AGBU Supports Independent Armenian Cinema with Global “Armenians in Film” Series

  • 05.01.2023
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“Armenians in Film” at Lincoln Center, New York. Photo by Harout Barsoumian

After two years of virtual screenings, eager film enthusiasts around the globe joined AGBU’s creative young artists for in-person showings and discussions of the past, present, and future of Armenian independent films.

The first screening took place at Pasadena’s AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Performing Arts Center, followed by São Paulo’s Reserva Cultural, and New York’s prestigious Francesca Beale Theater at Lincoln Center. The diverse set of films explored themes dating back to Armenian displacement and assimilation to timely depictions of Artsakh and interpretations of the modern Armenian family, in addition to non-Armenian topics like avant-garde takes on art and humanity.

The West Coast screening held as part of the Pasadena Glendale Chapter’s 7th annual Armenian Fest was cosponsored by the Armenian Film Society, with proceeds benefitting the families of fallen soldiers and displaced civilians. Moderated by Teny Issakhanian, the story artist and illustrator from Disney blockbusters including “Encanto” and “Raya & The Last Dragon,” drew an audience of all ages in the local community. Several films highlighted Armenian identity, like Micheal Aloyan’s “This Land,” Avo John Kambourian’s “Echoes of Kef Time,” and Levon Minasian’s “Le Piano.” Other films shed light on legendary Armenian figures, like Garo Berberian’s “Taniel” — a portrait of poet Taniel Varoujan’s final days during the Genocide. The remaining films took an experimental approach, like Gary Gananian’s ethereal glimpse of youth, “No Thanks” and Hayk Matevosyan’s cinematic rendition of famous works of art, “Art in Motion.”

The screening in Brazil showcased brilliant minds. Most of the short films explored the hybrid Armenian identity, like Alik Barsoumian’s “Antouni,” a portrait of a Syrian-Armenian girl’s relationship with her father and Tatiana Boudakian’s “Dehatsi — I Was Another Place,” a first-hand look at a Brazilian-Armenian re-discovering her roots. Other films captured mementos of Armenian existence in the motherland, like Anahid Yahjian and Emily Mkrtichian’s “Levon” documenting the zany escapades of a 60-year-old rollerblader in post-Soviet Yerevan. Hovig Hagopian and Astrig Chandèze-Avakian’s “Storgetnya,” presented a study of Armenian miners living underground. “It was a great honor for Brazil to promote the first edition of Armenians in Film in São Paulo,” said the chapter chair of AGBU Brazil Rafael Balukian. “The event highlighted the work of global professionals and exemplifies our mission to promote Armenian culture.” Ticket and poster sales benefited AGBU’s Camp Nairi, an exclusive summer camp exclusively for children of fallen or severely injured service members of the 2020 Artsakh War. Located in the Kotayk province of Armenia, the camp is free of charge and supported by donors worldwide.

 “Armenians in Film” panel discussion in Pasadena with Armenian Film Society.

The final event of the “Armenians in Film” series took place in the prestigious theater of Lincoln Center, moderated by award-winning actress and founder of the Socially Relevant Film Festival Nora Armani. Once again, the Armenian theme ran deep with cinematic explorations of family ties in Arnaud Khayadjanian’s “Anahide” and Kevork Aslanyan’s “The Ticket.” However, many works pivoted to Artsakh with films inspired by true events, like the striking retelling of a family escaping shelling during the Artsakh war in Hasmik Movsisyan’s “250KM” and Anahid Yahjian’s “Hishé,” an enthralling meditation of grief and remembrance in Artsakh. Other films highlighted constructed languages, like Alik Barsoumian, Noah Garabedian, and Gregory Dolbashian’s “Gathering,” an artistic approach to the language of music and dance and Nevdon Jamgotchian’s “Stuck,” a creative take on a lone astronaut speaking interlingua. Directors and actors virtually Zoomed in and flew in from Armenia to discuss interpretations of their films, the inception of their ideas, and the creative bonds AGBU has shaped through this event. “It’s such an honor to be here and to present fresh contributions to Armenian living culture with our filmmakers,” said Hayk Arsenyan, the director of AGBU Arts. “I am really blown away and I think this selection is particularly powerful,” Armani chimed in. “Many films moved me to tears and I can tell that each and every film came from a personal place.”

“Armenians in Film” panel discussion at Lincoln Center, New York. Photo by Harout Barsoumian

AGBU Arts offers financial, mentorship, and exposure opportunities for rising artists, providing a number of scholarships to talented young Armenians who might otherwise not have the opportunity to study at top institutions. In addition, AGBU Arts offers mini-grants and the Creative Armenia-AGBU Fellowshipto support young talent with professional mentorship and funds to bring ideas to life and build credentials as they pursue a given field. AGBU also organizes the Sayat Nova international composition competition and hosts performance and exhibition opportunities around the world.

The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) is the world’s largest non-profit organization devoted to upholding the Armenian heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs. Each year, AGBU is committed to making a difference in the lives of 500,000 people across Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian diaspora.  Since 1906, AGBU has remained true to one overarching goal: to create a foundation for the prosperity of all Armenians. To learn more visit www.agbu.org.

Directors and producers answering questions at the “Armenians in Film” event in Brazil.

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