‘Crows of the Desert’ to premiere at 2016 ARPA Film Festival

Asbarez – The documentary feature, Crows of the Desert has been nominated by the ARPA International Film Festival as Best Documentary Film for the 2016 season. Directed by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Marta Houske, the film will have its world premiere on Saturday, November 5th at 2pm in the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.

Based on the highly acclaimed memoirs of Levon Yotnakhparian, the film chronicles the incredible true story of one man’s desperate struggle to not only stay alive but to help save his people from near extinction in the 20th century’s first genocide. According to Levon Parian, the grandson of Levon Yotnakhparian, it was his father who inspired him to publish the memoirs. He notes, “My grandfather was never able to publish his very important autobiography of what he did during and after the Armenian Genocide. His was part of an effort organized by diaspora Armenians to save their countrymen from complete annihilation by Ottoman forces. He represented and addressed the needs of the Armenians starving in the deserts of Syria. He lead a team that gave thousands of Armenians the hope of survival.” The family gathered to facilitate the completion of the book: Parian’s mother translated it into English with Parian handling the editing and the layout, his wife outlined the maps, various aunts and cousins supplied photos and documents, while his father, Benjamin—Levon Yotnakhparian’s son—“did the prodding.”

Three years of research, translating, editing and map-making transformed Yotnakhparian’s memoirs into the book Crows of the Desert: A Hero’s Journey Through the Armenian Genocide (2012). The memoirs have since encountered yet another transformation, this time into a documentary film. Executive Producer Paul Turpanjian and TF Educational Foundation, along with producer-director Marta Houske offer audiences a rare and stirring insight into the plight of survivors all but lost throughout the Syrian Desert. Completing the film is a moving score composed by renowned musician John Massari, in collaboration with a stellar cast of world-class instrumentalists and composers: Ara Dabandjian, Alan Derian, Ruben Harutyunian, Armen Ksajikian and Razdan Kuyumjian.

Set against the backdrop of World War I raging through the Arabian Peninsula, the film recounts the astonishing heroics of an extraordinary group of men who endured great tribulations in order to save the lives of countless thousands of Armenian genocide survivors scattered throughout the desert. Along the way, they would risk their lives on multiple occasions, endure unimaginable hardships, and cross paths with legendary figures such as Prince Faisal and Lawrence of Arabia. Several years of meticulous research has uncovered extraordinarily rare film footage and photographs, as well as recently rediscovered documents gathered from archives around the world to reveal a harrowing journey that is at once heart wrenching and inspirational.

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