Sunday, March 29, 2015

Interview with Filmmaker Roger Hagopian on his film, Memories of Marash

M.G. I hear that you were asked to submit your Special 2015 Edition Memories of Marash to a Film Festival in Providence.

R.H. Yes.  I’m so pleased. Dorothy Martiesian of The Daughters of Vartan arranged for my film, Memories of Marash, to be shown at the Southeast New England Arts and Film Festival in Providence, Rhode Island, as this year is the 100th year commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.

M.G. Where and when will that festival be held?

R.H. The Southeast New England Arts and Film Festival will be held at the  Columbus Theatre at 270 Broadway in Providence, R.I., on Monday, April 20 at 7 PM.  Their contact #  is 401-203-7363.
I will be attending the SENE Film Festival in order to speak after the showing of my film, Memories of Marash: The Legacy of a Lost Armenian Community (2015).  This documentary film traces the ancient history of the city of Marash,  the massacres of  the late 1800’s, and the final expulsion and genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turks between 1915-1923; the film tells the story of the lost Armenian community of Marash. Interviews with survivors and their descendants supported by historical film and photographs combine  to portray the tale of the vibrant Armenian community that once existed in Marash and is now forever a memory. In 2015, I remastered  
MEMORIES OF MARASH to wide screen with high resolution photography and animated maps.  

M.G. When did you first begin making documentaries?

R.H. My first film, Journey along the Middlesex Canal, was completed in 1996.  (As I’ve always been interested in railroads, I became fascinated by canals because in America, canals were the predecessor to railroads. You may not realize that the Middlesex Canal was  the first major artificial waterway — completed in 1803 — in the United States.)   This film has been shown at the Lowell National Park Visitor Center, on local TV stations, at public libraries, and can currently be seen on the Middlesex Canal Association website.  The Canal That Bisected Boston, a film I made in 2010, has been shown at various historical societies as well as the West End Museum in Boston, the Middlesex Canal Museum, and the Charlestown Historical Society, to name a few. 

M.G. You’re a history buff, are you?  

R.H. Yes, I’m especially interested in early transportation and American history.  The Armenian focus came later.  My father was a survivor of the Armenian genocide; I’ve known that since I was a teenager, but I did not seriously research  family history until I was about 49 years old. 

M.G. How old are you now?  

R.H. 66. Ironically, what turned out to be the first action of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottomans occurred in Zeitoun on April 10, 1915 — that is the month and day of my birthday.  

M.G.  That’s tough. On a happier note, how were you introduced to filmmaking?

R. H. My wife Linda cut out an ad in the newspaper which announced that Lexington Cable TV was offering film-making courses for free.  I took my video camera, and began volunteer work there and I was able to sign up for editing time in the studio.  I could produce my own film on any subject I wished.  That’s when I made a video of my father’s story: Journey of an Armenian Family (1999)  It took about a year to put that together. I showed that in many Armenian and non-Armenian venues.  (Senior Centers, Newton Public Library, NAASR)  The film begins in my dad's fishing village Avantz (outside of the City of Van) in historic Armenia (which was at that time a part of Ottoman Turkey).   I can remember being down the Cape, putting a microphone in front of my father as we sat by the lake.

M.G. What inspired you to make the film Memories of Marash

R.H. I wanted to cover my mother’s family’s experiences in historic Armenia;  during the Armenian Genocide, my great grandparents were beheaded in front of their children. I wanted the world to know the truth. 

M.G. Oh, no.  Just like my great grandparents! Let’s move on . . . Have any of your films ever been entered into a film festival in the past? 

R.H. Yes.  Destination Watertown:  The Armenians of Hood Rubber was shown at the ARPA International Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California, in 2010.  This film describes employment at the Hood Rubber Factory as being the draw for  Armenian immigrants to settle in Watertown.

M.G.  Switching gears a bit here, I wonder when you first became aware of the fact that you were Armenian?  What was it like being an Armenian growing up in the diverse community of the Dorchester section of Boston?  

R.H. I was just another ethnic kid with friends who were Jewish, Greek, Syrian, Lebanese, Irish, Italians . . .

M.G. Have you ever met any Turks?  

R.H. I didn’t start meeting Turks until I got involved in activities regarding Armenian history and the Armenian genocide.  

M.G. How did you meet them then?  

R.H. It began with Professor Taner Akcam, Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University . . . probably the first Turk that I ever talked to about the Armenian genocide.  

M.G. Has your film been shown in Turkey?  

R.H. Harry Parsekian brought a copy of "Memories of Marash" to the Hrant Dink Foundation in Istanbul and Osman Koker, editor of the book ARMENIANS IN TURKEY 100 YEARS AGO purchased a copy of "Memories of Marash" when he was in Watertown several years ago; he recently told  Marash Girl that he just loved the film!

M.G. What are your plans, if any, for future films?  

R.H. I want to record the story of the destruction of four Massachusetts towns: when the Quabbin Reservoir was constructed in the 1930’s, the folks living in the communities in Massachusetts’ Swift River Valley  were forced to leave — their homes and their land were taken by eminent domain in order for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to  create  the reservoir which provides drinking water for Metropolitan Boston.  Being an Armenian, I could identify with their experience of loss and displacement.

M.G. How can we purchase a copy of the Special 2015 Edition DVD of Memories of Marash?  

R.H. Just call me, Roger Hagopian. at 781-861-7868 or, for further information, email

Peter Bilezikian (1912-2010), a survivor of the Armenian genocide, whips it up with filmmaker Roger Hagopian (at right) on Feb. 10, 2008, during the  yearly gathering of the Watertown Chapter of the Union of Marash Armenians. Peter Bilezikian is featured in the film MEMORIES OF MARASH.  Photo by Marash Girl


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  2. Marash Girl, thank you for bringing attention to the remastered edition of the documentary.

    I'm the one who uploaded the original version to YouTube for all the world to see (and to maintain digital preservation). Of course, the copy was from the original DVD that I had purchased myself.

    It's always great to see our heritage expounded in this blog!