BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
NORTH HOLLYWOOD–The gala world premier of Dr. J. Michael Hagopian’s "Voices from the Lake," which took place Wednesday evening at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences–was greeted with rave applause and standing ovations–for the detailed account of Armenian massacres in Kharpert during 1915–as part of Ottoman Turkish Empire’s genocidal campaign against the Armenia’s.
The 85-minute film is the first in a series of documentaries entitled "Witnesses" being produced by Dr. Hagopian and the Armenian Film Foundation–as an effort to document the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide–serving as a permanent tribute to the victims of the Genocide.
"Voices from the Lake" chronicles the lives of the Armenia’s living in Kharpert from the turn-of-the-century to the time of the Genocide. The story is intertwined with eyewitness accounts–from not only survivors of the horrifying massacres–but also non-Armenian stationed in Kharpert either as missionaries or as consular officials for the US and Germany.
With references to journals independently kept by US Consul General to Kharpert Leslie Davis–American physicians administering a hospital and survivors–the film brings together the accounts of events–which have been recorded similarly by different individuals.
The poignant tale of Dr. Hagopian’s own story of survival serves as the premise of the documentary–which painstakingly characterizes the Turkish atrocities and serves as an important historic proof that the Genocide was–in fact–a systematic effort by the Ottoman Turkish government to annihilate the Armenia’s of Eastern Turkey.
Parts two and three are currently in production and sources involved with the film attest that they–too–will bring the horrors of the Genocide to life.
The moving program that followed the screening of "Voices from the Lake" only reaffirmed Dr. Hagopian’s commitment to preserving this tragic period in history for generations to come.
Premier Committee co-chair Paul Krekorian introduced the film–following the screening of which–Armenian Film Foundation chairmen Walter Karabian–the former majority leader of the California State Assembly–who invited Dr. Hagopian to the stage–amid rave applause from the audience.
In his remarks–Dr. Hagopian thanked all the individuals and organizations that assisted him and the Armenian Film Foundation in the production of the movie–and expressed hope that the movie will–one day–be translated into Turkish and Armenian. D. Hagopian then guided the program to its emotional climax–when three survivors featured in the film were invited to the stage to be honored.
One by one Harutiun Chitjian–Sam Kadorian and Hayastan Terzian ascended onto the stage to standing ovations and often tearful applause from the audience.
Following the moving homage–Karabian introduced several individuals who were instrumental ion garnering support for the movie and asked Paul Krekorian to present public officials that had worked in support of the production.
First to be honored by State Sen. Adam Schiff–through whose efforts last year–almost $500,000 in state funds were allocated to the Film Foundation for the production of the movie.
In his remarks–Schiff stressed the importance of preserving the memory of survivors and telling the story of the Armenian Genocide to the public. He presented a Senate resolution honoring Dr. Hagopian and the Film Foundation for their efforts. In turn–Krekorian presented a plaque to Schiff for his role in securing the support needed for the production of the film.
Also honored was State Assemblyman Jack Scott for his role in securing similar funding for the movie. Scott also emphasized the importance of the film in preserving the historic truths that are being denied for political ends.
Joining Schiff and Scott during the opening were State Assemblyman Scott Wildman–Torrance City Councilman Jack Meserlian and Glendale City Councilman Rafi Manoukian. Also attending the event was Mayor of La Canada-Flintridge Carol Liu. Western Primate Arch Vatche Hovsepian also attended the gala premier.
Following the program a reception followed at the foyer of the auditorium–where attendees were able to personally meet Dr. Hagopian–Film Foundation members–survivors and the public officials and exchange views with one another.
A silent auction benefiting the Armenian Film Foundation was also held throughout the evening.
Both Dr. J. Michael Hagopian and the Armenian Film Foundation must be praised for their efforts in preserving history and presenting historical accounts of the Armenian Genocide.