From the Vault: The Hollywood Genocide

The online world has been buzzing.

There has been endless discussion regarding Steven Spielberg and a proposed film on the topic of the Armenian Genocide.

 This all began several weeks ago when an article appeared claiming the famed director would direct a film on the topic, and soon thereafter, numerous websites began reporting that the project was confirmed. The avalanche of rumors starting kicking high gear and became difficult to ascertain whether this was all speculation or if truth existed somewhere between the lines.

The articles were shared within the Armenian community and many were grateful that such a project was finally coming together. In some cases, many felt like this was “justice” in and of itself, because we would finally share our story with millions around the world. 

The desperate need for such a film to be made has resulted in well-known media outlets reporting on this rumor. Steven Spielberg will not be producing this film, and I can assure you that he found out he would be “directing” the film around the same time you did. The rumor likely emerged because of his involvement with the USC Shoah Foundation, a nonprofit organization he established to record testimonies of survivors and witnesses of genocide. The picture that has been floating around of him with Carla Garapedian during a gala for the Armenian Genocide Digitization Project is likely another cause, perhaps giving off the impression that discussions have begun on a potential project.

The truth is that such a film would be welcoming. There is nothing better than sharing our culture with the rest of the world, and having an influential filmmaker involved with such a project will undoubtedly reach a wider audience. The problem is that such a film shouldn’t be treated any more differently than other projects, but that seems impossible considering the Armenian community is adamant about the film. In fact, Atom Egoyan’s Ararat, which was concerned with the after effects of denial was met with criticism from the Armenian community. They felt like his film wasn’t the film we “deserved.” The problem is that a film on the topic of the Armenian Genocide isn’t the only way or most effective way to reach an audience.

There has been a wave of young Armenian filmmakers in recent years and many of them dream about making the quintessential Armenian Genocide film. There seems to be a race about who can get there and make that film. The purpose of cinema and its potential is to work together and produce a body of work – not just one really powerful film – that will form our cultural identity; standing on a stage and winning an Oscar for a film on the topic of the Armenian Genocide should not be our aspiring goal.

The illusion that we need such a film to bring us on the level of other ethnicities is foolish. Schindler’s List was a touching film on the tragedies of the Holocaust – and perhaps one day, we will have such a film – but because Armenian filmmakers are rare, and good storytellers are even rarer, we should be working toward a more refined goal, which is to produce work that accurately depicts our culture.

If all our creative artists and filmmakers each made poignant films, rather than become so enamored at the thought of such a film, we would perhaps do more good than any Armenian Genocide film could do. Iran, this past year, produced one of the most universal films in decades, portraying their culture and citizens without being political. The film, A Separation, focused on a husband and wife who are separating and their everyday problems. I ask, then, why we don’t focus on such films; that is, small, intimate and human films.

The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide is fast approaching, and instead of getting ahead of ourselves and working on one film that could potentially be great, perhaps we should all come together and tell a multitude of stories.