Locals celebrate Armenia's independence

Glendale residents joined more than 1,000 others Tuesday evening from the Southern California Armenian community in celebration of Armenian Independence Day at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

"This marks Armenia's rebirth as a nation," said Consul General of Armenia Grigor Hovhannissian, whose office is based in Glendale. "Back in Armenia, people converge in a large area late in the evening to celebrate."

It marked the 19th anniversary of the Republic of Armenia.

The event was co-sponsored by the Armenian American Chamber of Commerce and featured an array of food and entertainment. The gala was held in conjunction with the opening of the 13th annual Arpa International Film Festival.

During its 13 years, the festival has featured the work of hundreds of emerging Armenian and international filmmakers, Hovhannissian said, and it was a way to introduce the Armenian community to the film festival, which is continuing through Sunday.

"By combining the two events, we thought it would give the film festival a boost," he said. "It worked pretty well, as more than 1,000 people attended the opening event."

Zaven Kazazian, president of the Glendale-based Armenian American Chamber of Commerce, attended the event.

"I think it was a wonderful event celebrating the 19th anniversary of Armenian independence, and I'm glad that the Armenian American Chamber of Commerce was able to participate in this celebratory event," he said.

There was also an exclusive screening of Amo Bek-Nazaryan's 1926 silent epic "Namus" (Honor) based on the play of the same name by Alexander Shirvanzade, who also penned the screenplay.

The North American premiere of the newly restored print, one of the first full-length features produced in Armenia, traces the moral portrait of a patriarchal society and the fate of a young woman, as determined by the values and traditions of male domination, officials said.

While the filmmakers were experienced in their craft making the film, the actors were not professionals, Hovhannissian said.

"Professional filmmakers told me that the film was cast with refugees that had fled the genocide in Turkey," he said. "There were many daring scenes filmed that you wouldn't have seen in Western films of that same period."

The film festival offers more than 40 feature films, shorts, documentaries, music videos and animated films. Nations represented among this year's Official Selection include Algeria, Armenia, Egypt, France, South Korea and Venezuela.

Weekend highlights include another screening of "Namus" as well as the film "The Fifth Column" (Hinkerort Zorasune) from director, writer and producer Vatche Boulghourjian, which was an official selection and third-place winner of the Cinéfondation at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival; and "Tales From Kars," a compendium of five humanistic short films all taking place in Kars, a city in eastern Turkey near its border with Armenia.

Awards will presented Sunday at a gala. For a schedule of films, visit http://www.affma.org.

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