HOLLYWOOD—The 12th Annual Arpa International Film Festival came to a close on Sunday, October 25 after 3 days of films, receptions, and a star-studded closing night awards ceremony at the renowned Egyptian Theatre.
More than 20 nations including Armenia, Venezuela, Turkey, Brazil, France, Peru, Canada, Mexico, Malawi, Israel, Spain, China, Bhutan, India, and Iran were represented among the feature films, shorts, documentaries, music videos and animations that screened during the festival.
Such filmmakers as Alex Webb (director of “Hove” starring Olympia Dukakis), Lucy Martens and Marjorie Wright (filmmakers of the 2009 Armin T. Wegner Award recipient “Voices from Inside: Israelis Speak”) and Ghazaros Kerjilian (the subject of Mehmet Binay’s “Talking Pictures,” a companion piece to “Whispering Memories”) flew in from around the world to attend this year’s festivities.
Awards were handed out at a star-studded closing night ceremony on Sunday, October 25. Celebrity attendees included actress Ann Magnuson (“Chasing Tchaikovsky”); CAA agents Ara Keshishian and Stuart Manashil; and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Stuart Sender. Award presenters included Maria Armoudian (KPFK 90.7 FM on-air host); actor Marco Khan (“Iron Man,” “10,000 B.C.”); award-winning actress and human rights activist Mary Apick; award-winning filmmaker Eric Nazarian (“The Blue Hour”); voice-over actress Eliza Jane Schneider (Comedy Central’s “South Park” and MTV’s “Popzilla”); and screenwriter Peter Briggs (“Hellboy”).
Of the 46 films screened at this year’s festival, the following received awards on closing night:
- Best Documentary: “Return to Mexico City” (USA / Mexico)
- Best Short Film: “The Tangent” (“La Tangente”) (France)
- Best Animated Film: “Dress Story” (Armenia)
- Best Screenplay: “Venezzia” (Venezuela)
- Best Director: “Sonbahar” (“Autumn”) (Turkey)
- Best Film: “Venezzia” (Venezuela)
- Arpa Breakthrough Award 2009: Greg Lalazarian for “Chasing Tchaikovsky” (USA)
- Arpa/AT&T Award for Environmental Conservation and Stewardship: presented to “Battle for the Xingu” (Brazil / USA)
- Arpa Foundation Award: presented to Armenian Educational Foundation (AEF) for the film, “Because Education Matters” directed by Sevag Vrej; produced by Christina Hacopian
- Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award: presented to Lucy Martens and Marjorie Wright for the film “Voices from Inside: Israelis Speak” (Multi-national production)
Opening Night Premiere – “Venezzia”
On Friday, October 23 the festival premiered Haik Gazarian’s highly anticipated directorial debut, “VENEZZIA,” a Venezuelan production starring two of Latin America’s top film and television stars, Alfonso Herrera and Ruddy Rodriguez. Gazarian, along with star Ruddy Rodriguez and screenwriter Valentina Rendon, were in attendance for the red carpet event attended by over 500 ardent fans and hosted by REELZChannel’s Jill Simonian. Also in attendance were several dozen cheering admirers of Alfonso Hererra who hoped to get a glimpse of the star.
Saturday Sold Out Screenings
Saturday’s highlights included two sold old screenings. This year’s recipient of Arpa International Film Festival’s Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award, which is awarded annually to a motion picture that contributes to the fight for social conscience and human rights, was “Voices from Inside: Israelis Speak.” “This feature length documentary film is based on the stories of 16 Jewish Israeli voices of conscience, each representing a different facet of the peace movement inside Israel,” says Zaven Khatchaturian, Arpa International Film Festival Curator, who invited the filmmakers, producer/director Lucy Martens and producer Marjorie Wright, to the festival. The screening attracted a capacity audience and was followed by a discussion with the filmmakers.
Saturday’s day long screenings culminated with the premiere of “Chasing Tchaikovsky,” a laugh out loud comedy about marriage and moviemaking directed by Greg Lalazarian and starring a culturally diverse cast headed by veteran actress Ann Magnuson. Art Aroustamian, Boyd Banks, and Josie Davis also star. The screening was attended by over 500 enthusiastic guests, and included a red carpet pre-reception party for the cast and crew.
In the documentary lineup, this year’s official selection included the work of such acclaimed figures as Sting in “Battle for the Xingu.” The film was honored with the inaugural Arpa/AT&T Award For Environmental Conservation & Stewardship. AT&T’s Troup Coronado presented the award on behalf of AT&T Real Yellow Pages, the festival’s Presenting Sponsor this year. [The current issue of the Glendale-Burbank Real Yellow Pages features Arpa International Film Festival on its cover, highlighting Arpa and AT&T’s shared mission to stage ecologically friendly events.] “Battle for the Xingu” tells the story of the Xingu, a tributary of the Amazon, which is home to 10,000 indigenous people who rely on the river for survival. The Brazilian government is proposing what would be the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam, threatening to destroy the biodiversity of the region and depriving these people of their rights to a sustainable future.
The award for Best Documentary was given to “Return to Mexico City,” a documentary, narrated by “24” star Kiefer Sutherland, which includes interviews with President Barack Obama and Tom Brokaw. The film tells the story of Olympic medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos who return to Mexico City forty years after stirring controversy by raising their fists in the air during their medal ceremony and, in the process, raising awareness of the struggle for civil rights in America and basic human rights throughout the world.
The award for Best Short Film went to France’s “La Tangente”, while writer/director Suren Manukyan’s “Dress Story” from Armenia received the award for Best Animated Film. Both films, 12-minutes and 7-minutes long respectively, explore the power of eroticism and need for desirability in human relationships.
2009 Arpa Award Recipients
Armenian Educational Foundation (AEF) received this year’s Arpa Foundation Award. Over its 60 year history, AEF has been committed to youth and the pursuit of academic scholarship. The organization has built and supported the establishment of hundreds of day schools around the world. A short documentary film, produced by Christina Hacopian (“Gossip Girl,” “Bride Wars,” “Dirty Dancing”) and directed by Sevag Vrej (award-winning feature film director of “N-4” and Serj Tankian’s MVPA-nominated “Feed Us” music video) documenting AEF’s educational endeavors screened during the closing night awards ceremony. The award was presented by past Arpa Foundation Award recipient, actress and activist Mary Apick. The award was received by the filmmakers and board members of AEF, including Alec Baghdassarian.
Arpa Awards Gala And Reception Hosted By Hollyscoop
The illustrious Hollyscoop Girls – Diana Madison, Nora Gasparian and Ani Esmailian served as this year’s Closing Night Awards Gala emcees. Hollyscoop host a new weekly half-hour entertainment and pop-culture television program that airs at midnight on the CW, KTLA 5 in Los Angeles.
The evenings other highlights included a serenade by Venezuelan-born musician Ernesto Ferro, who performed selections from the soundtrack of “VENEZZIA” dedicated to the film’s director, Venezuelan-Armenian Haik Gazarian; and a congratulatory video message to the festival’s guests from socialite Kim Kardashian.
The awards ceremony culminated with an outdoor courtyard reception, where guests celebrated the films and filmmakers of this year’s festival under the stars.
AFFMA was founded in 1995 for the purpose of enhancing our community’s artistic environment and supporting artists who seek to bridge the cultural divide. For more information about contributions, becoming an AFFMA member, or volunteering for Arpa International Film Festival, please visit www.affma.org or call 323-663-1882.