November 11, 2016
On Sunday, October 23, 2016, AGBU Western District Premiered “Crows of the Desert – A Hero’s Journey through The Armenian Genocide.” The film is a powerful documentary recounting the valiant efforts of the Armenian Rescue Expeditionary Group, who bravely conducted multiple missions to rescue Armenian genocide survivors scattered throughout the Syrian desert, as well as recover and repatriate Armenian orphaned children taken into non-Armenian homes.
The film also documents the very important role the AGBU played in sponsoring this group, and includes never-before-seen footage recently uncovered by the filmmaker from German and Dutch archives, among others.
Over 250 guests arrived at the Fletcher Jones Auditorium at Woodbury University and were astounded at the variety of historical documents as well as the original diary of Levon Yotnakhparian on display in the lobby. For three years, Executive Producer Paul Turpanjian and his team worked tirelessly to faithfully portray the recollections of Yotnakhparian. This documentary is based on “Crows of the Desert,” the memoirs of Yotnakhparian published in 2012 by his grandson, Levon Parian.
The event began with a prayer led by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian followed by remarks from Talin Yacoubian, Chair of Western District, and Lucy Varpetian, Western District Board Member. In attendance were Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian and State Assembly Candidate Ardy Kassakhian.
Throughout the screening, the audience remained silently enraptured by the rare footage and images, as well as the profundity of Yotnakhparian’s personal journey.
After the documentary, there was a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Carla Garapedian, filmmaker; with Ms. Marta Houske, Director/Producer; Dr. Vahram Shemmassian, Professor and Director of Armenian Studies at California State University, Northridge; and Mr. Paul Turpanjian, Executive Producer.
Among the topics discussed was the important role this film plays in examining the Arab-Armenian relationship and its impact on the plight of genocide survivors in what was at the time the Trans-Jordan region and southern Syria, a rarely explored area of genocide studies.
Viewers exited the auditorium astonished and teary eyed. A common theme in the comments buzzing around the room was that people learned things they never knew about the genocide and its aftermath.
Turpanjian commented, “The recognition of the efforts of those organizations and individuals who, at tremendous personal sacrifice, aided in rescuing survivors should be granted more prominence in our discussions about genocide.”
The Western District would like to thank Paul and Bennette Turpanjian, and all panelists for their participation in the panel and congratulate them for an extremely successful film.
A very special thank you to Woodbury University and their Armenian Student Association, including ASA advisor Seta Javor, for allowing us to host in the Fletcher Jones Auditorium and for all of their help with this event. Furthermore, the Board would like to thank the Western District staff for their tireless effort and collaboration to make this event possible.
The film will be screened at ARPA International Film Festival on November 5th at 2PM at the Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood. AGBU chapters throughout the Western District will also host screenings open to the public in the new year; dates to be announced.
Dr. Carla Garapedian moderating the discussion.
From Left to Right:
Ms. Marta Houske, Mr. Paul Turpanjian,
Dr. Vahram Shemmassian, Dr. Carla Garapedian