By Yolanda Andrews
LONDON, England—A feature length observational documentary by Gagik Karagheuzian on the denial of the Armenian Genocide titled “The Blue Book” was the focus of discussion amongst fascinated film students, human rights activists, and journalists at the Hitchcock Theatre at Queen Mary College (University of London). “I have never seen anything like it,” said Dr. Atlana. “This is such a powerful documentary. It really has opened my eyes to the denial of genocide today.”
The story of Karagheuzian’s observational documentary film started in 2005, when the Turkish Parliament sent a petition to British parliamentarians, accusing the latter of fabricating the Armenian Genocide thesis. The Turkish accusation maintained that there were no creditable sources related to the Armenian Genocide, and that the whole issue was fabricated by British propagandists in a 1916 British parliamentary Blue Book titled “The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16.”
“I heard about this thesis from Ara [Sarafian], who is a foremost expert on the 1916 Blue Book,” said Karagheuzian. “When he told me that he was working with British parliamentarians to respond to the Turkish petition, I asked to follow him to make an observational documentary.”
The Blue Book issue grew into one of major proportions over the next four years, as a group of British parliamentarians responded to the Turkish petition and twice invited their Turkish colleagues to a discussion. No Turkish parliamentarian accepted the invitation.
Throughout the film, Sarafian talks of the denial of the Armenian Genocide. He explains the use of the term “denial” as “the deliberate non-engagement with pertinent records related to a given subject matter.” In the case of the Blue Book, some of these pertinent records are held in the British National Archives, where the original Blue Book can still be found. (The Turkish parliamentarians insist that no such records exist.) The documentary also identifies
the United States as the main source of information for the British in 1915-16 on the genocide of the Armenians.
Lord Avebury figures prominently throughout the film, as he works with Sarafian in addressing the Blue Book issue in a systematic manner. The friendship between the two is also touching in what is otherwise a harsh, fast-paced, and sometimes upsetting situation.
The central figure in the denial of the genocide is Sukru Elekdag, a former Turkish ambassador to the United States, currently a member of the Turkish Parliament, and a longstanding anti-Armenian activist. According to Sarafian, Elekdag has led his fellow Turkish parliamentarians and their advisers into an intellectual quagmire. “Turkish parliamentarians are actually in an untenable position” said Sarafian. “We are witnessing the end-game of an exemplary case of genocide denial.” This Turkish position will surely rank as one of Elekdag’s greatest blunders.
To make the film, Karagheuzian followed Sarafian on lectures and field trips, discussing the Blue Book in Istanbul, Ankara, and Harput. The Istanbul discussions included an international conference, contacts with Turkish academics and the press, as well as a Turkish television talk show. The documentary ends with the Ankara launch of a Turkish translation of the Blue Book. “We have returned the denial of the Blue Book issue to where it belongs,” said Sarafian. “The problem with this work does not rest in London, but in Ankara.”
In the question and answer session following the film, Karagheuzian discussed the difficulties of making such an observational documentary. Nevertheless, as the documentary shows, Karagheuzian managed to capture key moments on film, making “The Blue Book” a compelling, insightful and timely film.
For more information on “The Blue Book” film, email firstname.lastname@example.org.