‘The American Good Samaritans’: New Film Relates Story of American Help to Armenians during Genocide


An Armenian actor acting as Ambassador Henry Morgenthau reads cables from various American sources that relate the realities of the Armenian massacres. Another man, acting as American diplomat Leslie Davis, photographs the violent scenes with an old-fashioned camera. Then a woman, dressed as Clara Barton, is looking into a vintage mirror, preparing for a trip to the Ottoman Empire to help the suffering Armenians. These featured scenes based on historical realities are from a new Armenian film that showcases the story of the American people who supported the Armenians during the 1915 Genocide and Hamidian massacres.

“The American Good Samaritans” by producer Manvel Saribekyan combines documentary and historical fiction approaches. Saribekyan declared: “Documentaries about the Armenian Genocide are often hard to watch – I mean emotionally. Therefore, I chose to add some fictional scenes that visualize the deeds of historical characters. This was the second film in which I applied such tactics.” His first film was the “Map of Salvation,” which showcased the story of European missionaries that assisted Armenian people during the most tragic period of Armenian history.

While working on his first film in 2015, Saribekyan understood that the geography of good Samaritans was vast. Therefore, while his second film focused on American missionaries, the third one will tell about people from Australia and New Zealand.

From left, Artashes Kartalyan (composer), Manvel Saribekyan (producer), Ara Mnatsakanyan (film director)

For “The American Good Samaritans,” Saribekyan’s crew conducted recordings in America as well as Lebanon, Greece, Turkey, and Iran. Among the interviewees were Dr. Rouben Adalian (Armenian-American historian), Dr. Sargon Donabed (Assyrian-American author), Dr. Levon Avdoyan (a former specialist at the Library of Congress), Dr. Antranik Dakessian (associate professor at Haigazian University in Lebanon), Garo Mardirossian (lawyer), Shant Mardirossian (director of the Near East Foundation), Karen Mkrdchyan (researcher from Iran), Dominica Macios (researcher from Poland) and Dr. Konstantinos Fotiadis (historian from Greece).

The author of this article was honored to be part of the working team in the United States. To the best of my knowledge this is the first documentary on Genocide (perhaps on any subject) produced in Armenia that was recorded in so many different geographic locations.

“When pursuing the project, I discovered many interesting stories about American missionaries and doctors, as well as about the history of the Armenian communities,” said Saribekyan, adding that the crew worked in six countries in total. In America alone, recordings took place at the Library of Congress, Harvard and Princeton Universities, Rockefeller Archive Center, the birthplace of Clara Barton, and several other locations related to the subject. The crew visited the grave of Ambassador Morgenthau in New York.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

Although the National Cinema Center of Armenia was the main sponsor of the film, the project wouldn’t have been carried out if not for the never-ending support of the Armenian-American community and organizations, said Saribekyan. The assistance of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, the Knights of Vartan, Mardirossian-Agaragian LCC, and the Hamazkayin and Armenian Relief Society chapters of Thessaloniki was instrumental.

Dr. Paul Levine, left, with Dr. Rouben Adalian

One of the central characters of the American Good Samaritans was ethnic American-Swedish historian of Jewish origin Dr. Paul Levine, who traveled with the crew, visiting historical sites and archives. “Both lucky coincidences and misfortunes happened during the working process,” said Saribekyan, specifying that the saddest event was Paul’s unexpected passing away. “We were in Turkey when we learned about Paul Levine’s demise. We had to make a difficult choice: terminate the project or continue by adjusting the structure of the film to the new circumstances. Thank God, the director of the film and the cameraman were able to make the necessary changes to finish the project,” Saribekyan added.

The premiere screening of “The Good American Samaritans” took place in Los Angeles at the Arpa Armenian Film Festival in November, 2021.

The video segment below presents audience feedback and segments from “The American Good Samaritans” film.

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: