On April 24, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden did something no other American President has ever done. He declared that the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 by Ottoman Turks was truly a genocide–the first genocide of the Twentieth Century. This declaration was an historic event, something Armenians had long been waiting for: official recognition by the United States of the genocide of their people. But this announcement left many Americans asking “where is Armenia and what genocide?” The press immediately tried to provide answers. Now, with so many Americans gaining a rudimentary understanding of the Armenian genocide, FINDING ARMENIA is an intimate portrayal of one man’s search for the essence of an Armenian identity that had always lived in the shadows.
An Armenian-American photojournalist sets out to understand the powerful legacy of genocide and the hidden way a century of silence has shaped his family and himself. When your family’s brutal past is denied, how do you make sense of who you are?
Photojournalist Nubar Alexanian was raised speaking Armenian as his first language and surrounded by the haunting sounds of the Oud. Yet, no one, ever, spoke of the persecution that had brought his grandparents to the United States, nor his grandmother who lost three young daughters on a death march. Nubar felt suffocated by the unspoken suffering and fled as far from his Armenian identity as he could. He rarely talked about his Armenian heritage. Until his daughter Abby, half-Armenian, asked him a simple question. “Dad, will you come with me to Armenia?”
Finding Armenia is the result of that question. Without even fully understanding where his ancestral “Armenia” was, Nubar, a second-generation Armenian-American, sets out on a journey to embrace his history.
What does it mean to be a modern Armenian? We live in a world in which genocide – whether that of the Jews, the Cambodians, the Rwandans — is widely acknowledged and condemned. Yet the murder of more than a million Armenians, perpetrated 100 years ago by Ottoman Turks, remained largely hidden, a crime to even mention in modern day Turkey.
Nubar sets out to find his story. He travels to Eastern Turkey with his daughter in search of their family’s ancestral homes. For Nubar, the return to this land is revelatory. The film follows Nubar from avoidance, through painful recognition, to an understanding of his family’s story. Transformed by his experience and newly immersed in the horror that befell the Armenians, Nubar returns alone to his family’s ancestral land, wanting more — to understand, to challenge, to connect more deeply with this space.
The audience follows as his small team engages Turks, both friendly and hostile, in trying to discover what happened in the past and remains in the present. Their experience leads to a dangerous act of reparative rebellion, one that may mean Nubar can never return to this land. Yet, Nubar’s journey leads him to something even more powerful.
Finding Armenia provides a timely and thought-provoking personal account of what it means to be Armenian today, and how to reconcile the brutal denial of the past with self-acceptance and a reshaped sense of pride and identity.
Director/Producer: Nubar Alexanian
Writer/Producer: Abby Alexanian
Editor: Sabrina Zanella-Foresi
Cinematographers: P.H. O’Brien & Nubar Alexanian
Consulting Producer: Jocelyn Glatzer
Consulting Producer: Jackie Mow
Consulting Producer: Laura Wiessen
Start Date: October 2011 Release Date: 2022
Fiscal Sponsors: Filmmakers Collaborative and Pomegranate Foundation
Target running time: 75:00
Status: currently in postproduction.
Walker Creek Media, LLC