Yeritasard Team Interviews Director Bared Maronian at Hamazkayin UK’s screening of Orphans of The Genocide

On 31.10.2015 Hamazkayin UK hosted a screening of Orphans of The Genocide, a film which looks at the Genocide from a previously untold angle. The venue was full and the editorial team had a brief opportunity to interview director Mr. Bared Maronian. Here is the transcript:

Yeritasard Team: What inspired you to get into film?

Bared Maronian: When I was growing up, I was always interested in photography. I was a hobbyist for a while, I used to take photos and do regular stuff. Then, I thought about it seriously, I’m talking about still photography, I wanted to be a photo-journalist. As I was growing up I couldn’t be a photo-journalist because I was born in Lebanon and the civil war had just started so I couldn’t become one. I had to leave the country and my family left to the United States so I couldn’t really become a photo-journalist but i always had that in the back of my mind.
Even though I worked part time with a few Armenian newspapers. I got to the United States, I was looking for a job and I thought to myself why not combine everything I like which is photography, theatre and music and that’s film or TV production. I already had my BA in Political Science so I went to school in Florida and studied Production – a few short courses, nothing in depth. I got hired at a local PBS station… so that’s how I started.

YT: Were there any particular films that sparked your inspiration?

BM: I have two favourite movies, first one is Gandhi, the second is Up! (the animation).
bared maronian hamazkayin
YT: Those films are very different, could you elaborate?

BM: Probably because, like I said, my background was Political Science and when Gandhi came out it was my favourite for a long time, and it still is.
I love Up! Because it shows the goodness of humankind and the difference between young and old, the respect and you know it was completely unexpected movie for me.

YT: What were the biggest challenges you faced as director of Orphans of the Genocide?

BM: There were two major challenges that I had to face; the first was unfortunately the funding because this was a not-for-profit project so I wouldn’t find investors to make money from this so I had to find donors and supporters of the film. You know it’s very difficult to talk to somebody and tell them “listen I’m making a very good and important movie and I want your money”. It’s difficult to convince someone. All of us have dreams and you have to dream by yourself, if you ask for someone’s help for nothing in return it’s a difficult task, but I was lucky enough to find people who could believe in me and supported me and that’s how we were able to make the film. Another challenge was the topic that I’d picked “orphans of the genocide”, there wasn’t a lot of research done before. It was uncharted territory as far as the Armenian Genocide; this aspect of the genocide was not really dealt with in depth. There were a few Armenian books about orphans, one of them was really detailed but it wasn’t a thorough or complete study of the Armenian orphans of the Genocide in terms of what it means and what they went through. Honestly 70-85% of what I have in the film were new to me too because we found events or individuals through research and it took us about 3 years to get there.

YT: What do you hope to achieve with the film?

BM: Before I answer that question I would like to say that the reason I did the film was not pre-planned. The way it happened was I was reading an article by a British journalist Robert Fisk; he had an article in a British newspaper, The Independent, and that was an eye opener, I was shocked by the enormity of the story that was written by Fisk; and I was also shocked that me being born in Lebanon and having lived there for 24 years, I hadn’t even heard about that event or the place where 1000 Armenian orphans and 200 Kurdish orphans were being Turkified about 30km from where I lived. It was a physical structure; it was a building, a church and school where these things happened and the fact that the children were buried there in a mass grave and the bones were found in 1987 I believe. It was an eye opener and I said I have to do something about this; 3.5 years later we have Orphans of the Genocide.

YT: It’s been 2 years since the film premiered, have the ideas portrayed in the film changed over the 2 years, specifically after the centennial?

BM: What really changed is as I said earlier it was difficult for me to find material because there weren’t a lot of studies on the orphans of the genocide, there weren’t enough books or photos and documents but after 3.5 years I’m happy to say now students contact me from universities or from Germany, USA and they ask for information about the orphans of the genocide because they decide to write papers on the orphans or their master’s thesis on the orphans of the Armenian Genocide. Now books are being written on orphans of the Genocide not just the Genocide itself. Even specific orphanages, for example I know of a book being written about the Gyumri orphanage which is the largest orphanage in the world, and I don’t mean Armenian orphanage I mean in the world period – about 20000 Armenians were housed there at one point so that’s huge. Im very happy that the film inspired others to do more research and write books and papers.

YT: Are you personally connected to the topic of the film? If so how?

BM: Well, I can almost guarantee that if I weren’t of Armenian decent I wouldn’t have done this film. That’s a fact I think. It is a personal project for me, it was actually a labour of love, as I said it was not-for-profit and of course I come from Armenian background, I’m third generation survivor. My father and mother are direct descendants of genocide survivors. My father was from the Iskandar region and my mother was from Adana; and as we known Adana was a major killing field as far as the genocide.

YT: What are you currently working on?

BM: My current project is called “Women of 1915″, again another untold story. It’s about the plight of the Armenian women during the genocide and all those Armenian women who came to their rescue from the West, European, Scandinavian, American young women who at the young age of 19-21 flocked to the killing fields of the Armenian Genocide to save thousands of women. Even though they had this major cultural difference, they had a comfortable posh life and left it behind to extend a helping hand to these Armenian women, they saved them.

Hamazkayin UK Executive Committee with director Mr. Bared Maronian

YT: Now for a more personal question, is this your first time in London? What do you make of it?

BM: In fact it’s my third visit to London; the first time I was here I was with my family because we were going on the ARS (Armenian Relief Society) organised cruise to Southampton. I was invited to be a speaker on the cruise so that was my first time. The second time we were visiting Paris again with my family, my daughter loved London so much she said she wanted to see it again so we came from Paris to London to spend a few days here.. and this is my third time.

YT: What was the most interest event during filming?

BM: I wouldn’t say one particular interesting event, I would generalise it that I was shocked that there were that many untold stories that came to me whilst I was working on the project. Individuals would come to me and tell me about their family stories, what happened to their grandparents as orphans, how one of them was Islamised and then they came back to Christianity and how some were Turkified and never been seen again, they might have a general idea what area of Turkey they are in but they have never found contacts because they couldn’t find them. So that would be the most interesting thing that happened whilst I was working on this project and it was a shocking thing. That kept on changing the direction of the film as I was being introduced to new stories I was trying to involve them in the film as much as possible. That was most interesting to me as I knew I had to go from point A to point B to complete the project but I made a lot of zig zags and went back and forth until I got to point C. The way I had planned to make the movie… eventually I got to the last point but I had to make a lot of detours because I wanted to cover as much as possible.

YT: Thank you for your time!

We would like to thank Hamazkayin UK  for giving us the opportunity to attend and interview Mr Bared Maronian at their film screening event.


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