“Vatche, why do you care so much?” We live in a world founded by the fact that one person can make a difference. One person can make a change. I care so much because I want to make a change.
My documentary “The Armenian Genocide: A Look through Our Eyes” came about while I was thinking how much of an effect the event has on my life. In the past three years I have seen how much of an important role the Armenian culture plays in my life. For a while I didn’t care very much about my heritage, but after visiting the country, a spark lit up in my head. I went from feeling limited emotion about the Armenian Genocide, to now seeing myself as somewhat of an activist, an advocate for recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
In my own research and studies of the event, I have come to a few conclusions. The Genocide was a horrible, ghastly event committed by the Ottoman Empire, and that I would not stand by and let anything like it happen again. History repeats itself, and through my own research, I saw very quickly, it has repeated itself many times, the Holocaust, Stalin’s work camps, Cambodia, Somalia, Kosovo just to name a few. The Armenian Genocide has come to be known as the forgotten genocide. Forgetting the innocent lives of 1.5 million is a crime itself, a dishonor. Hitler’s infamous quote burns bright, “Who remembers the extermination of the Armenians?” The simple act of forgetting an event that had only ended sixteen or so years before, convinced Hitler’s followers that history will not judge, because their actions will be forgotten.
Atom Egoyan’s film “Ararat,” is a film that struck quite at home. His film, likemy own, deals with the effects of the Armenian Genocide today, the effects of the massacres on a group of people working on a film about the Genocide. Within “Ararat,” we see clearly that it still affects people’s lives, no matter how they are connected.
If I were to say one thing about the Genocide, I’d say that not a day goes by where I do not think about it. As I was doing my research, I remember reading the words of the events outlined in books like Peter Balakian’s “Black Dog of Fate,” or literature provided by the Armenian Library and Museum of America. Each descriptive word is a clear picture of pain. Here we are eighty-eight years later and we haven’t a clue why it happened. I don’t think any amount of research I do will lead me to understand why complete and utter annihilation of one group by another is any resolution to any problem.
Two close friends and fellow film students from Fitchburg State College served as my crew on the project. The phenomenal work of Bryan Maddern behind the camera and Gregg Swaitlowski on sound is visible. I was amazed at how much of a profound effect just working on the project had on the two of them. Many of my friends don’t understand why I work so hard or care so much about the genocide. Bryan and Gregg joined the project as a favor. They not only left with some knowledge of the Genocide, but also with an understanding of why I did care. I will never forget Bryan’s disbelief when he learned of the Turkish Government’s denial of what happened in Eastern Anatolia during World War I. We were shooting a few still shots of pictures of Genocide when Bryan turned to me and said, “How can they deny this? What about these pictures?” I had no real answer for him, because I have no answer myself.
2003 being the 88th anniversary, the Armenian Genocide is even more relevant. With war comes a thick curtain to hide such atrocities as Genocide. The Middle East being a location of such turmoil, there is no doubt in my mind that Genocide is crossing the minds of certain Governments or groups that make those countries. Quoting Harout Tutunjian, a participator in my documentary, the “United States is the protector of freedom” not just for our own citizens, but the protector of all. We are in the beginnings of the 21st century. The 20th century began with murder of innocents, it is my wish that the 21st century does not follow down the same path.
Vatche Arabian, April 2003