“Ararat” Captivates Congressional Audience


WASHINGTON–DC — Members of Congress–American and foreign diplomats–and representatives of a wide range of think tanks and human rights organizations joined Oscar-nominated Canadian Armenian director Atom Egoyan at a special pre-screening of the movie "Ararat"–at the Library of Congress–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). Over 450 people packed the historic Calvin Coolidge auditorium on Tuesday evening to view and discuss the film with Egoyan and lead actress Arsinee Khanjian.

The program opened with remarks by Congressional Armenian Caucus staff member Raffi Vartian–who introduced Caucus Co-Chairs Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) as well as director Atom Egoyan. After welcoming the audience–Rep. Knollenberg cited the critical role the film is playing in raising public consciousness about the Armenian Genocide–noting that–"I want to salute Atom Egoyan and Arsinee Khanjian for their extraordinary work on this film. People now recognize–more than ever–the Genocide did happen–it was real–and we have every reason to remember it. This film is a powerful reminder of the impact the Genocide has had on Armenia’s. It is a powerful reminder of why we continue to do the work we do on the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues."

In his remarks–Rep. Pallone stressed that–"I am confident that ‘ARARAT’ will play a critical role in educating people world-wide about the Armenian Genocide. While I believe there has been an increase in people’s knowledge of the Genocide–Atom and Arsinee accomplish something that is very important to their heritage–showing the world the Armenian Genocide and how it continues to impact survivors–the families of survivors and all Armenian descendants throughout the world." Rep. Pallone went on to urge audience members to work closely with the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian Assembly to "be political" to educate Members of Congress about the Armenian Genocide and to actively promote their participation in the Congressional Armenian Caucus. There are currently over 120 members in the Caucus–making it one of the most effective tools to foster greater Congressional understanding of Armenian American concerns.

Looking out at the packed audience–"Ararat" Director Atom Egoyan–visibly moved by the statemen’s of both Representatives Knollenberg and Pallone–remarked "What a night." Egoyan stressed that both in Canada and the United States there are segmen’s of the population who have gone through unspeakable horrors. "This is a film about speaking of those horrors," explained Egoyan. He cited the ongoing Turkish Government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide as the "final stage of the barbaric process." Responding to those who would try to relegate the film to simply a chronicle of history–Egoyan argued–"Ararat" is not about the past. "It’s about the present; it’s about the responsibility of people living now." Following the screening–Egoyan and Khanjian led an hour and a half question and answer session with the audience.

The special evening was organized by the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues and Miramax films–with the support of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and the Armenian Assembly. Prior to the viewing–Washington leaders and key Armenian American community leaders had the opportunity to meet with Egoyan and Khanjian at a special reception. Members of the Washington–DC chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation served as ushers for the event.

Joining the Caucus Co-Chairs at the reception was California Congressman Adam Schiff–a leader on Genocide recognition efforts–who later noted that "it was indeed a pleasure to speak with Atom Egoyan and Arsinee Khanjian and to discuss the importance of films–like ‘Ararat’ in educating Americans and people worldwide about the horrors of the Armenian Genocide and the continuing Turkish campaign of denial."

Having made its world-premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May–Ararat is described as Egoyan’s most powerful film to date–weaving the tale of the estranged members of a contemporary Armenian family faced both with Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and with their own complicated lives. The film will open in Los Angeles and New York theaters on November 15th and will be seen nationwide soon after. The ANCA’s regional offices and local chapters are organizing a national campaign to encourage Armenian Americans to "Take a Friend to Ararat" when the film opens.


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