By Tina Varjabedian
FLArmenians Miami Contributor
Ft. Lauderdale, FL – On Thursday, October 25, Cinema Paradiso premiered “HERE,” an Armenian-American film, at Ft. Lauderdale’s International Film Festival (FLIFF). Arsine Kaloustian-Rosenthal, Florida Armenians (FLArmenians) Communications Director, opened the program by introducing the Armenian culture and FLArmenians to the diverse audience in attendance. She explained that the Armenian community has been present in Florida for over 50 years and that St. David was the first Armenian Church in Florida. She added, “Today we have 5 churches and 2 mission parishes with approximately 30,000 Armenian-Americans across the great State of Florida.”
Kaloustian-Rosenthal then introduced local favorite, renowned Armenian musician Joe Zeytoonian of Harmonic Motion, who played cultural Armenian melodies on the Oud. The audience then asked Mr. Zeytoonian questions about the Oud instrument and about different Armenian songs and melodies. Mr. Zeytoonian warmly discussed details about the audience’s questions and the instrument, explaining that the Oud is a unique and ancient Armenian/Anatolian instrument that has been around since the 7th century.
Joe Zeytoonian, Tina Varjabedian and Arsine Kaloustian-Rosenthal at FLIFF
The film HERE is shot entirely on Armenian soil and showcases the captivating and magnificent landscapes of Armenia. Although the film is primarily in English, it contains many segments throughout where the Armenian language is spoken with subtitles. HERE demonstrates various intense themes, the primary one being soul searching. The film displays the complex relationship between expatriate Armenian photographer Gadarine Najarian (Lubna Azabal) and satellite-mapping engineer Will Shepard (Ben Foster), who decide to continue their journey together, unknowing to where this decision can take them both personally and professionally. Inspired by the Armenian scenery displayed in the film, Arsine Kaloustian-Rosenthal expressed, “The film provided us a very intimate window into the landscape of Armenia – something many of us had never seen before. For a few hours, director Braden King transported us from the Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival to the land of our ancestors. It was a lovely escape.”
When asked why he chose Armenia as the landscape for this film, director Braden King explained, “As I explored further, Armenia – its history, landscape, location, people and culture – became another collaborator, a third co-writer. When I visited for the first time in 2004, it was instantly clear that Armenia was the most precise lens through which to focus in on HERE’s story and themes. Within the first few hours of that very first trip, there was no place else to go.”
Watch and listen to Joe Zeytoonian on the Oud below: