Ro-IFF 2015 INTERVIEWS: GARIN HOVANNISIAN, DIRECTOR

By A.G.Billig
Sep 4th, 2015
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Garin Hovannisian at Romania International Film Festival

Garin Hovannisian at Romania International Film Festival

Some people believe they can’t escape the past. And because what we believe deep down our souls is what we get, they never do. You wouldn’t believe Garin Hovannisian, writer, filmmaker and son of the legendary Armenian politician Raffi Hovannisian is one of those people. 

He was born in L.A., speaks with a lovely Californian accent, smiles with his eyes and his debut movie, “1915”, was well received in Europe and USA. Yet, the Armenian genocide, although one hundred year old, haunts him. ‘You can’t escape the past,’ he concludes at the end of our conversation at the Romania International Film Festival. In the interview taken on the shore of the Black Sea, Garin talks about his boyhood memories as an Armenian teenager in a L.A. public school, about his transition from writing fiction to journalism than back to fiction writing and, lately, film directing. About his long-lasting friendship with Alec Mouhibian (1915’s director and co-writer), his family history and his memories of the yet Soviet Yerevan of late 80’s.

Here are a few snippets.

About 1915 
It would have to be a movie that would be powerful, that would be emotional and that would contain within the complexity of the issue of 1915.
We wrote the lead roles for Simon Abkarian and Angela Sarafyan, we used their names in the script for the very beginning. We sensed inside of Angela Sarafyan the kind of tragic, sad, yearning Armenian femininity  that we felt the we needed for 1915.
I think the subject matter required we felt like a family.

About being an Armenian in the State
It mattered that we ( he and his friend Alec Mouhibian who cowrote and directed 1915) were Armenians. After school, we went to Armenian families. We went to strange and dark and difficult stories. We went to home that were haunted by the Armenian genocide in large part because it continues to be denied by the Turkish government. I remember being in eight grade and having to deliver a speech in front of the whole school and having in there something about being Armenian. I remember my teacher saying maybe “‘you shouldn’t mention”. Being an Armenian and struggling to announce this identity was an important part of growing up in Los Angeles.

About Raffi Hovannisian
He is a man of the future, very action oriented. A dreamer who still believes in the future of Armenia. He is a man of many talents. He wrote poems. He’s an artistic man.

You Can’t Escape The Past
There is no clean way to move on from something like the Armenian genocide or something like the death of your baby. Regardless of what decision you make, the decision is complicated. The tag line of our movie is you can’t escape the past and I do believe that.

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