Alexanians Produce Father-Daughter Film on Genocide

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By Tom Vartabedian

GLOUCESTER, Mass. — Nubar Alexanian, 62, has spent the past 35 years working as a photojournalist and filmmaker. He’s traveled to more than 40 countries shooting for magazines such as Life, Newsweek, Time, National Geographic, Fortune and Geo.

He has published five books and rubbed elbows with some of the most influential people throughout the musical world like Paul Simon, Wynton Marsalis and Garth Brooks.

Alexanian’s daughter, Abby, 24, is a recent graduate of Vassar College. Over the past decade, she has spent summers and vacations working on her dad’s still photography and film sets.

Together, they are a father-daughter team uniquely positioned to make a film that speaks to the challenges that Armenian families face today.

The Alexanians’ film is titled, “Journey to Armenia: Three Generations from Genocide.” It is the story of how a young woman’s curiosity propels her reluctant father to join her in finally confronting their family’s dark past and discovering how the denial of the 1915 Armenian Genocide affects them today.

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The Alexanians explain that the film is different than other films of a similar variety. “There are no others I have seen about the effects of denial and the silence that has incurred over three generations,” said Nubar Alexanian. “It’s a feature length documentary about the scars of silence and how a staggering act of inhumanity has forever changed what it means to be Armenian.”

The Alexanians have set a release date of December 2014. The film will run 55-75 minutes and they have added Errol Morris to their production team. Morris’ film, “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara,” won the Academy Award in 2004 for Best Documentary Feature.

The Alexanians toured historic Armenia last year, exploring the land of their ancestors. Armen Aroyan served as their tour guide, along with frequent visitors to Armenia, Steve and Angele Dulgarian. Dr. Louis Najarian accompanied the group, playing clarinet throughout the tour.

Nubar Alexanian hopes to share not only his own family’s perspective, but also the shared experiences of those of Armenian heritage.

“The film tells a story that is deeply personal but also reflects the intergenerational experiences of immigrant families in America,” he said. “It explores larger questions about the devastating effects of denial, the scars of silence and the healing power of curiosity. It echoes the story of families all over the world who suffer tragedies, flee, create new lives with old traditions and search for their place and search for their place in a heritage they only half understand.”

Being a half-Armenian 20-something, Abby Alexanian has spent her life wanting to feel more connected to her heritage, but at times says she has felt removed. The issue of Genocide had never been discussed in family confines.

“Her determination to uncover the truth finally forced me and my parents to confront the trauma that had been avoided for decades,” said Nubar Alexanian.

The film will include panoramic scenes of Eastern Turkey that will be used to juxtapose the majesty of this ancient and fertile land with stories of what happened there.

Nubar Alexanian spent much of his career traveling the world as a documentary photographer, but never once traveled to Armenia or Eastern Turkey where his family lived for centuries.

Although he was raised Armenian, he drifted from his roots, until one day when Abby surprised him by asking if they could visit historic Armenia together.

“My grandmother was among the few survivors of the longest death march in the Genocide era,” said Nubar Alexanian. “After witnessing the massacre of her parents, husband and three daughters, she was forced to walk over 800 kilometers across the scorching desert from Yalova, Turkey, to Aleppo, Syria.”

Unlike other documentaries, the Alexanians do not argue in the film about whether a Genocide occurred or not. Their film assumes the historical fact and begins there. Because of their treatment of the Genocide as fact, the Alexanians have already received harsh criticism.

“We have received some death threats from Turkish lobbyists,” said Nubar Alexanian. “It only heightens the desire to proceed with it,” he added.

The film incorporates DVD home video footage of Armenians visiting their ancestral land, shown over the past decade by Aroyan, who has been guiding tour groups for more than 20 years. The Alexanians have big plans for the film and hope to show it in movie theaters, film festivals, television and international broadcasts. The International Istanbul Film Festival has already expressed an interest.

“Beyond that, we plan to market our film for home viewing with a special emphasis on educational venues,” Nubar Alexanian said.

Both father and daughter have undertaken a huge personal investment in the project, including 18 months of planning and preparation marked by an aggressive fund-raising campaign. A successful Kick-starter campaign brought in $30,000 online. Nubar and wife, Rebecca, are the primary investors with more than $100,000 committed to the project. The couple has lived in Gloucester for many years and enjoys the history and traditions of this seacoast community.

“This spring and summer, we will be shooting interviews throughout the United States,” Nubar Alexanian explained. “Our final shooting trip will be a three-week excursion to Eastern Turkey later this year. Final editing and packaging will take place next July and we will be ready for broadcast in August or September of 2014,” he added.

Nubar Alexanian recently spent two days speaking to 350 students at Pingree School in Hamilton about his film. He was joined by Ruth Thomasian, executive director of Project SAVE.

“The response was deeply moving,” he said. “We’re committed to engaging both the Armenian and non-Armenian communities in this way.”

As the centennial approaches in 2015, Nubar Alexanian said he hopes his documentary will address many issues on the international stage, answer the “Armenian Question” once and for all and help work towards justice for Armenians.

For more information on the film and Alexanians’ production company, Walker Creek Media, email info@walkercreekmedia.com.

 

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