story
and analytical point of view. Ultimately, coming to the conclusion
that there are only more questions now that we have established a
relationship to Armenia. It is through my film that I got to
investigate my past and present relationship to Armenia

PC: What are upcoming projects you are working on and how and where
are you spending your time. I read or heard somewhere you had been
invited to work in Germany for six months?

GT: I am currently residing in Berlin on a DAAD (German Academic
Exchange Service) fellowship. In Berlin I am working on a new project.
I am currently at the research and development phase.

* * *

Catch STONE TIME TOUCH at the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters of the
Museum of Modern Art in New York on Thursday, March 15, at 6:30 p.m.
or on Monday, March 19, at 8:30 p.m.

******************************************** ********************************

7. An exclusive, in-depth interview with "La Grande Dame" of Armenian
Cinema, Actress Arsinée Khanjian

* * *

"The Lark film is the Genocide film that Armenians have been asking to
see on the big screen for decades."

* * *

Based on Antonia Arslan’s novel, SKYLARK’S FARM, the movie LARK FARM
(La Masseria delle Allodole), starring Arsinée Khanjian, tells the
story of the Armenian Genocide through the relationship of a Young
Turk officer who falls in love with and tries to save the life of a
young Armenian woman. Arsinée Khanjian discusses the film and much

The film, directed by the legendary Italian filmmaker brothers Paolo
and Vittorio Taviani, was recently chosen to be part of the Berlin
Film Festival. It be the released in France in June and will be the
opening film at the fourth annual Golden Apricot Film Festival in
Yerevan in July.

"Berlin was really wonderful for me this time," says Arsinée Khanjian.
"I hadn’t been there before the fall of the Wall, and it’s been an
important festival in my journey." Arsinée’s husband, celebrated and
award-winning, Oscar-nominee Atom Egoyan’s first features CALENDAR and
SPEAKING PARTS were screened at the same festival.

"Being in Berlin with LARK FARM had a big significance for me,
especially because of STONE TOUCH TIME, an experimental documentary
that was incredibly received at three screenings." Arsinée believes
that Europeans connected with both Gariné Torossian’s documentary (see
page C3) and the Taviani feature film because the themes of searching
for an identity, and past, present, and future identities are
resonating in European communities.

"We have carried these themes and issues in us in the diaspora. The
trauma of the Genocide and how that has shaped us, how identities have
allowed us to fit into the societies that we became part of, how we
have had to reinvent our relationship with a new homeland we have
dreamed about, these have been our issues. Now, we are exposing these
issues and global audiences are connecting to them because they are
dealing with these issues now."

Arsinée says that Germans, like other Europeans, who would not have
asked what it means to be a German twenty years ago, are now asking.
"There are so many people from elsewhere that they are challenging
what it means to be German," she says. "We’re all asking these
questions. Our relationship with Armenia is a timely subject to
explore, and we have this experience because for 90 years, we were
asking these questions."

The Taviani film, says Arsinée, brought historic relevance and
reference to the audience. "Intelligent, educated people, who take
great pride in their political and human rights commitment, are
realizing that history can be censored, and they feel uninformed and
undignified that their own political and educational system has kept
them uninformed about the survivors of the Armenian Genocide."

Arsinée says having two different films at the Berlin festival gave
her a renewed sense of how cinema can still impact people. "The two
film were made with two different budget realities and with different
people’s motivations," says Arsinée. "It was important to have these
two parallels and see the impact cinema can still have on people’s
sense of acquiring knowledge and enjoying artistic process."

* Lark Farm and Ararat

Art forms are a product of their time, says the actress as she sips
tea to refresh her throat during the phone interview. She has been
battling the flu since her return from Berlin, and she has a short
break in Toronto before returning to Europe, where she will be dubbing
the LARK film from Italian into French. Atom will also be going to
Paris to prepare for the retrospective of his artistic canon being
organized at the Pompidou Center as part of the Year of Armenia in
France cultural exchange program. The leading man and first lady of
Armenian cinema will also be taking their son Arshile along.

"The LARK film is the Genocide film that Armenians have been asking to
see on the big screen for decades," says Arsinée. "When ARARAT came
out, Armenians said they wanted to see a film that described what
happened during the Genocide. They wanted to see the film that the
Saroyan character in ARARAT was shooting, the film that Atom didn’t
feel comfortable shooting."

Arsinée says her husband Atom Egoyan made ARARAT to address and deal
with the issues of identity, but that the 2002 film can complement
LARK FARM. "This new film is the voice of two auteurs and master
filmmakers addressing what Atom did not show completely, but only
partially, as a device and not a complete film."

Even though the Canadian-Hollywoodian-Armenian-Lebanese actress
believes an Armenian Genocide film like LARK FARM should and could
have been made thirty years ago, it is still wonderful to see it up on
the big screen now. "It has been done with great scrutiny, artistic
purity," says the 47-year-old actress. "It really does justice to the
story and also to the history of the culture. The film is masterful,
very classically, very provocatively handled by the masters of Italian

* * *

"We have a film that’s fresh out of the oven that American lobbyists
as well as Armenians in the States from the cultural perspective can

* * *

* The Taviani brothers

Arsinée says the Tavianis are no less than Bernardo Bertolucci or
Michelangelo Antonioni. She believes they are more rigorous in their
stylistic pursuit, and that they have challenged audiences with their
award-winnings films. "THE LARK FARM is also very engaging," says
Arsinée. "It also has offers a lot of the social psychology of the
time and that makes the film even more powerful.

"The Tavianis are not psychologically-driven filmmakers," says
Arsinée. "Their cinema is about themes they explore through their
actors, situations, and they are curious about social phenomena. At
first when I read the script, I wondered why the Tavianis were
interested in this story, then I realized that it fitted perfectly
with the themes they have dealt with like Italian Fascism, the
separation of families, the atrocities family members inflict on each
other because of their beliefs."

Arsinée says she believes the Taviani Brothers were drawn to THE LARK
FARM because it gave them a chance to study a minority community’s
cultural experience in the middle of an empire. She says stories of
how neighbors one day become enemies the next, how a newborn baby of
one neighbor is killed by the son of the other are all stories and
issues that have interested the brothers. "The human behavior under
the scrutiny of social and political environment has always interested
them," says Arsinée. "They have committed themselves to clear
positions on how people should care about humanity."

Italians had to deal with Fascism, says Arsinée. "They had to make an
effort to understand the evils of it and turn it into social values.
Germany had to deal with Nazi ideology and reconfigure its social
ideology. If we allow Turkey to continue to indulge itself with the
negative privileges of denial and refusal, then how can we prevent our
history from reoccurring and reoccurring?"

* European awareness & Turkish pressure

Arsinée says she was amazed that there was interest in non-Armenians
to tell the Genocide story to global audiences. "We have seldom seen
in the last 90 years the interest of people in any field to actively
pursue this history. It could have been my own insecurity that I was
surprised, but Europe is looking into what is European, who is

"Turkey’s candidacy to join the union is putting this question on the
table," says Arsinée, "and the question of the Armenian Genocide has
become a point of consideration and a point of political currency.
Antonia Arslan’s book fits into this awareness and got the attention
of the Tavianis. It became obvious for them to make this their next

When word got out that the Tavianis were trying to make the novel into
a movie, says Arsinée, the Turkish government tried to put the brakes
on the project. "The Italian Minister of Culture asked them to
reconsider the project," she says, "but we’re not in Hollywood in the
1940s, so the pressure did not go far. With all this as the backdrop,
it’s interesting that this film exists."

Arsinée says she was relieved that it was shown at the Berlin Film
Festival, because it’s one of the top three festivals in the world –
the other two being Cannes and Venice. "We couldn’t have hoped for a
more prestigious venue to show the film. There is a large Turkish
community in Berlin, and Turkish journalists after the press screening
were dismissing the film for technical matters, not regarding the
artist aspect.

"One critic said Turkey does not have to worry about this film,
because it’s very respectful. But that’s not the case of the film. The
film is respectful of the individual choices that were made in those
times, but we have a uniform understanding of what happened. That
understanding is not wrong, because the outcome was a million and half

* The individual stories

"In the process of the pain, anger, and trauma," says Arsinée, "we
have forgotten the individual stories. This film is a testament of the
individual stories. These stories form the Armenian families’
perspective, the perspective of families which were annihilated in the
film, the perspective of the Turkish town leader, the Turkish

Arsinée believes there are beautiful ways of evoking what the victims,
survivors, and witnesses of the atrocities lived through as friends
and acquaintances. "There were family ties like in the main story of
the film, which is the love story of Nunik," she says. Arsinée plays
Nunik’s sister-in-law in THE LARK FARM.

"Nunik falls madly in love with a Turkish officer, who happens to be a
member of the Young Turks," Arsinée explains. "So, that story has a
tragic ending as a love story. She basically ends up the leader of the
family after all the men in the family are beheaded.

"There is also a touching relationship developing between Nunik and
the man in charge of the deportees," says Arsinée. "That man becomes
the witness to Nunik’s story. He’s the one in the tribunals who
testifies, and a lot of the accounts are based on Aslan’s
grandparents, the children who survive in the film, the children who
are my character’s grandchildren."

Arsinée says the novel upon which the film is loosely based has
recently been published in English. The book, says Arsinée, chronicles
the indescribable history of the family, the uprooting and complete
devastation of everything from tradition to economic reality to
cultural reference. Everything that was real for these families was
tragically eliminated, she says.

* Call to action

"In a way, we are very lucky that this film is out there," says
Arsinée. "It is our responsibility to do with it what we did not do
with ARARAT. French-Armenians hardly went to see ARARAT. If ARARAT was
not a film they were not wanting to see, and if it was ahead of its
time, this film is something that they asked for."

Arsinée says she is hoping that when THE LARK FARM opens in France in
June, it will receive community support. She hoped that all Armenian
organizations and associations mobilize the community and turn out in
great numbers.

"I don’t know what the French critics will say," Arsinée wonders. "If
it was made 30 years ago, it would have been a revolutionary, unusual
film. Today the history of cinema has developed, so perhaps
stylistically it’s not unusual. I don’t know what critics look for, so
I don’t know what they will say."

Regardless of critical reaction, Arsinée says Armenians wanted to make
this film happen, and there is a responsibility when people want
things to happen. The responsibility with THE LARK FARM is creating
chaos, asking for distribution and screenings, and then buying

"The reality is that the film doesn’t have American distribution,"
says the actress. "What could be better than Armenian producers or
organizations or benefactors raising funding to make this film
commercially distributed? Who made all the films about the Holocaust?
Who distributed the films? The Jewish community itself. So what are we
doing? What are we doing?"

Arsinée says Armenians have to get organized. "We don’t have anyone to
blame anymore. We have a film, and the life of a film is very short.
Six months down the road, if it’s not distributed, it’s lost. I don’t
want to hear the age-old comment about groups challenging this film or
working against it. If we don’t do the work, we have no one to blame
that our stories are not on movie screens around the world."

* * *

"I have optioned the rights to a play. I’ll be acting in it, and I’d
like Atom to direct it. It will happen this year. I have to get the
funding in place. It’s called Mathilde, the name of the character.
Veronique Olmi is the playwright, and it’s a wonderful play. It’s in
French, translated into English. I saw the production in Toronto, on
stage. It’s about the relationship of a middle-aged couple. It’s a
beautiful play."

************************************* ***************************************

8. In her own words: Shooting in Bulgaria (by Arsinée Khanjian)

A lot of the shooting happened in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. This town is
important for us historically. It used to be where a lot of Armenian
merchants were established during the Ottoman Empire. We had a big
community in Bulgaria, and they had magnificent homes built for
themselves. We used them while we were shooting the film. The homes
are in a neighborhood called the Armenian Quarter. They were all
Armenians there. The houses were nationalized in the Soviet Era, but
Armenians are claiming them back. The houses you see in the film,
which is in an unnamed town, belonged to Armenian merchants of the

When I was there, I met with the Armenian community which has a school
and a church and a dance group. They are involved in Armenian affairs.
A lot of the background actors and extras were Armenians from
different walks of life. And on the other hand, what is really
important about the film is that it was not made by Armenians. There
were actors from Palestine, an Italian star, a handsome actor playing
the Young Turk.

Nunik was played by a Spanish star. There were Italian actors, great
Bulgarian theater actors playing smaller parts. So it was a very
symbolic and wonderful experience to shoot the film with people from
all different cultural backgrounds. All these people had to tap into
what they knew, what they learned, what their responsibilities were in
society. Everyone had invested their own work, their own talent with a
real commitment and with curiosity about what the film was talking

********************************** ******************************************

9. The return of opera to the Opera House: A new production of opera
Arshak II opens in Yerevan

For two nights in early March, opera returned to the Alexander
Spendiaryan Opera and Ballet Academic Theater in Yerevan. Opera on the
stage of the opera house has been rare, since the stage now mostly
serves as a showcase for pop artists and shows.

March 3rd was opening night of a new, fourth-generation Armenian
production of Arshak II. (The opera had its American production in San
Francisco in 2001.) It was staged by the acclaimed tenor and director
of opera theater Gegham Grigoryan, directed by Karen Dourgaryan, and
conducted by Karen Sragsyan.

The first production of Arshak II was in the first half of 1950s.

It is the first Armenian opera ever, composed in 1868 by the composer
Tigran Choukhajian. Arshak II is set in 4th-century Armenia,
politically divided between the Byzantine and Persian empires. The
curtain opens to a festive air as King Arshak II (performed by Gevorg
Hakobyan) returns victoriously to the palace and is praised for his
courageous performance in battle.

But treachery is in the air on both political and personal levels.
Prince Tirit (performed by Gegham Grigoryan), next in line to the
throne, tries to gain power and make an alliance with King Shabouh of
Persia. He is also in love with his murdered brother’s wife, Parandzem
(performed by Christine Sahakyan), who begs the king for permission to
return to her homeland, Syunik. But Arshak II himself has an eye on
the beautiful widow, and to gain her heart he orders a castle to be
built in her honor in the capital. Meanwhile the queen, the Greek
Olympia (performed by Anahit Mkhitaryan), wants desperately to regain
the heart of the king. Toward the end of the first act, the disloyalty
of Titit is exposed and the traitor is put to death.

The curtain reopens to uncover a conspiracy against the king, mounted
in the court, this time involving not only the princes yearning for
power, but also the queen, who, for the love of the king is ready to
do anything. By now King Arshak has found a bond with Princess
Parandzem, who gradually sympathizes with the king’s vulnerability. He
shares with her his feelings of being betrayed even by his queen,
while Parandzem advises him to pardon the traitors. A sermon by the
Catholicos Nerses (performed by M. Hovakimyan) also urges the king to
be forgiving, and peace and safety apparently reign at the court and
in the country.

It is in the last scene that the drama reaches its peak. The court
celebrates the apparent amity. But Parandzem notices one of the
conspirators handing a cup of wine to the queen who offers it to the
king. Parandzem leaps forward and begs to drink it herself. Convinced
that the wine is pure, Queen Olympia takes a sip herself and suddenly
flies at the king pleading not to drink from the cup. The traitors are
put to death, but the queen breathes her last breath.

The curtain comes down only after reestablishing King Arshak II as the
powerful monarch of Armenia.

The music of Arshak II has the timbre of Italian operas of that
period, mixed with nuances of Armenian classical music, namely church
psalms and hymns.

Throughout the opera, the set, although with little variation, is
rather majestic and gloomy, successfully creating the impression of a
4th-century palace. Two giant golden eagles, the symbol of Arshakuni
dynasty, hang high in the hall leading to the throne. The costumes,
although lacking imagination and innovation, somehow create the
atmosphere of that time.

The original opera had two ballet scenes not included in this production.

************************************* **************************************

10. Continuing the literary legacy of "the Attic" in the 21st century

* Weekly talk show features Armenian literary and cultural personalities

by Paul Chaderjian

BURBANK, Calif. – In the mid-1800s, Armenian intellectuals living in
Tbilisi, Georgia, gathered in literary giant Hovhannes Tumanian’s
attic or VERNADUN to discuss matters close to their hearts and minds.
Joining Tumanian were the other giants of the time, including Avedik
Isahagian, Derenig Demirjian, Avedis Aharonian, Gomidas, Mardiros
Saryan, and Vahan Derian.

In the 21st century, this meeting of the minds is being replicated in
a large television studio near the Burbank Airport. Every week,
writer, journalist, and Armenian language and literature professor
Sona Tigranyan-Petrossian invites contemporary cultural figures to
share their work and insights through an hour-long talk show called

Nestled in an industrial neighborhood feet from California’s main
arterial highway, Interstate 5, Petrossian’s virtual VERNADUN sets out
every Monday night to become the intellectual artery of dialogue for
Armenian artists, painters, writers, actors, poets, and composers.

"We serve the Armenian arts community and the Armenian people under
the ‘One Nation, One Culture’ slogan," says Sevak Petrossian, the
executive producer of the program. "As a result of the weekly
dialogue, we are also helping boost cultural ties between Armenia and
the diaspora."

The place where this weekly dialogue takes place is called the
Meridian Studio. The studio and production company are the creation of
the 34-year-old Petrossian, whose late father, Vardges Petrossian, was
a poet, writer, editor, publisher, and head of Armenia’s Writers
Union. Vardges Petrossian was also the publisher of the
widely-distributed KAROON magazine. He was assassinated in Armenia in
the early 1990s, but his legacy has been kept alive through the
Vardges Petrossian Cultural Fund.

"After the founding of the Vardges Petrossian Cultural Fund," says
program host Sona Petrossian, "there were gatherings in the attic of
our house on Verdugo Avenue in Burbank. The Los Angeles Vernadun
successfully functioned as a studio for young, talented artists."

After seven years of meetings and classes at the studio, many of those
who gathered on Verdugo Avenue saw their words published and received
a number of awards. The Board of the Vardges Petrossian Fund decided
to enlarge their literary circle by taking their dialogue to cable
television, and that’s how Mrs. Petrossian’s weekly show evolved.

Sevak Petrossian, may be better known to REPORTER readers for the M
Club Armenian music video awards show that he produced at the Kodak
Theatre in Hollywood last December. Petrossian, a graduate of the
Yerevan Art and Theater Institute, oversees several of the shows
produced at Meridian, including VERNADUN, M CLUB, and POST SCRIPTUM.

The younger Petrossian aspired to be a director at a young age and has
since exercised his storytelling talents and skills by producing
dozens of popular music videos. He has also directed several
documentaries and short films at Armenfilm Studios, under the
supervision of well-known Armenian actor and producer Frunze

"Meridian is currently shooting short and feature films that focus on
great Armenian artists," says Petrossian. "We are also producing talk
shows for teenagers and children’s programming. These two varieties
are of great importance and much needed in this country.

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11. Genocide and Egoyan

by Paul Chaderjian

Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan cannot help but continue to
make movies that address the themes of loss and the consequences of
trauma, because so much of his personal history is dictated by the
loss his grandparents’ generation experienced during the Armenian
Genocide. The person that he is and the art that he creates cannot
help but be a reaction to one of the greatest traumas suffered – one
yet to be collectively addressed by 20th- and 21st-century

While many critics and film fans believe that Egoyan’s ARARAT was his
first film about the Armenian Genocide, a careful study of Egoyan’s
previous feature films will demonstrate that all his films address the
issue of how an individual or a group of people react and respond to
loss. The theme of the trauma of loss, people’s reaction to loss, and
the relationship of the people dealing with loss and trauma are what
define Egoyan’s films and screenplays.

In his first feature, NEXT OF KIN, Egoyan brings to life
second-generation Genocide survivors who were forced midlife to move
because of injustices they experienced in the country in which their
parents had found haven after surviving the Genocide. Where Egoyan’s
characters, the Derian family, found themselves and where they had to
move from is clearly the result of their parents being displaced from
their ancestral homeland. The Derians would not have faced
immigration, poverty and the reality of giving up their newborn son
had it not been for the catastrophe of genocide that their parents

What is more important in NEXT OF KIN is how the Derians relate to one
another as a result of unaddressable traumas their parents survived.
First, the Derians demonstrate that they are in a mode of extreme
self-preservation, that even the modern dresses that their daughter
wants to wear and the freedom of self-expression she wants to engage
in through art are inconceivable as they relate to the values that the
Derians are engrained with preserving.

The second example of the Derians’ dysfunctional psychology, again the
result of genocide, is their inability to deal with the loss of their
son through adoption. Their inability to make peace with having to
give up their son is a double-edged sword when combined with the
losses their parents experienced. When humans suffer from one trauma,
the scientific community believes the trauma becomes part of their
‘operating system and all future incidents of change are perceived as
more traumatizing that they truly are. The forced adoption of their
son is skewed in the Derians’ minds, so much so that when a stranger
shows up and claims that he is their son, they accept him with open

The best example of Egoyan addressing the Armenian Genocide in movies
other than ARARAT is in the film called THE SWEET HEREAFTER. This
motion picture is about the deaths of children, who are killed when
their school bus plunges into a frozen lake. What happens to a
community after a traumatic, life-changing loss is the question that
THE SWEET HEREAFTER asks. With the film, Egoyan asks what the world
should have asked about the victims of the Armenian Genocide and the
other genocides that were to follow in the 20th century. What happens
to the survivors? What happens to those who watch their families
perish? What happens to their psychology and how does the fragile
human psyche deal with such an incomprehensible event?

The perpetrator of incomprehensible acts of violence is the character
Egoyan studies in FELICIA’S JOURNEY. At the center of this film is an
abused, mocked, and controlled child, the offspring of a selfish
television star, who turns out to be a cold-hearted serial killer. In
this film, the viewer sees how the human mind can set out to
systematically and carefully plan the murder and execute the
annihilation of other human beings. The killer in FELICIA’S JOURNEY is
an intelligent man who uses his ability to manipulate reality, endear
himself to strangers, win their trust through empathy and then
accomplish that which he planned to do – to kill. In that sense,
FELICIA’S JOURNEY could be a study of the victim, the Armenians, and
the victimizer, the Ottoman Turks. The way the pregnant Felicia is won
over, her resistance is lowered, and she is eventually poisoned is
metaphoric of how the Armenian populations were manipulated to trust
the government under whose rule they lived, taught to trust, and then
easily marched to their deaths.

In THE ADJUSTER, Egoyan explores moral versus material values by
telling the story of an Armenian woman who makes moral judgments as a
movie censor, and her husband, who decides the material value of
things lost in fires. THE ADJUSTER is a classic study of the clash of
materialism and morality, and how a human internal dynamic of being
married to one or the other make it impossible to relate to other
humans whose dynamic is opposite theirs. The insurance adjuster, the
materialist, is unable to understand his wife’s morality-driven
existence, in which family and history that offer the moral values are

While loss and the trauma of genocide make the adjuster’s wife who she
is, the untamed lands of the new world filmed by Egoyan — the parcels
of land upon which will be built new homes and new communities –
define the adjuster and his mission to appease those who experience
material losses in a culture of materialism. He demonstrates, by
sleeping with the victims of loss, that morality is secondary to his
goal to help the victims of fires make peace with their loss of
material. In the contradictory world of the adjuster’s wife, sharing
one’s life with siblings, nurturing and making moral judgments on the
arts that the public will consume are what drive the third-generation
survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

Finally, how Armenians differ in their relationship to their cultures
is the theme of CALENDAR, in which a Middle Eastern, an American, and
an Armenian from Armenia relate to one another. In the melting pot of
America, the American Armenian is allowed to divorce himself from his
reality as a genocide survivor and has no emotional connection to his
past, which is represented by the churches he is commissioned to
photograph. Because of his disconnect with his culture, he is on a
mission to find, through a series of unsuccessful dates, someone that
he can relate to.

Opposite the American-Armenian post-Genocide experience is the
photographer’s wife from the Middle East, who has embraced survival
and the dream of a homeland. Upon meeting the Yerevan Armenian, who is
the driver during her and her husband’s trip to Armenia, she realizes
how much more connected the driver is to his homeland and her plight
than the invisible American-Armenian. Through the dialogue of this
film, the images of the homeland, the cold indifference of
long-distance phone calls, Egoyan demonstrates how three groups of
Armenians have evolved after the great trauma and incomprehensible
loss of their people.

Though Egoyan may not have set out to address themes relating to the
Armenian Genocide in his films, he nevertheless creates and is
attracted to stories of loss and survival after a loss. After all, an
artist creates and expresses in his or her art themes that are unique
to his or her experience. In Egoyan’s case, what is biographically
unique to him is the reality of his experience growing up as a third
generation survivor of an event that shaped the characters and
psychology of his grandparents, his parents, and in turn, the
character of the artist that is Atom Egoyan.

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