Swedish Filmmakers Tell About the Art of Survival in New Documentary

"I am planning to live at least 100 years. There are so few of us left and for God’s sake–I am not ready to take my story with me to the grave," the main character Garbis says in the new documentary by the Holmquist-Khardalian team called "I Hate Dogs–The Last Survivor."

Garbis–a 98 year-old survivor of the Armenian genocide tells his story.

One morning–the Turks seize his village; the men are separated from the women. Garbis does not realize the gravity of the situation and takes leave of his mother–a last hug and a last kiss–as it was to be–from his weeping mother. Garbis is only 9-years-old.

Together with his father and several thousand other Armenia’s–Garbis is forced through the Syrian desert–along with his father–older brother–and a cousin–who eventually die of hunger and exhaustion. With the help of others–Garbis buries his family. Later in the evening–he goes to see his father’s grave. "Then I saw several stray dogs feeding on my father’s flesh. They were tearing his thighs apart. I grabbed some stones and threw them at the dogs to frighten them off–but the dogs had become wild–they started growling and ran towards me. I was terrified–so I ran away. That picture has haunted me all my life. I see the dogs–right in front of me–just ten meters away."

Garbis ends up in Mosul–Iraq to start his first business at the age of 15. He eventually settles down in France and becomes a successful businessman. His son Serge–who has taken over his father’s textile factory–explains Garbis’s torment: "It took my dad 40 years before he felt able to tell me the story. He just could not tell it to me."

Swedish filmmakers Pea Holmquist and Suzanne Khardalian made the first feature-length documentary film about the genocide of the Armenia’s–"Back to Ararat" (1988). The film–which received numerous awards–was screened in Grimstad in 1989.

Holmquist has made films for thirty years and runs his own film company with his wife Khardalian. He is a longtime manager of the Association of Independent Filmmakers in Sweden–and–since 1992–been in charge of documentary filmmaking at Dramatiska Institutet in Stockholm.

He has produced and directed more than fifty films–including Gaza Ghetto (1984)–one of the first documentaries about Palestinians and occupied Gaza. He has also made Back to Ararat (1988)–about a forgotten genocide in Armenia–which was screened in Grimstad in 1989. Other films are Her Armenian Prince (1997)–Words and Stones Gaza (2000)–From Opium to Chrysanthemums (2000)–Where Lies My Victory? (2002) and My Dad–The Inspector (2003)–which won first prize at the Leipzig Film Festival last year and will be screened during the international short film program at this year’s festival in Grimstad.

The filmmakers talk about the film:

"It was just a year ago when we read a few lines–a tiny notice in "The Guardian" telling its readers that the last survivor of the genocide living in UK had died.

The notice was like an alarm.

We have done several documentary films on the Armenia’s and particularly on the Armenian genocide. "Back to Ararat" was filmed in the late 80’s and in 1988 it received the golden award for best film in Sweden. The film was shown all over the world in movie theatres and TV channels.

It seemed to us that however the new generation today–both foreign and Armenian are not so much aware of the issue.

Hence we thought about ?the last survivor.’

We did extensive research and located the few still living survivors of the Genocide. The research took us to all over the world. And then we found Garbis; he was special and he hated dogs.

Garbis–as a 9-year old boy–witnessed his father being eaten up by stray dogs–after losing all members of his family one by one–on the death march to Der Zor.

"I Hate Dogs–The Last Survivor" is our latest addition on the Armenian Genocide.

It is a short documentary–28 minutes long–and tells the story of a human being–that in spite of evil–has managed to build a new life. Whenever Garbis is raising his glass of wine he is wishing long life for his family."

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