When word of the Annual Armenian Film Festival gets out, films to be showcased at this community event begin to pour into the Armenian Studies Program office. Films with an Armenian theme, concerning Armenian issues, and/or those directed by Armenians arrive from around the country, as well as the world. This year was no different. Numerous interesting and creative films were submitted for a chance to be featured at this year’s 8th Annual Armenian Film Festival.
Though many movies were submitted for review, only few made it to the big screen. The Story of my Name: An Armenian Tale (The Netherlands), a film directed by Dorothée Forma, delved into the life of Alex Peltekian, who discovered his Armenian heritage at nineteen years of age. Until then, he lived his life as Alex Luijten, not knowing that his biological father was Armenian. At the age of forty-four Alex Peltekian decides to explore his Armenian name and discover the story behind it. With this goal he embarks on a journey that takes him from Holland, his home, to Beirut, Lebanon and then Dörtyol, Turkey. With a cousin in Lebanon, one he found through the internet, he travels throughout Beirut and Dörtyol searching for other Peltekians. It is here that he discovers that his ancestors owned much property in Dörtyol, as well as an orange plantation that belonged to his grandfather. While searching for traces of his family, Alex Peltekian visits various Armenian churches, and encounters people who elucidate what it means to be an Armenian.
The second feature film of the evening, The Long Journey from the NFL to Armenia produced by Peter Musurlian, familiarized the audience with Rien Vartan Long, a 24-year-old football player for the Tennessee Titans. Born and raised in the United States, Long rarely questioned his Armenian identity. His great-grandfather, Toros Vartanian, made sure to tell Rien their family history. After Toros Vartanian and wife Elizabeth Krekorian fled the Armenian Genocide of 1915, they settled in America. Spending much of his time researching Armenian art, examples of which are tattooed on both his arms, Rien decides to visit his ancestral homeland of Armenia along with his mother, Bailey, and grandmother, Jo, to experience some of the artwork in person. After his arrival in Armenia, Rien visits churches and historic places that house original artworks he found so fascinating. The film provided footage of various places in Armenia and Karabagh, and discussed issues currently important for Armenians throughout the world.
Other independent films such as documentaries The Daughters of Vartan and the Shikahogh Environmental Film, though not shown due to time constraint, presented an inside look at the highly dedicated work of the Daughters of Vartan and the Armenian Tree Project. Daughters of Vartan provided historical information about the organization, as well as a variety of examples of the work they do for the community, while the Environmental Film concentrated on one issue, environmental impact, following the building of a new highway through the Shikahogh forest. Both films allowed the viewer to learn about these devoted groups and realize how one can help by joining their causes.
With unfailing community support, the Armenian Film Festival continues to be a success. The Armenian Studies Program would like to thank all the contributors who submitted their films to this year’s event.
The 8th Annual Armenian Film Festival was sponsored by the Armenian Studies Program and Armenian Students Organization and was partially funded by the University Student Union Diversity Awareness Program.