Cape Ann Community Cinema
Journey to Armenia
Three Generations from Genocide
Father/daughter duo Nubar and Abby Alexanian will show scenes from their work-in-progress “Journey to Armenia: Three Generations from Genocide” at the first Cape Ann Forum of the year. The event is free and open to the public and will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers.
The producers plan to release the documentary in 2015 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 1915 massacre of an estimated one-and-a-half million Armenians in Turkey, a moment the producers hope will spark renewed conversation about the long hidden past. “Survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide were met by a century of denial,” says Nubar Alexanian. “Our movie is about the scars of this silence.”
“The year 2015 marks 100 years since the genocide of a million and a half Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire, an event still denied by many countries, including Turkey and the United States,” he adds. “We are making a film about being Armenian—about what it means to the soul of a people to be denied this recognition for generations.”
The father/daughter film team traveled to Turkey and Armenia to gather material for the project. They also use filmed interviews with their own family in what they call a “search for identity, our place in the world, how we move forward—together—as a people.” But they insist this is not just a story about Armenia.
“It’s an American story about yearning to connect to the memories, the history, and the people who created us, whether we knew them or not,” says Nubar. “It echoes the story of families all over the world—those who suffer tragedies, flee, create new lives with old traditions—and of the next generations who search for their place in a heritage that they only half understand.”
The origin of the project came when daughter Abby surprised her father with a request to go to Armenia, he says. His initial reluctance to embrace his heritage and her enthusiasm for it made it a deeply personal undertaking from the outset, transforming their relationship as well.
“We’ve seen and experienced the long-term effects of the genocide in our own family, and the more we see the more we realize that these effects are everywhere for Armenians and deeper than we imagined,” he says. “With this film we are naming a hidden-in-plain-sight wound, and in doing so we are struggling to make personal and cultural meaning of these past 100 years.”
Alexanian, who lives in West Gloucester with his wife Rebecca Koch, is a documentary photographer and filmmaker who has traveled to more than 30 countries and worked for numerous print and broadcast outlets and other corporate clients in the U.S. and Europe over the past 35 years. He recently published his fifth book, “NONFICTION: Photographs by Nubar Alexanian from the Film Sets of Errol Morris”.
His 2001 book “Gloucester Photographs” is a compilation of black-and-white images shot over more than two decades that, according to one reviewer, “unites the natural world of water and rock, ice and trees, and leaves and snow with the world of men and women and children going about their business against the immensity of the landscape.”
His other books include “Jazz”, produced with famed musician Winton Marsalis, and “Where Music Comes From”, which documents the creative processes of musicians such as Marsalis, Philip Glass, Emmylou Harris, and Paul Simon, and was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the best books of 1997 for young adults.
A prolific photojournalist who has worked for the New York Times Magazine, Life, Fortune, Geo, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, Alexanian is the founder and president of a film and video production company, Walker Creek Media. His films include “Flamenco Nuevo” (2007) and “Flamenco Shorts” (2004),” shot in Spain and Canada for the Bose Corporation; “The Professor of Swing” (1998), a cinematic portrait of Wynton Marsalis; and “The Clifford Ball” (1994), an MTV documentary on the band PHISH.
Abby Alexanian, his daughter and co-producer, is a graduate of Vassar College and worked on many of her father’s still photography and film sets. She is currently an advocate and program developer in a domestic violence shelter in Ann Arbor, Mich., and plans to go to graduate school to study public policy next fall.