HOLLYWOOD, Calif.—The 20th Arpa International Film Festival and Awards Gala was full of memorable moments this year. An unprecedented number of guests attended the three-day film festival held at Hollywood’s historic Egyptian Theatre from Nov. 3-5. The opening night program, featuring the French biopic “Dalida,” was sold out, as were the centerpiece films “Intent to Destroy” and “Dead on Arrival” on Saturday evening.
The celebratory weekend closed with a spectacular sold-out Awards Gala held at the Loews Hollywood Hotel on Nov. 5. Over 400 guests attended the special 20th anniversary evening hosted by filmmaker Eric Nazarian (“The Blue Hour,” “Bolis,” “Three Christs”). The program included special musical performances by theremin virtuoso Armen Ra and vocalist Mister X.
Awards were presented to the five winning films in the Best Shorts, Best Documentary, Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Feature categories. Honorees Terry George, Carl Weathers, Alexander Dinelaris, and Chris Cornell (posthumously) were given touching tributes, along with one-of-a-kind gifts.
Special guests during the weekend included Serj Tankian, Angela Sarafyan, Billy Flynn, Barbara Carrera, Ara Keshishian, Ken Davitian, Stephen C. Sepher, Rory Fradella, Nazo Bravo, Lillo Brancato, and Scottie Thompson.
Unique Khachkar Presented to Terry George
Academy Award-winning screenwriter-director Terry George (“The Promise,” “In the Name of the Father,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “The Shore,” “Some Mother’s Son”) received the prestigious Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award, named after the German soldier/medic who was stationed in the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide and documented the atrocities he witnessed with his photographs.
Arpa’s coveted Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award, presented each year to a filmmaker whose work contributes toward the struggle for social consciousness and human rights, was awarded to Terry George in recognition of his extensive body of films that have shed light on the situation in his native Northern Ireland, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Armenian Genocide.
Terry George also received a unique khachkar (stone-cross) sculpted by local artist Hrach Gukasyan. The tradition of etching crosses on stone is unique to the Armenian and Irish nations. A special khachkar with a Celtic cross surrounded by Armenian motifs was commissioned by Arpa, symbolizing the Armenian people’s gratitude to the Irish filmmaker.
Boxing Belt Presented to Carl Weathers
Carl Weathers, the beloved actor best known for his portrayal of Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” series, was the recipient of Arpa’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Weathers has also starred in films such as “Predator,” “Action Jackson,” “Hurricane Smith,” “Happy Gilmore,” and “Little Nicky.” Presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to the legendary actor was award-winning writer/producer Jason Wilborn, best known for his work on “Queen Sugar,” “Brothers and Sisters,” and “American Dreams.”
Weathers received a special personalized authentic championship boxing belt designed and gifted by SARTONK, originator of the modern boxing belt. Edward Majian’s SARTONK was founded based on the designs of his grandfather Ardash Sahagian’s boxing belts, which serve as the blueprint for all of today’s championship boxing and MMA belts.
Lifetime Legacy Award Posthumously Awarded to Chris Cornell
This year’s Lifetime Legacy Award was posthumously awarded to music icon Chris Cornell, whose life came to a tragic end early this year. Cornell, best known as the lead vocalist for the rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, as well as the founder and front man of Temple of the Dog, was also a human rights activist committed to ameliorating the worldwide refugee crisis and the despair of vulnerable children. The Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter’s last solo release was the charity single “The Promise,” written for the motion picture of the same name.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Cornell Family was unable to attend the Gala. There to accept the Lifetime Legacy Award on behalf of the family was beloved actress Angela Sarafyan (“Westworld,” “The Promise”), a recipient of the Arpa Rising Star Award in 2014. Sarafyan was visibly moved after a touching tribute reel to Chris Cornell and emphasized his philanthropic and humanitarian efforts. A specially commissioned portrait of Chris Cornell was gifted by renowned artist Emil Kazaz and presented to Sarafyan.
Screenwriter Alexander Dinelaris Honored with Arpa’s Career Achievement Award
Oscar-winning screenwriter Alexander Dinelaris, best known for his original screenplay for the 2014 film “Birdman,” received Arpa’s Career Achievement Award. His body of work includes numerous theatrical pieces and musicals, including “The Bodyguard,” featuring the music of Whitney Houston, and the critically acclaimed “On Your Feet!” Broadway musical about the life and career of Gloria Estefan. Dinelaris’s earlier works include the powerful play “Red Dog Howls,” in which he touches on the Armenian Genocide. The piece was influenced by his Armenian grandmother, who played an important role in his younger years.
The Award was presented to Dinelaris by Michael Peretzian, with whom he collaborated on the play “Red Dog Howls.” Peretzian is known for representing many distinguished screenwriters and directors, including John Madden and Anthony Minghella. Both Peretzian and Dinelaris in their remarks touched on their Armenian ancestry and the need to be more accepting of Americans who come from different ethnic backgrounds. Dinelaris was also presented with a specially engraved Mont Blanc pen gifted by Bhindi Jewellers, in recognition of his superb writing.
2017 Arpa IFF Winning Films
Best Feature Film: “Dalida” (France, 2016)
The award was presented by two-time Golden Globe-nominated actress Barbara Carrera, who starred in close to 40 movies, including the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again,” “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” and “Embryo.”
“Dalida” is an intimate portrait based on the real story of a strong, fiercely independent woman whose 30-year dazzling career was punctuated by tragic events, with no less than three of her lovers committing suicide. With over 170 million albums sold, Dalida was the first singer to receive platinum and diamond discs; some of her best hits are “Bang Bang,” “Paroles Paroles,” and “Avec Le Temps.” Dalida continued to perform at concerts until her last days, but her suicide in 1987 immortalized her iconic image as a diva and renowned singer.
Best Documentary Film: “Intent to Destroy” (USA, 2017)
The award was presented to Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger by top Eileen Ford model Ronnie Carol, known for her role as Juliette Bagradian in the movie “40 Days of Musa Dagh,” along with a recurring role on the soap “As the World Turns.”
Pulling back the curtain on mass murder censorship in Hollywood due to U.S. government pressure to appease a strategic ally, “Intent to Destroy” embeds a historic feature film production as a springboard to explore the violent history of the Armenian Genocide and legacy of Turkish suppression and denial over the past century.
Joe Berlinger’s 13th feature documentary film captures the cinematic and political challenges of producing a historically meaningful, big-budget feature film in an environment rife with political suppression and threats of retaliation. By intertwining these three separate threads—the modern-day production of “The Promise,” the history of the Armenian Genocide, and the century of international repression—“Intent to Destroy” coalesces to provide a comprehensive view on the atrocities of 1915 to 1923 and their resounding aftermath, right up until the present day.
“Intent to Destroy” will be released theatrically on Nov. 10 at the following locations: Laemmle’s Playhouse in Pasadena; Pacific Theaters 18 in Glendale, at the Americana at Brand; Village East Cinema in New York City.
Best Short Film: “Mariam’s Day Off” (Armenia, 2016)
The award was presented by actor Yancey Arias from the NBC series “Kingpin” and the FX series “Thief.” Arshak Amirbekyan’s film, shot in Armenia, is about a young prostitute who meets an artist in a park, gets invited to a modeling session, and finds herself in a new and exciting world of artists; but, when night falls, she has to return to her regular life in the park. The Award was accepted by actor/director Ashot Adamyan, who stars in the film.
Best Screenplay: “The Liberation of Skopje” (Macedonia/Croatia/Finland, 2016). Writers: Dusan Jovanovic, Rade Šerbedžija, Danilo Šerbedžija
“The Liberation of Skopje” captures the horrors and suffering of the Second World War, portrayed in bittersweet terms through the eyes of 11-year-old Zoran, whose father has joined the partisans to fight the German occupiers and whose mother becomes involved with a German officer.
Best Direction: “H.O.M.E” (USA, 2016). Director: Daniel Maldonado
“H.O.M.E” is a film about urban communication, alienation, and the human condition. Part lyrical tone poem of NYC, it comprises two stories involving intimate and meaningful encounters through the lens of a “disconnected” city in constant motion.
About AFFMA and Arpa International Film Festival
Over the course of 20 years, Arpa International Film Festival has continuously provided a platform dedicated to cultivating cultural understanding and global empathy for international cinema. Recognized as one of the oldest independent film festivals for international cinema in Los Angeles, Arpa has bridged cultural divides by fostering dialogue among people of diverse backgrounds. By showcasing local, international, and Armenian films that explore critical issues such as war, genocide, dual identities, exile, and multiculturalism, Arpa has solidified its role in safeguarding films that continue to make a social impact.
One of the overarching goals of Arpa Foundation for Film, Music & Art (AFFMA) in launching its signature Arpa International Film Festival two decades ago was to create an arena that offers Armenian filmmakers, Armenian films, and Armenian-themed films wider exposure in Hollywood. In light of its landmark anniversary, AFFMA has decided to create internship opportunities for students of Armenian heritage who are pursuing careers in cinema and entertainment. This will augment previous forms of support given to filmmakers over the past 20 years and allow the organization to deliver an increased number of film screenings and other events promoting Armenian artists year-round.