By Dr. Roubina Yeghoyan
Hamazkayin’s 10th annual Pomegranate Film Festival (POM) will take place in Toronto, Canada, from Nov. 16-22. In honor of the festival’s 10th anniversary and the Centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, POM will present a week-long program featuring a diverse range of films, performances, and artistic exhibitions. One particularly noteworthy presentation is “Operation Nemesis,” showcasing films that pose moral and intellectual questions related to the genocide. More specifically, each film grapples with an ethical dilemma, one that presents complex situations for both victim and perpetrator, as each face the harsh reality of the genocide.
The first, “Straw Dolls,” by New Jersey resident Jon Milano, tells the story of how a father and daughter make unbelievable sacrifices out of their compassion for a mother and her young daughter who are facing grave danger. “Immersion into the Fire,” directed by Hamlet Dulyan, delves right into the horrific violence that destroyed the homes of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian citizens. The plot deals with the pressures on a Turkish soldier who is forced to enter a home that has been a familiar one to him for many years. Memories of his exchanges with the family become a heavy burden and he must decide whether to become a predator or fall prey to the wrath of his army superiors. The film does not justify his actions, but rather explores the triggers and pressures that impact the course of events. “Homo Politicus” was produced by Turkish director Haci Orman. A ground-breaking film in Turkey, it focuses on a meeting of two prominent historical figures: German missionary Johannes Lepsius and Enver Pasha. While the conversation is diplomatic, the film offers a powerful, intense dialogue between two different worldviews, perceptions, and aspirations, as one strives for compassion towards humanity, and another is fueled by a bleak political vision that reduces humans to mere chess pieces. Orman recently gained critical acclaim for his film, which has been screened at festivals in Yerevan and Istanbul.
Following the screening, an exclusive panel discussion will take place involving actor/author Eric Bogosian and Prof. Marian Mesrobian MacCurdy. Bogosian, a celebrated director and playwright, has recently explored “Operation Nemesis,” named after the Greek goddess of divine retribution, in his new book. The covert name was for a series of assassinations carried out by a secret group under the leadership of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation; the targets were the Ottoman perpetrators for their role in the genocide. MacCurdy, an eminent academic with an expertise in composition theory and for her poetry, has recently written Sacred Justice: The Voices and Legacy of the Armenian Operation Nemesis, an astounding multi-faceted work that provides in-depth documentation and memoirs to shed light on the group of Armenians who supported vengeance as a result of their traumatized experiences following the genocide. Her analysis reveals how her grandfather Aaron Sachaklian, along with Armen Karo, organized the assassinations in the 1920’s. Both authors will be available to sign copies of their books following the panel.
Complementing the short films related to “Operation Nemesis” is French-Armenian director Robert Guediguian’s new feature film, “Don’t Tell Me the Boy was Mad.” The film is a thought-provoking historical action/drama that commences with a re-enactment of Soghomon Tehlirian’s assassination of Talaat Pasha in Berlin in 1921 and then traces a series of bombings of Turkish embassies and consulates throughout Europe. This star-studded epic was filmed in Armenia, France, and Lebanon, and is loosely based on a book written by Spanish journalist Jose Antonio Gurriaran. After being accidentally injured following an explosion in Madrid in 1980, Gurriaran decided to research the Armenian cause and eventually became a spokesperson for genocide recognition, and has written several books about the topic. Gurriaran ultimately found and met members of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) near Beirut, where he provided them with a gift, a book by Martin Luther King, to think about the path they have chosen.
The “Operation Nemesis” presentation is co-sponsored by the Armen Karo Student Association.
More than 50 films from 20 countries will be presented at POM 2015. Tickets are available by visiting www.pomegranatefilmfestival.com, where out-of-town guests can also take advantage of a special rate of $99/night at Radisson Toronto East, located next to Toronto’s Hamazkayin Theatre.