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The Critical Corner - 12/13/2005

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"The Genocide in Me," (54 min.) by Araz Artinian, and
"My Son Shall Be Armenian," (81 min.) by Hagop Goudsouzian

The Passing of the Torch to Very Able Armenian Filmmakers
Who Tackle the Genocide Story Head On, Very Personally and
Universally at the Same Time

Armenian News Network / Groong
December 13, 2005

By Bedros Afeyan


Immensely successful documentaries have been released on DVD, both
from Montreal, Quebec, Canada where two Armenian film makers have
chronicled very personal journeys into the Hell of the Past, stoked by
the future, informed by the peaceful surroundings of the calm that is
Canada itself. Two Armenian filmmakers who are the children of
immigrants (as it happens Egyptian Armenian immigrants, like the
rather more famous, Atom Egoyan, the maker of Ararat, before them)
have taken the camera, faced their pasts and decided to chronicle
their internal journeys of understanding and acceptance of the horrors
of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks, its
continual denial, and its unrelenting influence on generation upon
generation of the Armenian progeny of the survivors.

"My Son Shall Be Armenian" (by Hagop Goudsouzian) and "The Genocide in 
Me" (by Araz Artinian) are two heroic efforts narrated in English and 
in French. Yet there is also pure Armenian heard in the trembling 
throats of nonagenarians in Armenia and in America, giving personal 
testimonies, recounting their frightful memories, their nightmares 
lived before the age of ten, their destinies uncertain and uprooted 
from rational reality, their outlook remarkable for all that. These 
survivors together with the witnesses to their stories, together with
the loving cameras of these two filmmakers, sing the sad songs of a 
people brought to the steps of extinction almost a hundred years ago,
yet vital and vigorous, if only in pockets, but challenging the odds,
nevertheless, to stand up once again, in the shadow of Mount Ararat, 
on both sides of its splendor, dancing folk dances without the 
specter of a bloody scimitar or a barbaric war monger to shoe them 
away from their lands.

Goudsouzian has a dream, to let his son feel Armenian and know all 
that this entails. His stated goal in making this movie even, is to 
pass on his father's dreams and aspirations to his son, whom he has
named Arudz, or Lion.

Artinian is scaling this mountain driven by a different mission. She 
is younger than Hagop and her father is a famous community activist 
in Montreal. Not only has he been the editor of the Horizon Armenian 
weekly newspaper, he is one of the founders of the Sourp Hagop (K-12)
Armenian school. Her father is a political activist dedicated to the 
cause of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, an intellectual, a
writer, a community spokesman, a man who works as an architect by day
and runs from meeting to meeting at night in the club house next to 
Sourp Hagop church in Montreal pursuing a community's needs 
tirelessly and selflessly. For a daughter growing up in a house with 
a missing dad more often than not, this has caused strains and 
tensions to develop. Neither Araz nor her mother approve of the 
extent to which Vrej Armen has given his life to the Armenian cause. 
"The Genocide in Me", is an attempt by Araz to come to grips with her 
father's obsession. To understand its origins and its validity, she
spends four years interviewing survivors, visiting ancient Armenia, 
what is now known as Eastern Turkey, camera in hand, fresh out of 
film school, Araz mixes family photographs and 8 mm film with her own
footage, interviewing her father, asking the tough questions and 
laying bare the reality of the burden this unfinished Genocide bears 
on the souls of Armenians today.

She is best at the panorama of details she is able to draw from every
scene. For instance, she shows using an `in your face' element what
it is like in Turkey today with false propaganda and convenient lies 
brewed with the sweet coffee and fake hospitality. The made up 
stories to justify the forced deportations and massacres are an 
outrage to hear. Yet they seem to satisfy the local tour guides. 
There is also Vrej Armen's reality back in Egypt, growing up as a 
boy, with a mother whose intense wish it was to address the calamity 
that had befallen her people. Her parents were married in 1915 in 
Egypt as the Armenian genocide itself began in earnest in Turkey. 
Vrej Armen takes this torch and brings it to Montreal as a young boy 
and fifty years later must submit to the critical eye of a talented, 
father-starved, intense daughter's scrutiny accompanied with the big
absorbing eye of the camera which often reveals more than any subject
would like to see exposed. Araz's work is authentic, dead serious, 
humorous and lyrical all at the same time. Araz is a documentary 
filmmaker par excellence. She loves her art form and excels at 
exploiting its inexhaustible nuances. Yet she has the conviction to 
turn the camera inward and let her dirty little secrets come out. 
Whether it is dating odars (non Armenians) or Turks even, or her self-
doubt about her true identity and role in society, she lets it all 
hang out. The audience can judge for itself what aspects to identify 
with and which to ignore or dismiss. "The Genocide in Me" is the 
genuine article. It is neither exaggerated nor sugar coated. It is 
raw and alive with the pulsing heart of a young woman who believes in
her artistic cause and its universal appeal. Here, Araz is brutally 
honest and extremely effective. You will love this 54 minute movie so
make it a point to see it as soon as you can. For more details visit 
the web site: http://www.twentyvoices.com/


Hagop Goudsouzian's work, "My Son Shall Be Armenian", is equally 
glorious in ambition and execution. Here you have a half dozen 
Montreal Armenians, ready to go to Der Zor and revisit where their 
ancestors where buried, in the Syrian desert, but at the last minute 
are banned from going! Syria feels uncomfortable with respect to its 
northern neighbor. Allowing filming and digging up of past realities 
should best be left undone... Goudsouzian decides to take his crew of
young Armenian Canadians searching for answers to Armenia instead, in
the dead of winter, and interview nonagenarian survivors of the 
Genocide and visit the cemeteries and villages they can, to see what 
the reality is for Armenians in Armenia on the ground today. This is 
a grand journey meticulously filmed and edited to bring out the humor
and crises that the stories themselves contain. The men and women 
from Montreal who are at various stages of assimilation, having 
various levels of grasp over their identities, learn, see, observe, 
share and experience, together with the audience and the guiding 
voice of Goudsouzian always leading the way, always prodding the 
narrative forward from scene to scene, bedroom to bedroom, where 
broken ancient voices are the highlights. The scarred, wrinkled, 
warped faces of Genocide survivors and their Spartan memories, coming
alive, as they explain and reason, wonder and curse, pray and hope 
that an end will be found to this national saga. The Francophone
Montrealers learn and absorb these stories, the scenes in Armenia, 
the villages and the destitution, yet the triumph of the human spirit
to survive, to go on... The nobility of the project is as clear as the
silent smiles the young generation of truth seekers and the older, 
beaten down, yet proud witnesses to one of the most atrocious 
chapters of human history share across the camera's steady stare.

"My Son Shall Be Armenian" is humorous whenever our visitors come into
contact with natives and whenever services are to be rendered. They
search for ancestral names on tombstones with an urgency that belies
the fact that finding what they are looking for is beyond the realm of
the possible. And yet they fight through the snowy paths, hopeful,
cheerful, buoyant. This `diaspora Armenian meets the native' picture
is very delicately woven into the story of personal testimonials of
nonagenarians and the constant voice-over commentary of the filmmaker
who is ever so vigilant to steer you towards the right conclusion and
the right observation. On the other hand, the half dozen Canadians
along for the exploratory trip in Armenia are very compelling
characters. They bring a youth and freshness to the continually
evolving story of the Armenian diaspora, less isolated from the
homeland by politics these days, but still culturally divided with
many material and spiritual challenges left to overcome. More
information about this 81 minute documentary including ways to obtain
a copy can be found at the web site:
http://www.nfb.ca/trouverunfilm/fichefilm.php?lg=en&id=51887>http://www.nfb.ca/trouverunfilm/fichefilm.php?lg=en&id=51887

Odars and Armenians alike will see much of what makes up the Armenian
character in these two movies. By their authenticity and documentary 
mastery, Goudsouzian and Artinian make Armenianness a reality. Our 
past and our present are beautifully intermixed and contextualized. 
Both films make our struggle for the future a little less difficult 
by showing us pathways and long arches of what is becoming of our 
world, what is possible and what seems inevitable. May future 
generations learn from these precious cries of the heart and take on 
the challenges facing the homeland and the diasoporan communities to 
survive and thrive as Armenian cocoons, incorruptible and undying 
like the grace of a crane, the aroma of an apricot, in the shadow of 
a series of medieval cross stones exuding the sounds of wedding 
feasts past, poured into the stone by history's forced marches, sworn
to retell the tale again one day, when the stones themselves are 
returned to their rightful owners.

Araz's and Hagop's cameras show us these witness cross stones just
long enough for us to begin to hear the messages hidden within the 
delicate lace carvings on their surfaces as if the grooves of ancient
LP's to be spun to life, to life, to communal and colossal rebirths
with time, with faith, with humor, and through rightful justice where
man's inhumanity to man is replaced with remorse, repentance, 
reparations and eventual fraternal forgiveness.


--
Dr. Bedros Afeyan is a theoretical physicist who works and lives in
the Bay area with his wife, Marine. He writes in Armenian and in
English and also paints and sculpts. Samples of his work can be found
on the web by clicking on his personal web pages at:
http://208.177.152.139/

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