HOLLYWOOD—The 12th Annual Arpa International Film Festival presents 46 films, receptions, and a star-studded closing night awards ceremony from Friday, October 23 to Sunday, October 25 at the legendary Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.
Opening Night Premiere – “Venezzia”
On Friday, October 23 the festival screens the North American debut of Haik Gazarian’s “VENEZZIA,” a Venezuelan production starring two of Latin America’s top film and TV stars, Alfonso Herrera and Ruddy Rodriguez. Gazarian’s first directorial outing sets an epic love story on the Venezuelan coast of the Caribbean Sea during World War II.
The red carpet premiere of “VENEZZIA” which kicks off at 6:30 p.m., will be attended by Herrera, former member of the Grammy-nominated pop group RBD; and Rodriguez, whose more than two decades in television and film have garnered her a legion of devoted fans in the Spanish speaking world and beyond; executive producer Edgar Ramirez whose acting credits include “Domino,” “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Vantage Point”; and screenwriter Valentina Rendon. Opening night proceedings will be emceed by REELZChannel’s Jill Simonian. The screening begins at 8:00 p.m., followed by a cast and crew discussion. Reception in the Egyptian Theatre courtyard will follow. Exclusive $40 pre-sale tickets are available at www.affma.org .
ARPA 2009 Official Selection Highlights
More than 20 nations including Armenia, Venezuela, Turkey, Brazil, France, Peru, Canada, Mexico, Malawi, Israel, Spain, China, Bhutan, India, and Iran are represented among the feature films, shorts, documentaries, music videos and animations that will screen during the festival. “Our programming department tracked the global film market for the last year and singled out the exemplary films relating to Arpa’s mission – to present the works of filmmakers exploring such issues as war, exile, genocide, and environmentalism,” says Arpa Festival director Alex Kalognomos.
In the documentary lineup, this year’s official selection includes the work of such acclaimed figures as Sting (“Battle for the Xingu”), Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons (“Power of the Powerless”) and “24” star Kiefer Sutherland, who narrates “Return to Mexico City,” a documentary, which also includes interviews with President Barack Obama and Tom Brokaw. The film tells the story of Olympic medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos who return to Mexico City forty years after stirring controversy by raising their fists in the air during their medal ceremony and, in the process, raising awareness of the struggle for civil rights in America and basic human rights throughout the world. “Autumn of the Magician,” an homage to legendary Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra and Armenia’s official selection in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 2010 Academy Awards; “Anjar: Flowers, Goats and Heroes,” a film about the history of the people of Musa Dagh by Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Noura Kevorkian; “Husher,” a film which documents the testimony of Armenian Genocide survivors who settled in Italy; and, from Turkish filmmakers Mehmet Binay and M. Caner Alper, “Whispering Memories,” the story of a community of Armenians in Turkey who stayed behind during the genocide and silently converted to Islam.
Screening in the feature film category are Turkish filmmaker Ozcan Alper’s acclaimed “Sonbahar” (“Autumn”), which was featured at the prestigious New Directors/New Films festival in New York City earlier this year and “Chasing Tchaikovsky,” a laugh out loud comedy about marriage and moviemaking directed by Greg Lalazarian and starring veteran actress Ann Magnuson. Art Aroustamian, Boyd Banks, and Josie Davis round out the cast.
Highlights from this year’s competitive short film category include “Hove,” starring Olympia Dukakis. “Hove” is a film about the powerful, unresolved legacy of the Armenian Genocide and was directed by Alex Webb. Actor-Writer-Director Shant Hamassian presents his award-winning film “Spaceman on Earth,” which debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, in a program of shorts by Los Angeles filmmakers.
2009 ARPA Award Recipients
Armin T. Wegner Humantiarian Award
This year’s recipient of Arpa International Film Festival’s Armin T. Wegner Award, which is awarded annually to a motion picture that contributes to the fight for social conscience and human rights, is “Voices from Inside: Israelis Speak.” “This feature length documentary film is based on the stories of 16 Jewish Israeli voices of conscience, each representing a different facet of the peace movement inside Israel,” says Zaven Khatchaturian, Arpa International Film Festival Curator, who invited the filmmakers, producer/director Lucy Martens and producer Marjorie Wright, to the festival.
ARPA Foundation Award
Armenian Educational Foundation (AEF) will receive this year’s Arpa Foundation Award. Over its 60 year history, AEF has been committed to youth and the pursuit of higher learning. To that end, the organization has built and supported the establishment of hundreds of day schools around the world. A short film, produced by Christina Hacopian (“Gossip Girl,” “Bride Wars,” “Dirty Dancing”) and directed by Sevag Vrej (award-winning feature film director of N-4 and Serj Tankian’s MVPA-nominated “Feed Us” music video) documenting AEF’s educational endeavors will be screened during the closing night awards ceremony. “The legacy of AEF will be eternal – for as long a children have schools in which to learn and advance,” says AFFMA Founder Sylvia Minassian.
ARPA/AT&T Award For Environmental Conservation & Stewardship
Finally, AT&T will present an award for Environmental Conservation and Stewardship. AT&T Real Yellow Pages is the festival’s Presenting Sponsor this year. The current issue of the Glendale-Burbank Real Yellow Pages features Arpa International Film Festival on its cover, highlighting Arpa and AT&T’s shared mission to stage ecologically friendly events. In 2008, Arpa staged its first green film festival. This year, Arpa presents its first ever environmental program of eight eco-conscious films.
ARPA Awards Gala And Reception – Hosted By Hollyscoop
The illustrious Hollyscoop Girls – Diana Madison, Nora Gasparian and Ani Esmailian will serve as this year’s Arpa Awards Gala emcees. “These three women are taking Hollywood by storm. Their website is a destination point for industry-insiders,” comments Arpa Festival Co-director Tina Yesayan. Hollyscoop.com was launched in 2006 and has since grown into a popular online media outlet bringing millions of fans up-to-the minute celebrity news. Hollyscoop host a new weekly half-hour entertainment and pop-culture television program that airs at midnight on the CW, KTLA 5 in Los Angeles. “We’re honored to be back at Arpa International Film Festival for a third year. The festival’s mission – to support independent cinema and give a voice to filmmakers who explore issues of war, exile, genocide, and environmentalism – is one we’ve long supported and whole-heartedly encourage our audience to learn more about.”
AFFMA was founded in 1995 for the purpose of enhancing our community’s artistic environment and supporting artists
who seek to bridge the cultural divide. For more information about contributions, becoming an AFFMA member, or volunteering for Arpa International Film Festival, please visit www.affma.org or call 323-663-1882.
Select Film Synopses
AUTUMN OF THE MAGICIAN
“Magic exists!” So said legendary screenwriter Tonino Guerra, a man who imparts an extraordinarily rich inner world and whose literary work is incorporated in school programs at the university level. The documentary “Autumn of the Magician” unearths the magic of Tonino Guerra. During an illustrious career spanning more than five decades, Guerra has penned screenplays for such motion picture giants as Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini and received many of cinema’s most prestigious international awards. An Armenian production, co-directed by Ruben and Vaheh Gevorgyants, ‘Autumn of the Magician’ has been submitted to the Oscars® as Armenia’s official selection in the Best Foreign Language Film category this year.
BATTLE FOR THE XINGU
Imagine Hurricane Katrina was not a hurricane but an event sponsored by the federal government, in collaboration with several multinational corporations. If your imagination fails you, watch “The Battle for the Xingu.” The Xingu, a tributary of the Amazon, is home to over 10,000 indigenous people who rely on the river for survival. The Brazilian government is proposing what would be the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam, threatening to destroy the biodiversity of the region and depriving these people of their rights to a sustainable future.
Nina is a 10 year old girl whose life dramatically changes when her father and Scissor Dancer master asks her to fulfill his last wish. Inspired by “Agony of Rasu Ñiti,” a short story by renowned Peruvian writer Jose María Arguedas, the film is written, directed and produced by Gabriela Yepes.
When eight-year-old Li Tong loses her bus pass after school one afternoon, she begins a journey that will take her across the sprawling city of Beijing and through a series of encounters with the colorful characters that call it home. Writer/producer/director Nian Liu’s beautifully made film from China has garnered major awards at international film festivals all over the world.
THE POWER OF THE POWERLESS
Narrated by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, the film deals with the inspiring real-life story of the famous dissident and playwright, Vaclav Havel; the struggle against tyranny during the communist era in Czechoslovakia; and young people who provided the final impetus to bring down Czechoslovakia’s communist regime during the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The film also investigates the relevance of the Velvet Revolution today and asks why a majority of young Czechs know nothing about it.
RETURN TO MEXICO CITY
A riveting documentary about Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos and their actions during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. After winning medals, both men bowed their heads and raised a black-gloved fist toward the sky as the national anthem played – an action both men said represented not only the American struggle for racial equality but the universal struggle for basic human rights. The film, narrated by Kiefer Sutherland, focuses on their dramatic actions and the aftermath of their struggles over the ensuing 40 years. It also features Smith and Carlos returning to Mexico City together for the first time since their controversial dismissal from the 1968 Summer Games. It features interviews with Tom Brokaw and President Barack Obama.
Turkish filmmaker Ozcan Alper’s acclaimed “Sonbahar” (“Autumn”) is the first feature length film ever to be shot in Homshetsma, a dialect of Armenian that has been preserved in the Artvin province of northeastern Turkey for hundreds of years. Yusuf, a former student activist, returns to his village after serving 10 years in prison for socialist activity. He is welcomed only by his sick and elderly mother. His father has died while he was imprisoned and his older sister has married and moved to the city. He reconnects with his childhood friend and falls for a beautiful Georgian prostitute whose dreams of a socialist utopia have also been destroyed. Neither the timing nor circumstances are right for these two people from different worlds to be together. For all that, love becomes a final desperate attempt to grasp life and elude loneliness. Weakened in body and soul, Yusuf struggles to find purpose in a life that has passed him by.
VENEZZIA (North American Premiere)
Arpa International Film Festival proudly presents the long anticipated North American premiere of Haik Gazarian’s “VENEZZIA” starring two of Latin America’s hottest talents, Alfonso Herrera and Ruddy Rodriguez. Gazarian makes his directorial debut in this epic love story set on the Venezuelan coast of the Caribbean Sea during World War II. A team of Allied military technicians arrives off the Venezuelan coast to patrol against German U-boats. Frank Moore (Alfonso Herrera) is assigned to the remote town of Puerto Miranda where he becomes embroiled in a Nazi plot to sabotage oil supplies destined for Allied ports. He also meets the beautiful and mysterious Venezzia (Ruddy Rodríguez). Longing to escape from the clutches of her domineering husband, Venezzia senses an instant mutual attraction with Frank.
VOICES FROM THE INSIDE – ISRAELIS SPEAK
This film, directed by Lucy Martens and produced by Martens and Marjorie Wright is based on the stories of 16 Jewish Israeli voices of conscience, each representing a different facet of the peace movement inside Israel. Through their eyes and unique perspectives, the film traces Zionism from its beginnings to the reality that exist today, with brutal honesty. It is a film about personal development, the evolution of consciousness of each person, moving from a perspective of nationalist myths to a revelation regarding moral choices for their society – a society that is permeated and defined by militarism and denial. These cross-generational voices have all chosen to break Israel’s silence. They have created a path of transcendence, reconciliation and solidarity alongside the Palestinians, forging a path for real peace. WINNER: Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award at the 2009 Arpa International Film Festival.
“Water should be first.” That is the motto of Charles Banda, a humble, local Malawian fireman turned water activist. Through his story we see how water is a solution to many of the problems in his impoverished, sub-Saharan country. From hunger and poverty to women’s equality and population control, HIV-AIDS to environmental sustainability, Banda makes it clear that the best way to empower people in developing nations, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), is by putting water first. The film is produced and directed by Amy Hart.
WHISPERING MEMORIES / TALKING PICTURES
This is not a story of Armenians who left their homes in 1915 but of those who stayed behind and silently became Muslims: they are now called the ‘Converts.’ The filmmakers, Mehmet Binay and M. Caner Alper, discovered the small town of Geben in the Taurus Mountains, which stands out from the rest of the settlements in the region as a liberal and culturally open community. They became interested in why its people were so different. The town has a high literacy rate, the entire young population has finished high school and many of them attend colleges in the larger cities. The young people of Geben are aware of being different. They decide to speak to their elders to find out more about their past.
Making its World Premiere at Arpa International Film Festival, “Talking Pictures,” a companion pie
ce to “Whispering Memories,” tells the story of Ghazaros Kerjilian returning to his paternal home of Geben. Kerjilian heard about “Whispering Memories” and contacted director Mehmet Binay soon after the film’s international debut in Armenia. At the time, Kerjilian had no idea his grandfather’s name had been spoken in the film. After a lengthy correspondence, filmmakers Binay and Alper met Ghazaros Kerjilian in Toronto to discuss the possibility of traveling to Geben. A long and cautiously planned trip took Kerjilian and his young niece Vivian to their ancestral land for the first time in their lives. As elders get themselves drawn into pictures of the past with fiery discussions, youngsters enjoy their first-ever meeting, promising hope for the future. While visiting his paternal home of Geben, Kerjilian also meets the old Imam who has a peculiar similarity to his father. Secret links between Kerjilian and the Converts of Geben are about to be unearthed.
To become a festival sponsor or to purchase tickets to the Opening Night Premiere screening of “Venezzia” and Closing Night Awards Gala at the historic Egyptian Theatre, please visit www.affma.org or call 323-663-1882. Tickets to individual screenings may be purchased online or at the Egyptian Theatre box office for $11. Tickets to the Closing Night Awards Gala, which includes cocktails and a dinner reception, may be purchased for $75. Tickets to the red carpet premiere screening of “Venezzia” and the post-screening reception are available at www.affma.org for a purchase price of $40. Tickets may also be purchased at the Egyptian Theatre box office for $50 on premiere night. Opening Night Premiere and Gala tickets are also available through the purchase of a VIP 3-day All-Access Pass at the special rate of $150.