On Sat., Feb. 23, the ARF “Azadamard” Gomideh and the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) “Kopernik Tandourjian” Chapter of Detroit screened four-time regional Emmy Award-winner Bared Maronian’s “Orphans of the Genocide” documentary at the Novi Middle School Auditorium in Novi, Mich. Armenian National Committee of Michigan (ANC-MI) member Hovig Kouyoumdjian caught up with the director for an interview after the presentation.
Hovig Kouyoumdjian: Tell us about your personal and career background.
Bared Maronian: I was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. I graduated from Haigazian University and like thousands of Armenians I moved to the United States due to the civil war that erupted in the mid-1970’s. My interest in filmmaking stems from my love of photography during my high school and college years in Lebanon. Once I moved to Florida, I attended Palm Beach State College of Florida and the Broadcast Career Institute of Palm Beach. I worked for PBS [Public Broadcasting System] in Miami, post-producing local and national documentaries, concerts, and business shows. I was fortunate to be a four-time regional Emmy Award winner. One of my works, a concert by Willie Chirino, was nominated for a Latin Grammy. Five years ago, I founded the Armenoid Team that specializes in producing thematically Armenian documentaries, and so far we’ve produced four Armenian films. As you’ve seen today my latest work is ‘Orphans of the Genocide,’ a 20-minute documentary about the plight of Armenian Genocide orphans. The seven-minute trailer of this documentary was a regional Emmy Award nominee in the category of Historical Documentary, a Telly Award Winner, and was a part of the NYC Filmmaker’s Festival. I currently reside in Coconut Creek, Fla., with my wife Lina and daughter Kaliana.
HK: Can you tell us more about Armenoid?
BM: The Armenoid Team is a subsidiary of Armenoid Productions, Inc. It is an independent documentary production company. The Armenoid Team produces primarily thematically Armenian documentaries. It consists of media professionals who are experts in TV or film production.
HK: What got you interested in the orphans aspect of the Armenian Genocide?
BM: The inspiration for “Orphans of the Genocide” was an article by Robert Fisk in the Independent entitled, “Living Proof of the Armenian Genocide,” which internationalized independent researcher Missak Kelechian’s findings about a college building in Antoura, Lebanon, that once housed 1,000 Armenian Genocide orphans destined to Turkification by direct orders from the Ottoman authorities. After interviewing scholars and historians on the topic, it was apparent to us that the orphans aspect of the genocide was still uncharted territory. … After three years of primary and secondary source research, the evidence of the existence of hundreds of thousands of genocide orphans was overwhelming. The stories, both live on-camera and prerecorded first-person accounts and supporting documents were too many to fit in one documentary film, so we decided to publish a companion book and incorporate some of those stories in print. We still believe that what we discovered is only the tip of the iceberg…
HK: What kind of difficulties did you face in making this documentary?
BM: The main difficulty we faced throughout those three years was financial difficulties. Although we had generous seed money to jump start the project donated to us by the Bezikian family, without which we couldn’t have started this project, at times we had to stall work. Nevertheless, with the help of other generous supporters we were able to bring our project to fruition.
HK: When do you intend to release the documentary?
BM: We are in negotiations with a few TV stations to air “Orphans of the Genocide” as early as March 2013.
HK: As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, how would you comment on the state of genocide-related documentary filmmaking? What should be done to ensure global recognition of the genocide?
BM: At Armenoid, our ultimate goal is to spread genocide awareness and prevention by way of educational entertainment. Documentary film production is an exemplary educational tool. Not to undermine the crucial importance of a good book or a great novel in telling a historical story or a unique human experience, the documentary film has a larger palette of creative elements to put to good use. Besides narrating the story with an authoritative-impressive voice, a documentary enhances the delivery of the story with related visuals and complementing music or song, thus capturing the viewer’s attention and relaying the message, which in this case is the complex concept of genocide, its awareness and its prevention. In the last 10 years, a good number of genocide-related Armenian and foreign filmmakers have produced a number of quality documentaries on this topic.
Now that we are at the doorsteps of the Armenian Genocide’s 100th anniversary, we should use this educational tool to its fullest and encourage both professional filmmakers and newbies to tell genocide stories in compelling documentaries.
HK: Any future plans?
BM: Our next project is under the working title of “Women of 1915,” on one hand dealing with the plight of the Armenian women during the genocide, and on the other, putting all of those non-Armenian women who came to the rescue of their sisters on pedestals. This unprecedented phenomenon that defied all physical and social boundaries of the time paved the way to a sisterhood that was a major aspect of the perpetuation of the Armenians as a nation.
To produce these documentaries we dedicate our knowledge, expertise, and time. That’s our contribution. And what we expect from the public is to continue to encourage us morally and financially. Without the generous donations of our supporters, the “Orphans of the Genocide” project wouldn’t have been possible. We thank them all from the bottom of our hearts. Similarly, “Women of 1915” needs the financial support of good-hearted supporters, be they individuals, organizations, or corporations. We have a set of partnership programs available to our supporters. Interested parties may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
HK: What is your message to the Armenians of Michigan, and especially to the youth?
BM: The Armenians of Michigan are one of the oldest communities in the country. Two years ago we had the honor of interviewing a son of Michigan, the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, and a daughter of Michigan, author Mae Derdarian, who are two integral parts of “Orphans of the Genocide.” The former was the son of a genocide orphan, and the latter is the author of the novel Vergeen, which tells the story of a 13-year-old genocide orphan girl.
I would like to thank the Michigan ARF “Azadamard” Chapter and the local AYF “Kopernik Tandourjian” Chapter for organizing the screening of “Orphans of the Genocide” at the exquisite auditorium of Novi Middle School. About 300 community members attended the screening event and among them were a noticeable number of high school and college students. Despite the 26 degree weather, extended families arrived, with grandparents, grandchildren, and cousins. I also spotted a young family of four—mom, dad, a toddler, and a newborn in the stroller. I couldn’t have expected stronger support than that. Thank you, Detroit!
Readers interested in screening Orphans of the Genocide for their community or university can contact Bared Maronian by e-mailing email@example.com. To learn more about the AYF and ANC-MI, visit www.facebook.com/AYFDetroit and www.facebook.com/ANCofMI.