Armani Brings Rated SR – Socially Relevant Film Festival New York to Life


By Gabriella Gage

Mirror-Spectator Staff

NEW YORK — Actress Nora Armani, founding artistic director, and Mike Camoin, founding director of the Filmmakers’ Lab, first announced their plans for a unique new film festival, Rated SR – Socially Relevant Film Festival New York, while attending this year’s Cannes, but for Armani the makings of the festival have been present throughout her career as an actor, filmmaker and thinker.

According to its website, the Rated SR- Socially Relevant Film Festival New York is “devoted specifically to filmmakers and fans of entertaining and commercially viable movies that achieve box office success without resorting to gratuitous violence, vices and sensationalism.”

The multilayered festival will take place concurrently in Manhattan and in upstate New York at the Carey Center for Global Good/ The Carey Institute. Manhattan events will include screenings, red carpet, Q&A with the selected filmmakers and various panels. Upstate, the Filmmakers’ Lab will run with various panels with industry guests, networking opportunities, sessions and receptions as well as some screenings. Transportation will be offered between the two sites and accommodations will be available at the upstate location. Camoin, alongside Carol Ash, president of the Carey Center for Global Good, will be leading the festival activities at the Carey Center.

While the festival is the first of its kind and size, Armani has spent much of her life dedicated to acting, directing and festival organization.

Photo credit: Yannis Nivault

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Armani grew up in Cairo, Egypt, the daughter of Armenian parents. From an early age she showed an interest in the arts, staging plays and performances with cousins and her brother during holidays. “Growing up in the Armenian community [in Egypt] there were cultural clubs, theater companies and an appreciation for the arts,” Armani recalled. Despite her interests, Armani was shy until she finally found her voice reciting poetry on stage.

She credits Gerald Papasian, creative collaborator and former husband, for being the first person to inspire her to take more of a role in the arts. Together with Papasian, Armani created one of her favorite works, “Sojourn of Ararat,” a love story connecting Armenian poetry and literature throughout the ages with the essence of what it is to be Armenian. “We were able to introduce Armenian culture to non-Armenians,” noted Armani.

Her stage work includes “The Lover” (Los Angeles), “Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising” (London), “The King and I” (Cairo) to name a few. Splitting time between Paris and New York, Armani is known for her global voice and ability to communicate across cultures and continents with performances in English, Armenian, French, Arabic, Italian and an ever-increasing list. She has a host of film and television credits including CBS’ Golden Boy, and BBC’s Casualty in addition to a number of feature and short films (list on IMDB).

Armani has won numerous awards for her work including four Drama-Logue awards, Best Actress Award at Russian Film Festival in Siunik for “Labyrinth” and has been named an honorary member of the National Theatre of Armenia.

But Armani is no stranger to the social consciousness aspect of the festival either. In addition to her degree from American University in Cairo, Armani holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from London School of Economics. Armani says she takes the oversaturation of violence in various mediums as an important issue in society. “Images are very powerful— they impress upon people. Violence in [film] normalizes and desensitizes death and killing.”

Armani already had a fair amount of experience organizing film festivals, often working to bring Armenian narratives in film to a global audience.

Founding Artistic Director Nora Armani with Founding Director of the Filmmakers’ Lab Mike Camoin

“I had been organizing film festivals and curating films for years,” said Armani, who had been involved with events such as a 1992 tribute to Armenian cinema for the American Film Institute (AFI), an Armenian Cinema Month at the Pompidou Centre, weeks of Armenian cinema at the ICA and Ciné Lumière London and a 2006 sidebar at the Silver Lake Film Festival showing solely Armenian films made in the diaspora. She was appointed representative to the Ministry of Culture of Armenia for film between 1991-1993. Armani felt that some vital stories were still being neglected in mainstream Hollywood.

An opportunity to change that came this past January, when Armani attended a panel in Rotterdam at the Film Festival where she met Camoin, and discovered they both shared an interest in responsible filmmaking in terms of both raising funds and subject matter. “From there, it immediately took shape,” Armani recalled. Both were troubled by the prevalence of gratuitous violence and a Hollywood culture that goes for big-budget explosion-packed films that often don’t return expected profits while dismissing socially relevant films.

“In today’s world we are exposed to films edited to be constantly yelling at us — not speaking to us at a normal vocal level,” said Armani.

And what do the creators behind the festival deem socially relevant? “Something that touches humanity,” says Armani. Stories with a relevant message or cause, this could be anything from documentary on human trafficking to a rom-com that appeals to our compassion by dealing with a social issue.

The festival is not about censorship or even about critiquing existing films— it’s about providing a venue for important socially conscious, but often-neglected narratives in film. “We are not activists. It’s first and foremost about entertainment and production value […] because I am a filmmaker, I want to say this through the film medium,” she added.

For Armani, the festival represents the culmination of her years of passionate interests and experiences. “It satisfies the actor in me, the director, my interest in social responsibility, my film organizing experience …I’m really very happy to be doing it,” said Armani

Rated SR – Socially Relevant Film Festival New York is accepting applications and downloadable forms are available via their website. They will also begin accepting submissions in September via Founders encourage applicants of SR films in the feature, documentary and short film categories. Festival organizers also welcome volunteer applications and nominations for the selection committee members. Armani noted that they hope to feature an audience-curated section on their website in order to allow for suggestions of SR films (only films not currently in distribution should be recommended.)

Organizers are currently asking for financial support to make their vision of the festival a reality and an annual event. They will launch an Indiegogo campaign in the upcoming weeks, asking for donations as small as $6 (“the price of a latte”) and offering executive producer spots for major donors of $25,000 or more.

For more festival information on submissions, volunteering, donating through the Indiegogo campaign and much more, visit



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