Festival Highlights: Awards & Notable Films

10 11 2009

Arpa International Film Festival Awards

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)

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.

Documentary Winners

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.

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.

Festival Recap & Highlights

10 11 2009

L to R: Director Haik Gazarian, Director Eric Nazarian, AFFMA-founder Sylvia Minassian, CAA-agent Ara Keshishian

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.

Opening Night Premiere – “Venezzia”

venezzia opening night arpa film festival 2009

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

chasing tchaikovsky

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.

Arpa Awards Gala And Reception Hosted By Hollyscoop

hollyscoop hosting

Awards were handed out at a star-studded closing night ceremony on Sunday, October 25.

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.

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”).

The awards ceremony culminated with an outdoor courtyard reception, where guests celebrated the films and filmmakers of this year’s festival under the stars.

And the winners are…

26 10 2009

Congratulations to all of our filmmakers whose films were part of the 2009 Arpa Film Festival Official Selection!

Director Haik Gazarian's mother accepts award for "VENEZZIA" on his behalf. http://www.KrisKan.com

On Sunday’s closing night award ceremony the judge’s selection for winners for each of the following competitive categories were announced.

Each of these distinguished films speak to Arpa Internaional Film Festival’s misson of showcasing films which further global compassion and understanding.

Please join us in celebrating and recognizing the talented filmmakers and supporting their work!

Documentary: Return to Mexico City

Short Film: The Tangent (La Tangente)

Animation: Dress Story

Dress Story

Director: Sonbahar

Screenplay: Venezzia

Picture: Venezzia

New Venezzia Poster


“Arpa Breakthrough Award 2009” : Greg Lalazarian for “Chasing Tchaikovsky”


25 10 2009

arpa past photos

Hosted by the girls of HOLLYSCOOP, the Closing Night Gala Awards will feature award winning films and recipients of the festival’s prestigious awards.

AT&T will present the Arpa/AT&T Award for Environmental Conservation and Stewardship.

Armenian Educational Foundation (AEF) will receive the Arpa Foundation Award for the film, “Because Education Matters”, and for contributing to the legacy of academic scholarship to schools around the world.

Lucy Martens and Marjorie Wright will receive the Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award for their film,

Voices from Inside – Israelis Speak.”

And filmmakers in the following competitive categories will be acknowledged: Best Short Film, Best Documentary; Best Animated Film; and Best Feature Film.

Full list of nominees here.

The Awards Gala will be followed by a courtyard reception.

Dinner and Cocktails will be served.

Red Carpet: 6 PM / Gala Awards: 7 PM

Tickets: $75

Available online or at the Egyptian Theater box office

Past celebrity attendees and award recipients include Frances Fisher, Vivica A. Fox, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Alanis Morissette, Tippi Hedren, Atom Egoyan, Arsine Khanjian, Alison Janney, Marilu Henner, Tony Shaloub, Cheech Marin, Robert Papazian, and Dean Cain.

Join us in celebrating the work of all the filmmakers showcased at the 12th Annual Arpa International Film Festival, for their skill and talent in using the  medium of film to further global understanding.

Sunday Afternoon Program

25 10 2009

The international films continue on Sunday with a series of powerful documentaries in the ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAM at 11:45 featuring:

Battle for the Xingu a short documentary from Brazil, about The Xingu, a tributary of the Amazon which is home to over 10,000 indegenous people who rely on the river for survival.

The Enduring Call a short film about California’s Salton Sea, the vast inland lake that was once a paradise of biodiversity, is now an ecological netherworld where nature struggles to exist.

Every Tree tracks the work of the Armenia Tree Project (ATP), a non-profit program based in Watertown, MA and Yerevan, Armenia, which conducts vitally important environmental projects in Armenia’s impoverished and deforested zones.

Stuff.Inc. a short satire about a happy-go-lucky hillbilly that enjoys the wealth and thrills of his native wilderness, until the “Stuff Company,” the ultimate global corporation, moves in with all the trappings of consumerism and with the fierce intention of taking him away for indoctrination.

Voice of the Voiceless  a searing graphic short film from Armenia which documents the lives of farm animals from ill-fated birth to inevitable and agonizing death, “Voice of the Voiceless” pits the animal at the center of the story.

Water First a 2008 documentary about  Charles Banda, a humble, local Malawian fireman turned water activist. Through his story we see how water is a solution to many of the problems in his impoverished, sub-Saharan country.

And finally,  at 2:15pm, Arpa International Film Festival is proud to screen Nian Liu”s beautifully shot feature film LI TONG, about an 8-year old girl exploring the colorful streets and characters of modern Beijing…

Li Tong Poster Still 3

Opening Night Highlights

25 10 2009

Over 400 fans attended Friday night’s opening night, North American premiere of VENEZZIA!

opening 2

opening 1
opening 3


24 10 2009

It is officially ARPA FILM FESTIVAL weekend!

affma invite 2009 back

Join us for a spectacular weekend line up of 46 films, giving us a truly global worldview, from 23 countries…

Egyptian Theater

6712 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood CA

Day & Evening Screenings $11

Closing Night Awards Gala $75

Tickets available Online or at the Box Office

Full PROGRAM SCHEDULE listed here

Many thanks to all our filmmakers, supporters, Los Angeles film lovers, and Festival Committee without whom this weekend would not be possible.


23 10 2009

CHARISE STUDESVILLE, writer/director/producer


Screens: Saturday Oct. 24, 4:45 pm – Emerging Stars: Filmmakers on the Edge program

The Hands is a story of the love between a father and daughter that can’t last in its original pure state. As the grown-up daughter now sits at her father’s bedside in his final hours, she becomes fixated upon his hands and how they have come to represent all of who he was, as a man and as a father.

The Hands

1. Tell us a little about yourself and where you have lived, highlighting any major cultural identities that define, influence or challenge you in your life.

I have spent most of my life in the midwest, growing up for much of my childhood in Madison, WI, and returning there to attend the University of Wisconsin.  Since graduating from college, I have lived in Chicago.  For the past two years, I have split my time between Los Angeles and Chicago.

I was born a multi-cultural baby before it was chic.  Coming from different worlds on either side of my family, I learned very early on to look beyond the surface to view who people really are, at their core.

While there were definitely times when my being culturally different from the blond-haired, blue-eyed standard of beauty that defined the population where I grew up, I have to say that I always felt my mixed-race status was a bonus.  From the very beginning, I loved and was loved by very different people from very different worlds.  It’s funny, but no matter where I go in the world, people assume I am one of them, a member of their cultural tribe.  I really think this has informed my filmmaking. I have always been able to hone in on the humanist element in people, and in the characters I create in my writing and filmmaking.  You can’t learn that in school.  You either have the sensibilities, or not.  I am thankful for all of the nations that live within my heart, and I think the world is finally catching up with my view.

2. How did you come to be a filmmaker, and where/how did you learn the “craft” of filmmaking?

I was trained as a journalist at the University of Wisconsin School of journalism.  I went on to use my writing skills within politics, the law, non-profits, etc., but always circled back to fiction writing.

A few years ago, I began studying screenwriting and filmmaking, first during my graduate studies at DePaul University, and then at the Iowa Writers Workshop.  I subsequently wrote several screenplays that won awards in various writing contests.  After learning the production side of the business during an internship at Martin Chase Productions (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Cheetah Girls, The Princess Diaries), I knew that the one piece left to learn was directing.  I was accepted into the USC/Warner Brothers Directing & Producing Program, where it all sort of came together for me.  I was able to come out of the program and head directly into production of my directorial debut, along with executive producing another film.

My instructor at USC really helped me in placing a template of organization over the already-honed film aesthetics that came from studying the craft for so many years.

With all of that said, I still feel that my most useful training came from the year I spent as a young girl in a body cast, literally forced to watch the world go by.  My imagination served as my friend all of those months, and now it serves as the basis for my career.

3. What prompted the idea for your film and how did it evolve?

One of the screenplays that I wrote is a modern version of The Big Chill, but populated by a multi-culti cast of women friends.  Each woman has a complicated and sometimes haunting background story as they come into the present.

The Hands is one such back story.  It is based upon the real-life experience of many women I have met, myself included, who idolized their fathers as little girls, but who as adults had to come to grips with the reality that Daddy was just a man, a flawed human being.  It is a pivitol moment for both daughters and fathers, and I wanted to look at it up close. I also wanted to explore the ideas of memory, loss, and forgiveness within the confines of the father/daughter relationship.  This story seemed the perfect way to do just that.

4. What is your single favorite line from your film?

It’s the last spoken words of the film:  Joy and sadness are not exclusive of one another.  One can be happy to be free of the imprisonment, but still long for the familiarity of the captor.

It applies to a lot of different kinds of relationships.

5. What movies would you say have transformed or changed the way you see the world?

Room With A View was the first film I remember seeing and thinking that I would love to create something that could transport the viewer so completely to another place and time, and relay the longings and experiences of the characters to the viewer, both visually and emotionally.

Daughters of The Dust and Eve’s Bayou left a longing in my heart for the experience of actually becoming a filmmaker.  Both of these films drove me to begin the dig, to figure out how story and picture become one.


22 10 2009



OPENING NIGHT Feature Film: Friday Oct. 23rd – Red Carpet 6:30/Screening 8:00pm*

*North American Premier!

Official Site: http://www.venezzia.net/

It is February 1942. Pearl Harbor has been bombed and the Second World War is in full swing. A team of Allied military technicians arrives off the Venezuelan coast to patrol German U-boats. Frank Moore (Alfonso Herrera) is assigned to the remote town of Puerto Miranda. There, Frank becomes embroiled in a Nazi plot to sabotage oil supplies destined for Allied ports. He also meets the beautiful and mysterious Venezzia (Ruddy Rodríguez), wife of his commander Captain Henry Salvatierra (Rafael Romero). Longing to escape from the clutches of her domineering husband, Venezzia senses an instant mutual attraction with Frank. Will the two unleash the passion that lies within?

1. Tell us a little about yourself and where you have lived, highlighting any major cultural identities that define, influence or challenge you in your life.

In my early years as a Talent Manager I lived in Bogotá , Colombia; Lima, Peru; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Paris, France;  Moscow, Russia; NYC, Miami and LA and of course Caracas Venezuela. I have been influenced a bit by all these places. But I can say that Latin American has helped shape the way I live and think, and most importantly, my point of view of our cultures.

2. How did you come to be a filmmaker, and where/how did you learn the “craft” of filmmaking?

I started making films when I was 6 years old. At that time my father help me to shoot, develop and edit my film – first in Super 8 mm, and then I moved to 16 mm. I remember going to a TV station and watched how editors edit their news reels. Then I learned the craft and experience by just doing it: shooting and then looking at the results. In 1990 I did my first music video and after 6 years of working in TV commercials, music videos and TV shows I went film school in NYC to learn the rest.

3. What prompted the idea for your film and how did it evolve?

I grew up listening WWII stories from my dad, always from the European and Asian points of view, but when I was in NYC attending film school I started to learn about Venezuela during those years and how important Venezuela was in supplying oil to the allies.

I wanted to make my first film a Love story and surround  a clasic tale of love and Duty with a fresh point of view of WWII. I spent several years creating the background story of my main characters (Frank, Venezzia, and Salvatierra).  I went to Margarita Island and Trinidad Island to interview survivors and from there to help build the story of Frank and Venezzia.

The historical facts are accurate: on February 16 Nazy U-Boat 502 topedoed and sank 7 Oil Tankers of the coast of Venezuela. VENEZZIA is built around that tragic weekend

4. What is your single favorite line from your film?

‘You are one out of Many”

5. What movies would you say have transformed or changed the way you see the world?

Apocaliptico, Shielder List, Braveheart, The Lives of Others, Kite Runner

New Venezzia Poster

#14: Meet Erika Cohn

21 10 2009

ERIKA COHN, writer/director


Screening: Saturday Oct. 24th, 3:30pm – Peace in the Middle East program

When the Voices Fade is a portrait of the Lebanese-Israeli conflict seen through the eyes of a Lebanese-American dance instructor, Nadia, and an Israeli Defense Forces pilot, Amir.

When the 2006 war breaks out, Amir is called back to duty, forcing him to evaluate his moral objections to serving again. After Nadia and Amir coincidently meet at a coffee shop, Amir’s decision to return to Israel becomes more complicated. Despite the powerful voices who are in opposition to Nadia’s and Amir’s respective sides, they are both able to reconcile their differences, until Beirut is bombed.

When Voices Fade

1. Tell us a little about yourself and where you have lived, highlighting any major cultural identities that define, influence or challenge you in your life.

I was born and raised in an interfaith family in Salt Lake City, Utah – a city where faith defines who a person is.  Growing up in this kind of environment gave me an appreciation for all different faiths and cultures while cultivating my drive to help reconcile differences between various groups in conflict.  Art was my way of doing so.  I had started acting, singing and dancing at an early age and loved expressing myself creatively.

2. How did you come to be a filmmaker, and where/how did you learn the “craft” of filmmaking?

In addition to Utah being a place of faith, it also hosts the Sundance Film Festival.  I grew up with the film festival practically in my backyard and became fascinated with the art of filmmaking.  I made my first film, Searching Faith, when I was 16, which was sponsored by the Sundance Institute and Spy Hop Productions.  The film explores interfaith relationships and marriages in predominantly Mormon, Salt Lake City.  Making this film helped me to better understand my family’s dynamics in addition to being a universal topic that many individuals struggle with. After that experience, I was hooked.  I continued my filmmaking education at Chapman University in Orange, California where I obtained a BFA in Film Production a BA in Middle Eastern Studies and a minor in theatre.

3. What prompted the idea for your film and how did it evolve?

My co-writer, Natasha Atalla, and I began writing the script during the 2006 war and poured ourselves into the story.  Over the 2 years of script development, ideas changed corresponding with what was happening in our lives.  From conversations that we had about the conflict to my experiences through being a bellydance instructor,When the Voices Fade is very much based on our own personal lives.  Therefore this has always been a film that is close to my heart.

Why the 2006 war?  It was a war that greatly affected Natasha and I.  Whether we liked it or not, we were immediately emotionally involved in a conflict that was thousands of miles away from our Southern California comfort, because of our ethnic backgrounds. Natasha and I both had family and friends who were in the region during that summer and were keeping up with their travel logs.  I read about the kidnappings in the news, but for those in the Middle East, it wasn’t an event worth noting in our correspondence. I never would have predicted a war, and reading the headlines, “Warfare In The Middle East,” was shocking.  I listened to the stories of my family and friends who were immediately trying to catch flights from Beirut and Tel Aviv, some who were unable to leave after the Beirut airport was bombed.  In the United States, many people who I spoke with were ill informed of a “new war.”  They thought the Middle East was always at war.  I wanted to make a film that challenged this idea and humanized the conflict.

4. What is your single favorite line from your film?

During Nadia and Amir’s dance exchange, they have several witty comments back and forth which are just wonderful.  I won’t be specific in order to save the surprise.

5. What movies would you say have transformed or changed the way you see the world?

I’ve been inspired by so many filmmakers in both the documentary and narrative worlds- it is difficult to name just a few.  My favorite films keep changing depending on the project I’m working on or the mood I’m in.  I would have to say that Born into Brothels definitely inspired me to continue my work in the documentary field, and to not solely focus on narrative filmmaking.