‘Toastmaster’ Brings Tradition to Life

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By Gabriella Gage

Mirror-Spectator Staff

LOS ANGELES — When Spanish filmmaker, Eric Boadella, experienced the ancient Armenian tradition of the tamada or toastmaster, “It was love at first sight,” he said.

From this initial reaction, Boadella found the inspiration to create the family-centered comedy-drama, “Toastmaster,” which recently premiered during the 27th Wine Country Film Festival, in Sonoma, Calif. The film tells the story of Uncle Kapriel who decides to teach his adult nephew, Alek, the family tradition of toastmaster, just in time for his mother’s wedding. But Kapriel does not expect Alek to uncover his uncle’s secret past.

Boadella was attending a social gathering when he encountered his first Armenian toastmaster. The tamada not only offers the traditional toast at a wedding or celebration, but serves as the master of ceremonies, directing other speakers and adding his (or her) personal flavor along the way. It could be the respected family elder, or the uncle who has a knack for storytelling, along with a sense of humor to entertain an entire family, or anyone up to the challenge.

Boadella explained, “I immediately admired this poet and master of improvisation. Almost magically, with each lyrical and clever toast, he eternalized the moment and shared the joy with his loved ones.” Inspired by the art form, Boadella said, “That night I realized the toastmaster and I shared the same vision. Although I use different tools than he does, cinematography and actors instead of poetry and vodka, the ultimate goal is the same: to immortalize a story. My admiration for the toastmaster was my catalyst for writing this humanistic story between two characters from two very different generations: Uncle Kapriel, the toastmaster and his nephew, the collector of stories.”

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Boadella, a native of Barcelona, had no previous involvement with the Armenian community, but discovered a new-found respect for the rich Armenian cultural history and made friends in the community along the way.

His own relationship with film began at a young age. He noted, “I was amazed and intrigued by film since the first time I saw a movie in a theater: ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.’ I’ll never forget the evil man removing hearts using his hands…  I was just a kid!”

From a childhood appreciation for “Dr. Jones,” to a discovery of a passion for producing art, Boadella began creating music videos for songs The BagsSerge Le Bonobo and Dancin’ like Robots and received awards at several festivals. He also experimented with narrative and cinematography, creating  a number of short films. “‘Toastmaster’ was my first attempt to tell a story as best as I can in a classic narrative form,” he said.

Director Eric Boadella

“Toastmaster” was shot entirely in the Los Angeles area. While Boadella was new to the Armenian community, he made sure to include actors who truly understood and embraced the tradition and culture. The protagonists, David Hovan and Sevag Mahserejian are Armenian, as well as, producer Martin Yernazian, producer manager Nanor Abkarian, production designer Houri Mahserejian, musical composer Ara Dabandjian and several other members of the cast and crew. “I was looking for three talented actors that didn’t need a transformation or a big effort to become the characters. In other words: that they had a lot in common with the characters. So I could get a natural and spontaneous chemistry between the characters and a great sense of realism in the performances,” he explained. “I think this was one of the keys of making ‘Toastmaster’ something special.”

Crowd-sourcing, via Indiegogo, supplied the funding for “Toastmaster.” “We had more than 200 contributors that made this film possible,” noted Boadella. “Toastmaster” is in English and Armenian with English subtitles, but with Armenian subtitles forthcoming.

A scene from the film

The film will be making the rounds of the international film festival circuit through next spring. Boadella and producers are currently planning a film premiere in Los Angeles and looking for a sponsor to aid in organizing the event. “It will be a great event, with the cast and crew and the Los Angeles Armenian community is expecting to see the film,” said Boadella.

As for Boadella, he is waiting for that next inspirational moment and has several possible upcoming projects to choose from, with another independent film likely on the horizon. “The experience with ‘Toastmaster; was very positive, and I can’t wait to repeat the experience with another feature-length film.”

For more information on “Toastmaster,” screening announcements or to donate to the film, visit the film’s website, www.toastmastermovie.com or Facebook page, www.facebook.com/toastmastermovie.

 

 

 

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