“Knowledge is power”—this idea was the driving force behind the creation of the documentary “Orphans of the Genocide.” Motivated by this powerful concept, ValleyPBS (based in the San Joaquin Valley) screened the film on Thursday, April 18, bringing together the director of the film, Bared Maronian, actor Ken Davitian, and Armenian Studies Program Coordinator Barlow Der Mugrdechian. Leslie Davis, from the ValleyPBS development office, hosted the evening broadcast.
“Orphans of the Genocide” incorporates interviews with Armenian orphans to tell the story of 150,000 Armenian children who were left parentless as a result of the Genocide. Researcher Missak Kelechian’s findings about the site of an Armenian orphanage located at the present day Antoura College near Beirut, Lebanon, where 1,000 Armenian Genocide Orphans had lived and were forcefully converted and “Turkified” during W.W. I., inspired the documentary.
Robert Fisk, an award-winning journalist, whose article “Living Proof of the Armenian Genocide” was published in 2010 by The Independent, was also interviewed in the documentary. About three years ago, after reading an article about Kelechian’s research, filmmaker Bared Maronian was motivated to start working on a 20-minute documentary about these orphans. After an abridged version of this documentary was nominated for an Emmy, Maronian realized there was potential for a bigger project and created a nearly two-hour long version of the documentary.
Maronian’s goal was to enable viewers to understand “the human experience of those orphans. Although they were Armenians, the experiences of [these innocent children] were universal. Any child of that age, in that situation, would have felt the same.”
Actor Davitian decided to get involved in the screening of the film to help spread “…awareness and information. Knowledge is power… If this film does well here, it will air in many other markets, letting people know what really happened to the Armenians. And I believe there is a very large correlation between what happened to the Armenians, what happened to the Jews, and every other ethnicity. So, if as a civilization, we can say ‘We are going to stop you if you do something like this,’ that would be a lot.”
Valley PBS was the first station to air “Orphans of the Genocide.” According to ValleyPBS President and CEO Paula Castadio, “We were fortunate because the filmmaker came to us… The reason he came to our door is because of our concentrated Armenian population here. He wanted to premier his show for the very first time in a place that would be responsive to it. When we learned of the film and watched it, we felt that he told the story beautifully, in a way that would really compel our community to watch and support it.”
The live screening and fundraising effort was just the initial phase of the project. Maronian’s goal is to have “Orphans of the Genocide” air on different PBS stations in various cities across America, exposing more and more people to the plight of the Armenian orphans. After the film has reached the end of its screening lifespan, Maronian plans to send a free DVD of the film to as many university or museum libraries, and humanitarian organizations as possible, in order to keep spreading the information about the Armenian orphans.
Through the passion, dedication, and commitment of people like those involved in the screening of “Orphans of the Genocide” and in participating in other Commemoration Events, the knowledge of what the Armenians experienced during the Genocide can be used to create a better world for all of humanity.