Editor’s Note: Filmmaker Jivan Avetisyan delivered the following heartfelt remarks after receiving the Freedom Award at the ANCA Eastern Region’s 16th annual gala on Saturday, October 29 in Detroit, Michigan.
It is a great honor indeed to be here, speaking in front of an audience that is making such a great impact and contribution to the protection of the rights of the Armenian people in Armenia, Artsakh and around the globe. I am humbly thankful to the team who selected me for this award. Thank you for motivating me to continue having the highest level of dedication to the world of cinema.
I have admired the prolific work Hai Tahd has carried out over the years. I consider myself as one of you, since we have a sense of shared vision. It is my duty to support and be an extension of Hai Tahd’s mission. However, I carry out that mission through the art of filmmaking. I use the language of cinematography to continue to talk about the importance of protecting the rights of the Armenian people all over the world as well as of our struggles.
I have an incredible team who have also contributed to the success of my films. This award is also the result of their hard work.
I have traveled thousands of kilometers from Artsakh, since I am an Artsakhtzi, to come here not to make a speech, but to speak up with honesty, transparency and share some of the challenges and victories my team and I have had.
During the eight years of our company’s activity, we have encountered dozens, hundreds of closed doors. We have received various rejections from international film festivals, international funds and various organizations that provide financial support, but we have never given up. Fortunately, thousands of doors have also opened. We have met more incredible individuals who are supporters of the solution of the Artsakh issue, which includes the self-determination of its people. It is with their help and determination that we were able to create such international award-winning full-length feature films as Tevanik, The Last Inhabitant and Gate to Heaven.
These films were created with international cooperation as well as casting famous actors.
During the past 30 years, following our victory in the 90s, it was difficult to tell about our history and our struggles to the world. During the last two years following the defeat, those difficulties have tripled, even quadrupled. Nevertheless, we are not retreating.
We continue to talk about Artsakh, as Artsakh cannot be a part of Azerbaijan. Now we are more stubborn than ever, more determined than ever, more active than ever because we are a population that just does not surrender.
I spent 38 days in Artsakh during the 2020 war. I can never forget the eyes of the soldiers I saw in the trenches, the eyes of the mothers I saw in the basements. I remember children who lost their fathers, parents who lost their sons. I am indebted to them, accountable to them, not only me but also my team…not only my team but also you—each of us—and the entire Armenian population.
Therefore, every day, waking up, after the Lord’s Prayer, we must promise ourselves: “I will act for the sake of Artsakh.” In the evening, before the Lord’s Prayer, we must confess: “I lived for the sake of Artsakh.” And so, for the sake of Artsakh, for the sake of Van, for the sake of Tigranakert – otherwise after years, it will be impossible to find us on the globe.
Unfortunately, this is the worst situation that we have encountered since the Genocide, and we are all responsible for it. We have not done enough over the years. The realities, cases and problems that stand before us today, before our state and the Armenian population, require a qualitatively different work and a different solution in the organizational, ideological and material terms. We need a serious change in the way of our thinking.
I am not a propagandist, nor a politician. I am a film director who believes that the combination of political lobbying and art can generate great power. I believe that my work and that of my team can strengthen and mutually complement the work of Hai Tahd, paving the way to greater impact. Just as the activity of Hai Tahd is aimed at the unification of Armenians, so is art. Art unifies communities. I have witnessed it during screenings of my films in different countries. Armenians from all over the world united around my films, regardless of different ideological considerations, regardless of beliefs, regardless of political views.
If we do not want to lose our homeland, if we want to build a qualitatively new homeland, we must put an end to the concept of the divided Armenian. We must put an end to despair, the clouding of the mind. We must change our lives, create a new Armenian organism, create a new agenda and shape its content. The time of toasts, empty promises, glorification and gossip has long passed. We need to set ourselves to work. My team and I work day and night to fill the gap of years, to break the course of our defeat, to avoid the worst.
We are very fortunate that we are surrounded by many who believe in us. We are now committed to bringing my next film Revival to life, which is difficult to make, because the storyline tells about the 2020 Artsakh War. We do not despair. We are looking for ways to go to the end. If there is anyone who is ready to share this journey with us, please join forces with us to make a bigger difference in our society.
In conclusion, I want to say let us not lose hope, but instead let us get to work!