Difficult Conversation about Overlapping Identities: ARAM, ARAM

Salpi Ghazarian (left), Director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies, with writer and director of ARAM, ARAM Christopher Chambers (second from right) and Ara Arzumanian, Program Director of the USC College Advising Corps (right)
Salpi Ghazarian (left), Director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies, with writer and director of ARAM, ARAM Christopher Chambers (second from right) and Ara Arzumanian, Program Director of the USC College Advising Corps (right)

Salpi Ghazarian (left), Director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies, with writer and director of ARAM, ARAM Christopher Chambers (second from right) and Ara Arzumanian, Program Director of the USC College Advising Corps (right)

LOS ANGELES—“Kids will find mentors; the question is who is that mentor and what road they will point to.” This was one of the many observations made during a panel discussion now available on the USC Institute of Armenian Studies YouTube channel.

Educators on the front lines, working with at risk Armenian children, were invited to comment on the content of ARAM, ARAM, a new feature length film in wide distribution, written and directed by Christopher Chambers.

Following a screening of ARAM, ARAM on Sunday, October 18 at the Pacific Theatres at the Americana in Glendale, the public was invited to stay and hear Ara Arzumanian, Program Director, USC College Advising Corps, and Ara Mgrdichian, who has worked as advisor to students and teachers facing social challenges.

Salpi Ghazarian, Director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies, led the conversation about identity, parental and family guidance, the need for belonging, general immigration woes, class and country of origin issues—all the aspects of the challenges that can lead young people to find answers in the world of organized crime.

“Even one is too many to lose.” This was the afternoon’s theme as the panelists sought the complex answers to the multilayered questions that surround this issue. How to avoid the gang trap? What is the missing piece that leads to the right path? What are the risks for girls versus boys? The panelists asserted that the more Armenians see themselves as other immigrant communities, the more they will understand that the issues are the same. Lessons can be learned from each other and answers can be shared.

“An excellent film made it easy to talk about a difficult set of topics – subjects that we have mistakenly come to assume are far from our collective challenges,” said Ghazarian.

The film ARAM, ARAM tells the story of a 12-year old boy of Armenian descent who is uprooted from his home in Bourj Hamoud, Lebanon and forced to immigrate to Los Angeles to live with his grandfather after the death of his parents in a car accident. His unexpected move to a foreign country and neighborhood, his lack of familiarity with the places, and lack of English knowledge push him towards a violent path. His circumstances and the pull from the familiar albeit violent world make gangs an obvious choice for him.

About the Institute

Established in 2005, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies supports multidisciplinary scholarship to re-define, explore and study the complex issues that make up the contemporary Armenian experience – from post-Genocide to the developing Republic of Armenia to the evolving Diaspora. The institute encourages research, publications and public service, and benefits from communication technologies that link together the global academic and Armenian communities.

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