Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Commemoration events, including a massive march of Armenian Americans, were held around L.A. to mark the day and call for recognition of the Genocide. Now, a year later almost to the day, a full, dramatized account of the Armenian Genocide is told through the lives of one family in the film, “Armenia, My Love” by Diana Angelson.
The film tells the history of Armenia and her citizens, from the resurrection of Jesus Christ all the way through to last year’s march in Los Angeles. The majority of the film focuses on the Orbelians, a happy Armenian family living in Turkey in 1915. The parents and grandparents relate stories to Tigran, the youngest of the family, to frame the historical view of how Armenia came to be and setting up the political climate that comes into play as the impetus for the Genocide orchestrated by the Turkish government. The story follows the family as they witness the atrocities of the Genocide and are sent out into the desert to die, all the while trying to make it out alive and find a better life in the fabled land of America, where freedom is assured.
Without giving away too much of the action of the film, many people die and it’s emotionally upsetting. It’s not sad – it’s beyond sad, it’s downright upsetting. That being said, I do have a gripe with the film.
The supporting cast of actors who are not part of the main family are barely passable, but that is to be expected in these kinds of independent films. The main actors are really great and dealing with such heavy material I’m sure wasn’t easy. The amount of savagery and death that they had to portray was shocking, but I don’t think it was portrayed in the right way. Each death shown in the film is depicted as a huge event and, while they are sad in real life, for the purposes of the film, lingering on each one for so long decreases the impact after a while. For example, when a supporting character dies, nearly a minute is spent watching the other characters grieve. Then when a main character dies, another full minute is spent watching the other characters grieve. And without giving too much away, when a really important character is killed, there is a static shot for 1:24 watching another character cry. This death is supposed to mean the most and the audience should feel this one more than any of the others due to the importance of the character. But because every death is so belabored it numbs the audience and that death isn’t as impactful as I’m sure it was meant to be and that 1:24 shot feels gratuitous. Every death in real life is sad but, for example in “Titanic,” if we stop to mourn each passenger then Jack’s death wouldn’t hurt as much.
That is my only issue with the film. I had a rudimentary understanding of the Armenian Genocide before seeing this movie and the film cleared up a lot, explaining it in greater detail than I had ever heard. Perhaps more importantly, it took the Genocide away from being the political issue that we have all grown accustomed to and raised it to a personal level for the people who experienced it. Many outside of the Armenian culture have probably never heard an account like this given in such great detail. Because of this I think “Armenia, My Love” is a great film not only as a standalone piece but as an educational work that should be passed around for the greater knowledge and understanding of the Armenian people.
“Armenia, My Love” opens for a limited Los Angeles theatrical run on Friday, playing at the Laemmle theaters in Pasadena and North Hollywood. The picture is unrated, but I would equate it to a PG-13 rating. Written, produced, directed by and starring Diana Angelson, I give this film four out of five stars.