Director Garo Berberian was born in Chiswick, London, and graduated from Berkshire School of Art and Design with a merit in Photography, also winning Fuji’s student street photography award. Garo then moved into Broadcast Television, rising up through the ranks from editor to director, working on numerous award-winning television, documentary, commercial and hard hitting viral campaigns. Garo’s first short film – “Return of the Tyke”, was the winner of the Best Short audience award at the 2014 ARPA film festival in Los Angeles. His new film, “Taniel” looks at the last months of poet Taniel Varoujan’s life. The film’s narrative is heard in poetry and seen through Film Noir images. “Taniel” has won 2 awards at the Bermuda International Film Festival for Best Direction and the Audience award, followed by 5 screenings in Armenia at the Golden Apricot International Film Festival and in the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute the film has also screened in Australia at AFFSydney, Mark Kermode’s Screenplay Film Festival, and DC Shorts Washington and will be screened later this year at Pomegranate International Film Festival in Toronto and SOSE amongst others.
I was born and brought up in the UK, my grandparents had suffered and escaped the horrors of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire ending up in Cyprus and again forced from their homes during the 1974 invasion. I knew at some point I needed to express this tragic part of our family’s history through the eye of a camera, feelings that are very difficult to describe with words. I wanted to approach the subject from a different place, I wanted to reflect on a human story of an individual as individuals get lost in all the arguments of facts stats and what words you are allowed to use to describe the murder of a race, and film noir and poetry allowed me the freedom to express some of the deeper emotions I wanted to show.
Taniel Varoujan became my protagonist because firstly I felt he represented the Armenian people’s plight, the process of extermination was the same for most: arrest, deportation, exile and death. Varoujan was a sophisticated man, a highly respected poet, teacher, pacifist, humanist, and loved by many, but his fame would not save him.
His poetry was eclectic, some poems were deep and reflective, some erotic and sensual, and some were based on dark memories from his childhood of the catastrophe and destruction during the Hamidian massacres of 1896 and these became a truly prophetic expression about events that were to unravel his and my grandparents’ world in 1915.
It was also important that the film be relevant for today’s world, and Varoujan represents the lost face, lost memory, lost history, lost personalities of so many people who are forgotten under the cataclysm of Wars and conflicts resulting in Genocides, in places like Rwanda, mass displacement and refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq to name just a few.
When explaining why he changed the ending of the story of Joseph K. in Kafka’s adaptation of The Trial, Orson Wells, wanting to give dignity to his subject, famously said “We are all Jews since the Holocaust”. When Hrant Dink was murdered in Istanbul by a Turkish nationalist in 2007, 100 thousand Turks came out on the streets and said, “We are all Hrant Dink”. Taniel was written with them in mind, after all Varoujan was an Ottoman subject. Taniel is made as a statement of humanity, Turks, Armenians, British, Americans, French, Jews and anyone to be able to feel sadness at the cruelty in our world and the unnecessary destruction and loss of the beauty of life.