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Garapedian to Speak on Digitization of Survivor Accounts, Shoah Foundation

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BELMONT, Mass.—On Fri., April 13, acclaimed filmmaker Dr. Carla Garapedian will give a lecture entitled “The Digital Revolution: Armenian Genocide Survivor Testimonies and the Shoah Visual History Archive” at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) Center in Belmont. The lecture will be co-sponsored by the Armenian Film Foundation (AFF), of which Garapedian is a Board member, and NAASR; and it will be in memory of Dr. J. Michael Hagopian (1913-2010), the founder of the AFF and NAASR’s first Board member for California (1959-65).

Garapedian will discuss the new ways Armenian Genocide survivor and witness testimonies are being made available to universities around the world via the Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive. Founded by filmmaker Steven Spielberg, the Shoah Foundation contains 52,000 Holocaust survivor video interviews and is now adding testimonies from other genocides, including the Armenian Genocide. Dr. J. Michael Hagopian’s 400 filmed survivor interviews will be the first of the Armenian Genocide testimonies to be included in this digital collection. Garapedian, the project leader for the Armenian Film Foundation’s digitization effort, will give a demonstration of the powerful search engine, and discuss the challenges of presenting survivor information via the internet.

Garapedian is the director of the film “Screamers,” which was widely credited with helping to change the public debate on recognition of the Armenian Genocide in 2006 and 2007. Other films include “Lifting the Veil,” about the brutal treatment of women in Afghanistan, and “Iran Undercover,” about the underground student movement in Iran, which won the Edward R. Murrow Award in 2005 as part of the PBS Frontline World series. She worked closely with J. Michael Hagopian on his “Witnesses” trilogy.

Garapedian earned a Ph.D. in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science before working as a producer, director, and correspondent based in London. She is the recipient of the Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award and the ABGU Generation Next Community Hero Award, and was recently given the Clara Barton Medal of Gratitude from the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute.

Garapedian’s lecture begins at 8 p.m. at the NAASR Center, 395 Concord Ave. in Belmont. For more information, call (617) 489-1610 or e-mail hq@naasr.org.

1 Comment on Garapedian to Speak on Digitization of Survivor Accounts, Shoah Foundation

  1. Thank you Dr. Garapedian for carrying on this valuable work.

    I’d like to share a personal tale. I led and organised with committee members the recordings in Sydney and Melbourne conducted by Michael Hagopian in the early 1980s. He was with us for almost three weeks filming about 21 survivors of the Armenian Genocide living in Sydney and Melbourne.

    I will never forget the experience, having to this day kept a little archive of records of the filming trip.

    The recorded testimonies of these Australian-Armenian Genocide survivors is remarkable, insightful and sometimes breathtaking when a survivor took a magnifying glass to his or her lived experience.

    In one filming session I saw photos on a side table behind a Turkish-speaking survivor being filmed at her home. I was acting as an assistant to Mr Hagopian in Sydney. I noticed how beautiful the girls and women were in those about 90 year old photos on the side table. Mr Hagopian turned to me and said “The most beautiful were abducted, taken as wives by Turks.” To this day I haven’t forgotten the chill I felt that moment on hearing of such unnatural selection at work. All this followed on directly as a consequence of the political and military decision to decimate the civilian Armenian population of Western Armenia.

    Another Sydney survivor was from Kharpert, which is also where I recall Mr Hagopian originated.

    We filmed this dignified survivor in a novel location, sitting in a park opposite the Sydney Opera House. His testimony was that: “The Turks took us from place to place, we walked and we walked, we were being forced to become weary and fall, to be left to die in the wilderness.” Here he was now, 10,000 miles plus beyond Kharpert, pleased to be one of the few who survived, kept strong by his family and his humour. I grew up with his grandchildren, they were among my first friends when I too arrived in Australia with my parents.

    What gets to you is that these survivor stories, these testimonies, is that they are so personal. There’s no embellishment. They are not dreamlike, insteady they are raw, gutsy, stories and heart wrenching. Few the survivors were able to tell us their story without some tears. From some that’s all we got, tears and tears and more tears.

    The survivors link us to a past that they and we can’t and won’t forget. We won’t get fooled again.

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