A scene from "The Stateless Diplomat"

Review: ‘The Stateless Diplomat’ Captures Essence of Diana Apcar

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The documentary “The Stateless Diplomat” brings attention to the legacy of Diana Agabeg Apcar, the first female Armenian diplomat and possibly one of the first female diplomats ever.

And with its gentle, artistically gorgeous approach, it succeeds.

One problem facing historical documentaries is how to flesh out a story without the benefit of film clips. In “Stateless,” the filmmakers solve the problem by using Japanese-style pen-and-ink drawings, by digital designer Lu Ke, to strike just the right note.

The images match the narration, often dissolving from one frame into another, creating an almost graphic novel look to the story of this venerable hero.

The film makes it clear that Apcar truly discovered her strength when she was pushed to the limit. The film opens with the sequence of Diana, a recent widow, in labor with her sixth child, while creditors seize her furniture in another part of the house. Her simultaneous joy over this the baby and despair over how to provide for her children create a whiplash effect for her and of course the viewer. Her late husband, not a great businessman, had run his company into the ground and Diana had to rescue the business in order to keep a roof over her head, all the while being tormented by the stories of the slain Armenians in Adana.

The film also interviews several historians and diplomats to shed light on this underappreciated Armenian heroine.

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Among many scholars, Dr. Ara Ghazarians of the Armenian Cultural Fund in Arlington, Mass., Grant Pogosyan, the Republic of Armenia’s ambassador to Japan, as well as Prof. Keith Wattenpaugh provide background information on Apcar.

Meline Mesropyan, a doctoral candidate in Japan focusing on Apcar at Tohoku University in Japan, speaks in a heartfelt manner about a woman whom she has never met but has fleshed out with her words.

The documentary follows the timeline of Apcar, her family and her dedication to her people at the time of the Armenian Genocide and later the creation of the Armenian Republic.

In fact, she was so worried about her fellow Armenians that she sold the jewelry which she had hidden soon after her husband’s death as an insurance policy. She helped pay the fare for many to and from Japan and helped them subsist while in Japan. In addition, we are shown her endless letter-writing campaign to find the survivors sponsors in the US.

Also interviewed in the film are her family members, including Lucille Apcar, her granddaughter. In addition, the descents of Armenian Genocide survivors who were rescued by Apcar, pay tribute to a woman without whom they would not exist.

The documentary taps into the sense of urgency as well as helplessness that Apcar felt, using the texts of several of her letters. Not only was she in despair about her people, but she had a family and business to take care of. And she did all of these as a woman in a world that did not take women seriously.

The film also notes that Apcar was well appreciated in Japan as a volunteer, diplomat and businesswoman.

Apcar’s increasing sense of despair and her nervous breakdown are illustrated in the documentary, creating a sense of empathy in the viewer.

We see that her prayers were answered when the First Republic was created in 1918 and her despair when it folded after only two years. She was racked with guilt that she had encouraged many survivors to go to Armenia.

“The Stateless Diplomat” captures the dignity of a woman who knew that her destiny propelled her beyond an ordinary life. It also shows what a difference one person with good intentions and intelligence can make.

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