After a year in the making, the long-awaited premiere of the film Saroyan’s Will, ordered by the Armenian Culture Ministry, took place at Kino Moskva on Monday night, May 11. Arriving, I met several of those who had worked on the film, such as cameraman Ashot Movsesyan, director Grigor Harutyunyan, and Garik Nazaryan, and others in the local film industry, including cameraman Shavarsh Vardanyan, with whom I had worked on a film about the history of Garni, and historian Ashot Pilibosyan, who had recently taken part in a historical film about Tigranakert.
In the main hall of the theater, Hayk Film Studio president Ruben Gevorgyants introduced those who took part in the making of the film, after which movie expert and writer Davit Muradyan, also vice-minister of culture, talked about the making of the film and his trip to Fresno in early 2008. It was then that the Saroyan year officially started, as Muradyan and then vice-minister of culture Karine Khodikyan came to Fresno with the Shoghaken Folk Ensemble to kick off the year’s activities.
Before the film started, Grigor Harutyunyan thanked his team of cameramen and editors, and then gave me special thanks as the one who had given him archival video material and set up interviews with Saroyan’s relatives, along with recordings of Saroyan reading from The Human Comedy.
I watched as the film unfolded, the film makers doing a good job of introducing Saroyan as a person, not just a writer, showing him in various old video material and pictures, with accompanying interviews by actor Sos Sargsyan, Fresno sculptor Varaz Samuelian, Professor Dickran Kouyumjian, and several of Saroyan’s cousins from interviews taken at my grandmother’s sister, Stella Amerian’s home in San Jose, California.
Highlights of the film included Saroyan’s reading (and singing) from The Human Comedy, with the movie being played in the background, and Archie Minasian’s remembrances of early days in Fresno and Saroyan’s final days. Minasian was Saroyan’s first cousin, and my grandmother’s brother.
Although reactions about the film were mostly positive, there were those who said that “if the same film had been about someone other than Saroyan, it would have been considered a failure. There was nothing to it; it had nothing to say.”
The English version of Saroyan’s Will will take place in June in Fresno.