By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, special to the Mirror-Spectator
BERLIN — Films are not only for entertainment, but may have the power to change political reality. This is certainly the case with “Aghet” by director Eric Friedler. First released in 2010 and widely covered on German television, the documentary on the Armenian Genocide paved the way for the Genocide recognition resolution passed by the Bundestag (Parliament) on June 2, 2016. For Green Party leader and parliamentarian Cem Özdemir, who delivered the laudation at a ceremony awarding Friedler the State Prize of the Republic of Armenia in Berlin on December 14, the director was “a very central forerunner” on the way to the resolution.
Ambassador of Armenia to Germany Ashot Smbatyan, in presenting the award, remarked that “Aghet” shows the destruction of an ancient culture. Thanking the Bundestag for passing the resolution, and thus joining many other legislative bodies, he urged that the film be used in schools as part of history lessons.
Özdemir stressed that it is only through a critical reexamination of the past that we can arrive at the truth. He praised the film’s new scientific approach, which relied not only on visual images, but on powerful arguments — something required in this “post factual” world.
In his remarks upon accepting the award, director Friedler defined the genocide as “the last taboo in Turkish policy.” Thanking Özdemir for his leading role in promoting the genocide resolution, Friedler said he saw himself as a link in a chain, and mentioned among other forerunners Edgar Hilsenrath, author of The Story of the Last Thought, Raphael Lemkin, whose work led to the UN Genocide Convention, and Ralph Giordano, the first to issue a documentary on the genocide on German television, Friedler also acknowledged the role of Steffen Reiche, who has been active in the campaign to teach about the genocide in Brandenburg schools.