HOLLYWOOD—Cinema patrons, industry veterans and emerging filmmakers came out to the Egyptian Theatre to see the most highly anticipated films of the year and to celebrate the best of the 15th Arpa International Film Festival (AFFMA.org) at a star-studded gala Awards Ceremony at the Sheraton Universal Hotel.
Over four rainy days from Thursday, November 29 to Sunday, December 2, 2012, Arpa International Film Festival showcased over 60 films from around the globe, Q&A’s, receptions as well as a first ever GEMAI industry panel discussion highlighting new technologies for the Deaf and Blind.
2012 marked a high point for Arpa Foundation for Film, Music and Art. “Not only did we celebrate 15 years of staging the film festival in Los Angeles,” said the organization’s founder, Sylvia Minassian, “but AFFMA was itself recognized for its continued efforts to support artists and filmmakers.” In 2012, AFFMA was the recipient of an Armenian Heritage Award by Los Angeles City Council and the office of Eric Garcetti, and a Roll Global Grant for its humanitarian efforts. It is the major highlight of a year of accomplishments for the organization which includes founder Minassian as a recipient of the Golden Medal of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia, one of the highest Armenian cultural awards.
Arpa International Film Festival director Alex Kalognomos said, “This year we added even more internationally themed films to the film program. We also had sold-out screenings throughout the festival, beginning with the 800-person opening night sell-out for LOST & FOUND IN ARMENIA. We continued to break attendance records as the Los Angeles audiences came out to take part in the all the festival has to offer.”
The festival culminated with a Gala event and awards ceremony at which filmmakers, sponsors, and honored guests were celebrated for making this year’s festival a milestone event. The evening’s mistress of ceremonies, Marla Maples, invited the filmmakers who were presented their awards after each of their screenings to join her on stage and take a bow for their achievements.
BEST PICTURE was awarded to Nicolas Tackian for his French drama AZAD
BEST DIRECTOR kudos was delivered to Caner Alper and Mehmet Binay for the Turkish film ZENNE DANCER.
BEST SCREENPLAY Award was given to Arshaluys Harutyunyan for the Armenian drama WANDERING
The BEST DOCUMENTARY Feature Award for THE SUFFERING GRASSES: WHEN ELEPHANTS FIGHT, IT IS THE GRASS THAT SUFFERS was presented to Yara Lee.
Eddie Deleon Melikyan accepted the award for BEST SHORT FILM for directing JUST LIKE HER.
Also present were the 2012 special award honorees. Presenters such as filmmaker Haik Gazarian and actress Valentina Rendon presented Hrach Titizian with the Breakthrough Actor of the Year Award; actress Heather McComb presented Michael Poghosian the Artist of the Year Award; actor/filmmaker Sebastian Siegel awarded Frances Fisher the Career Achievement Award; AFFMA Founder Sylvia Minassian presented Lusine Sahakyan, director of “Hamshen at Crossroads of Past and Present” (Armenia,Turkey) with the prestigious Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award; Actress Anoush NeVart presented the Arpa Foundation Award to recipient USC Shoah Foundation, The Institute For Visual History And Education. The award was accepted by Dr. Stephen D. Smith, MBE, PhD who spoke about the merits of supporting independent cinema and archiving efforts such as those by the Shoah Foundation. And Achievement in International Cinema Award was accepted by “Lost & Found in Armenia” (Armenia, USA) director, Gor Kirakosian.
The awards were determined by a panel of industry experts which included Filmmaker Debra Attoinese (“Zoe”), Actor and filmmaker Charles Davis, consulting Executive Producer Max Howard (SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON, SAVING SANTA), Inferno Entertainment EVP of Production and Development Ara Keshishian, entertainment lawyer JD Larson, Motion Picture Literary Agent at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) Stuart Manashil and Award-winning Executive Producer and Motion Picture Executive Howard Rosenman (COMMON THREADS: STORIES FROM THE QUILT, SPARKLE, FATHER OF THE BRIDE, THE FAMILY MAN).
“Fifteen years makes Arpa International Film Festival one of the longest standing film festivals in Los Angeles,” said Minassian. “We are very committed to supporting independent filmmakers and depend on community support to make events such as the festival possible.” This year’s key sponsors were Tacori, Horizon TV, Yerevan Magazine, and Siera Jewelers. “Without the support of sponsors,” said Kalognomos during his opening remarks at the Gala, “…it would be impossible to stage such an event where everyone’s influence and creativity build unity and success.” AFFMA, a non-profit organization, annually stages entertainment industry networking mixers, art exhibits, and fashion shows in an effort to fundraise for its signature event, the film festival.
For the first time in its history, AFFMA awarded the winners of Best Feature, Best Short, and Best Documentary a cash award. “Such recognitions help us fulfill our commitment as an art organization to give grants and support the efforts of such fine filmmakers,” added Minassian.
AFFMA, a non-profit organization, was founded for the purpose of enhancing Los Angeles’s creative environment and supporting those artists who bridge the cultural divide. Each year, AFFMA stages networking events, concerts, art exhibits, fashion shows, book signings, and various benefits to promote emerging talents. Most significantly, AFFMA produces Arpa International Film Festival to unify diverse people and cultures through film. Since 1997, the Festival has honored over 100 artists and filmmakers with grants and awards. Visit www.affma.org for more information.
ARMIN T. WEGNER HUMANITARIAN AWARD marks its 10th year as one of Arpa International Film Festival’s top honors awarded during the festival. First presented by Arpa International Film Festival in 2002, this Award is named after German author and human rights activist Armin Theophil Wegner (October 16, 1886 – May 17, 1978).
LUSINE SAHAKYAN, HAMSHEN AT THE CROSSROADS OF PAST AND PRESENT (ARMIN T. WEGNER HUMANITARIAN AWARD) Dedicated to the current state of the descendants of the Armenians of Hamshen (Hamshentsis), the film explores a people who were Islamicized by the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. Today, they live primarily in the provinces of Rizeh and Artvin, as well as in Istanbul and other cities of Turkey. The film presents unique episodes from the history and culture of the Armenian Principality of Hamshen, and the practice of Islamization, a form of ethnic cleansing. Based on material shot on location, the present-day culture of the Hamshentsis is chronicled: their songs and dances, customs, linguistic situation, as well as their everyday life and occupations, conceptions of their own identity, and the demographic picture.
FRANCES FISHER (ARPA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2012 CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD), whose unforgettable roles in such iconic films as TITANIC, UNFORGIVEN and HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, began her illustrious theatrical, film and television career.
MICHAEL POGHOSIAN (ARTIST OF THE YEAR AWARD) whose films, LOST AND FOUND IN ARMENIA and IF ONLY EVERYONE, the official entry from Armenia to the Academy Awards Foreign Language category, mark this year’s opening and closing night films. Poghosian, a celebrated actor in Russia and Armenia, was recognized for his decades-long career as an actor, producer and screenwriter.
USC SHOAH FOUNDATION – The Institute for Visual History and Education (ARPA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL FOUNDATION AWARD) Inspired by his experience making SCHINDLER’S LIST, Steven Spielberg established the Shoah Foundation in 1994 to gather video testimonies from survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. Currently, the Institute’s Visual History Archive (VHA) holds nearly 52,000 video testimonies that were recorded in 56 countries and in 32 languages. The VHA is the largest digital collection of its kind in the world and is accessible worldwide for research and education.
HRACH TITIZIAN (ARPA INTERNATIONAL BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMER OF THE YEAR AWARD) Filmmaker and acting school founder, Hrach Titizian recently appeared on Broadway in the award- winning Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, on television in numerous shows including “Homeland”, “24” and “Common Law”, and in indie favorites such as FLOAT, featuring Gregory Itzen.