Only today, reading The Telegraph, I learned this... RIP, Michael Hagopian...
Below is his Obituary as it appears in The Telegraph.
Film maker sought to prove that the Armenians had suffered genocide
According to historians, between 1915 and 1918 some 1.5 million Armenians died in a series of wholesale massacres and deportations which took place amid the chaos of war and the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey maintains that the deaths (which it estimates at 300,000 Armenians and about as many Turks — many of them victims of famine and disease) occurred within the context of a civil war sparked after Armenians, backed by Russia, rose up against the Ottomans. It remains a crime in Turkey to portray the killings as “genocide”.
Hagopian was determined to refute the Turkish claims. Among several documentaries, The Forgotten Genocide (1976), the first full-length feature on the killings, involved nearly 400 witness interviews and 20 years of research and received Emmy nominations for best documentary writing and production.
The River Ran Red (2008) told how hundreds of thousands of Armenians were forced into the Syrian Desert, where most of them died of starvation, and was voted best international historical documentary by the New York International Film & Video Festival in 2009.
To date, 20 countries have officially recognised the events of the period as genocide. Earlier this year a resolution to that effect was narrowly approved by the American congressional Foreign Affairs Committee. On several recent occasions, however, similar resolutions have been adopted by the committee only to fall short of endorsement by a vote of the full House.
In 2007, for example, a committee resolution branding the massacre of Armenians as genocide was greeted by a jubilant Hagopian as a sign that “representatives in Congress now realise the Armenian community has a lot of political power”. But in the end support for the bill ebbed away as Ankara recalled its ambassador to Washington and politicians within Congress feared that ties to Turkey – whose airspace was a crucial corridor to supply US troops in Iraq – would be irreparably damaged. Turkey is again lobbying America to prevent any vote in the present instance.
The son of a prominent physician, Jakob Michael Hagopian was born on October 20 1913 in the ancient Armenian town of Kharpert, in what was then the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey). One night in June 1915, after his parents heard that Turkish soldiers were on the rampage nearby, he was hidden in a well behind their home. “To save my life, [my father] placed me in it, hoping the Turks would not find me, that by a miracle I would survive,” Hagopian recalled in 2001. “He had great faith in Providence.” The soldiers did not come that night. But when they did several days later, the family was spared because his father had treated local Turks.
The family remained in Turkey until 1922, when they fled to the United States. They lived in Boston before settling at Fresno, California, in 1927.
After studying Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, Hagopian took a doctorate in International Relations at Harvard. He then served in the US Army Air Forces during the war before teaching at several universities, including the American University of Beirut, where he began teaching himself to make films. He later took film classes at the University of California, Los Angeles.
In 1952 he founded his own film production company, initially making films about the cultures of the Middle East, Nigeria, India and the American Indians. In 1979 Hagopian founded the Armenian Film Foundation, which was dedicated to preserving the visual and personal histories of the witnesses to the massacres.
Hagopian wrote, directed and produced 17 films about the Armenians . As he recalled in Voices From the Lake (2000): “I remember my mother saying, 'You can kill a people, but their voices will never die’.”
Michael Hagopian is survived by his wife, Antoinette, and by a daughter and three sons.