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13th Annual Armenian Film Festival Features New Films-Attracts Students & Community

Evelyn Demirchian
Staff Writer

Eric Nazarian Photo: Erica Magarian
Eric Nazarian
Photo: Erica Magarian

An eager crowd packed the Industrial Technology Building’s auditorium the evening of Friday, February 24 in anticipation of the 13th Annual Armenian Film Festival at Fresno State. The Festival was organized by the Armenian Studies Program and featured volunteers from the Armenian Students Organization who introduced the films. The Festival was funded in part by the Thomas A. Kooyumjian Family Foundation.

Students, family, professors, filmmakers, and community members all came out to support this annual event that features a variety of films from the international Armenian film community.

The four films showcased this year were “The Armenian and the Armenian” (2012) by director Armen Karoghlanian, “Le Piano” (2011) by Levon Minasian, “Sunrise Over Lake Van” (2011) from Artak Igityan and Vahan Stepanyan and “Bolis” (2011) by director Eric Nazarian.

“Telling stories is the only way we can create empathy, without being dogmatic or didactic,” said director Nazarian, quoting the late William Saroyan.

Nazarian traveled from Los Angeles for the viewing of his film “Bolis,” speaking to the audience before the film began.
“The game has changed, civilization has changed, and technology has changed everything. Everything is cinema. Facebook, YouTube, Skype, everything is words and images, so we have to start not being didactic but being storytellers. Being storytellers in a way that transcends the fact that we are special because we are Armenian.”

Nazarian was chosen with several other directors to be part of a project entitled “Do Not Forget Me, Istanbul.” Each film made focused on a theme of one of the ethnic minorities in Turkey, providing a look into the world of Istanbul that is both European and Anatolian.

“Bolis” is the first time the word “genocide” was uttered in a Turkish cinema. The story concerns an oud player with lived in Istanbul, known by Armenians as Bolis. A short film, “Bolis” contains multiple layers showing us how the cosmopolitan, progressive world of Istanbul lives right beside the more rustic, memory-filled streets of the city.

“The Armenian and the Armenian,” based on a Saroyan short story, evoked the Armenian spirit.

An audience favorite, “Le Piano” was another short film, which provided a view into a world not commonly seen by the1988 earthquake that destroyed the city of Leninakan. Young orphan Loussine is a talented musician. Her grandfather dotes upon the girl, who can’t speak, and her rented piano. The piano is too large to fit inside their small residence, so Loussine must practice outside in the elements where the weather, neighbors, and little hooligans become obstacles. The plot serves as an indicator that, just as the beautiful piano is too big for the small house, Loussine’s beautiful talent is too large for Leninankan.

The remaining film, “Sunrise Over Lake Van,” was also embraced by the crowd, and provided moments of comic relief and introspection. A feature-length film, “Sunrise Over Lake Van” concerned the antics of Garabed, an old man whose mother survived the 1915 Genocide, and who now takes it upon himself to burn Turkey’s flag in front of the Turkish Embassy every April 24.

Garabed’s son, Dikran, his new wife, and Garabed’s grandson and grandson’s girlfriend, all played separate but meaningful roles within the storyline supporting each other.

The films all inspired conversation among the audience, drawing applause and laughs as well as sighs and murmurs.
The Knights of Vartan Cultural Committee provided refreshments after the screening, providing an opportunity for the audience to reflect upon the films.

Films this year once again showcased the bevy of talent, artistry, and passion alive in Armenian filmmakers around the world.

The Armenian and the Armenian (2010) (USA),
Director: Armen Karaoghlanian
Bolis (2011) (USA/Turkey), Director: Eric Nazarian
Folie à Deux (2011) (France), Director: Armen Khechoumian
40 Days of Musa Dagh (2010) (USA), Director: Robert Davidian
Return (2010) (USA), Director: Robert Davidian
Komitas (2010) (USA), Director: David Deranian
The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia (2010) (Armenia),
Directors: Arman Yeritsyan, Inna Sahakyan
Le Piano (2011) (France/Armenia), Director: Levon Minasian
Roots (2011) (Greece), Director: Vahagn Karapetyan
Sunrise over Lake Van (2011) (Armenia),
Directors: Artak Igityan, Vahan Stepanyan

Thank you to Armen Toumajian, Film Curator of the AFFMA-Arpa Foundation for Film, Music and Art (Los Angeles) for his assistance in organizing the 13th Annual Armenian Film Festival.
Thank you to Vatche Soghomonian for technical assistance.