There was standing room only in the Peters Educational Center Auditorium on Friday, August 28, as more than 300 Armenians and non-Armenians came to watch the special sneak preview screening of the film Aram, Aram. Co-sponsored by the Armenian Studies Program, the screening of Aram, Aram was part of the Fresno State CineCulture Fall 2016 film lineup.
CineCulture has had a long standing collaboration with the Armenian Studies Program, bringing films such as Grandmas Tattoos and Celluloid Exiles: A Brief History of the Armenian Genocide and Diaspora on Film to the Fresno State campus. CineCulture professor Dr. Mary Husain explained her decision to screen Aram, Aram stating “after watching a screener, I was extremely impressed by the film, both the cinematography and content. The issues addressed in the film are relevant to many different cultural groups, and the acting is superb.”
Directed by Christopher Chambers, Aram, Aram is the first American independent film to take viewers inside the Armenian community of Los Angeles. Featuring the well-known Armenian actor Levon Sharafyan (Arsen), as well as the debut of stars John Roohinian (Aram), and Sevak Hakoyan (Hakop), the film follows the life of Aram, a 12 year-old boy who is suddenly uprooted from his home in Beirut and forced to immigrate to Los Angeles, where he struggles to adapt to his new life.
Although the movie focuses on the story of an Armenian boy, ultimately the movie conveys struggles that are universal to all immigrant groups. Explaining his vision for the film during a Q&A session after the
screening, Chambers remarked “I wanted to make it [the film] in a way that we can all identify with it, no matter of our race.”
Speaking with students after the screening, it was clear that Chambers was successful in his goal. Fresno State sophomore, Eric Jimenez, reflected on the film’s ability to transcend ethnicity stating “personally, I could connect to the film in more than one way. My family moved here from Mexico and I’ve had family members who’ve been pulled down the wrong path like Aram.” Jimenez also commented on the movies message on stereotyping saying “as a Latino, I get stereotyped all the time by people just like this movie was suggesting, so I’m glad that this movie was also showing the negative outcomes of stereotyping.”
However, the nuances of the Armenian culture were still very much deeply ingrained in the film. Co-producer, Ian Coyne, who was also at the Q&A session, remarked “it was interesting watching him [Chambers]…kind of absorb this culture and really show it to us in a way I think Armenians will appreciate and Americans can really understand and grasp.”
On a different level, the movie conveys an important side of the Armenian culture that we see here in Fresno on a regular basis. “My hope” explained Chambers “was that at the end when they are hugging and embracing, that is, on a metaphorical level, talking about how the different [Armenian] ethnic groups—despite their differences—…are also united, transcending everything and being united as Armenians.” Anyone who has attended an Armenian event in Fresno can attest to this fact.
In addition to its CineCulture screening, Aram, Aram was shown at the newly opened Maya Cinemas. The film had its official red carpet premier in Fresno on October 1, and continued its run at the Maya Cinemas until October 8. Those who attended thepremier had the opportunity to meet the actors and the director of the film, and many were able to have their pictures taken on the red carpet with the stars.
An American film that is the first of its kind, it is hoped that the success of Aram, Aram will encourage more Armenian stories to be told and more Armenian-themed movies to be made.