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Director Atom Egoyan, actor Arsinée Khanjian discuss “open wound” of Armenian Genocide at CMHR

News release details

Acclaimed Canadian director Atom Egoyan and award-winning Canadian actor Arsinée Khanjian will visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) this week for a special event exploring the human rights significance of the Armenian Genocide, 100 years later.

They will participate in a media event on Wednesday (November 25) in the Museum's "Breaking the Silence" gallery, where the genocide is examined through survivor videos, text and images — including references to Egoyan's work. As Armenian Canadians, they have both been active in raising awareness about the importance of combatting denial and minimization that still surround the event.

"This is a history that has not yet been resolved – it's an open wound that continues to bleed," said Egoyan, whose grandparents were orphaned by the genocide. His 2002 film Ararat focused on this event and starred Khanjian, whose performance garnered a Genie Award for Best Actress, while the movie was awarded Best Film. Egoyan's latest film Remember – released last month — also examines memory, justice and unresolved history, and again features actor Christopher Plummer.

What: Media event with Atom Egoyan and Arsinée Khanjian
When: Wednesday, November 25, 12:15 p.m.
Where: "Breaking the Silence" gallery, CMHR, 85 Israel Asper Way (Please enter through Group Entrance)

More information about Egoyan, Khanjian and the CMHR's exhibits about the Armenian Genocide is attached.

On Wednesday evening from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Egoyan and Khanjian will participate in a free public event to mark the centennial of the genocide, organized by the Museum in partnership with members of the Armenian-Canadian community. Officials from the Armenian National Committee of Canada and the Armenian Orthodox Church of Canada will attend, along with members of Winnipeg's Armenian community. A segment of Egoyan's film Ararat will also be shown. Seating is limited, visitors are asked to RSVP to visitor.services@humanrights.ca or 204–289-2000.

Prior to the evening event, special themed tours will be offered for admission fee plus $5, departing at 5 p.m., 5:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. in English, and at 5:45 p.m. in French (pre-registration required to visitor.services@humanrights.ca or 204–289-2000).

From 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., there will be a live musical performance (free with admission) in the Stuart Clark Garden of Contemplation by Armenian Winnipegger Svetlana Gharagyozyan – a member of Manitoba Opera – in honour of the victims of the genocide. The Museum is open until 9 p.m. on November 25.



Backgrounder

During and after the First World War, leaders of the Ottoman Empire (forerunner of today's Republic of Turkey) attempted to eradicate its Armenian Christian minority. The genocide began in 1915 with the execution of Armenian leaders. Men, women and children were then rounded up and massacred or forced on death marches through the desert. About 1.5 million Armenians died. In 2004, Canadian Parliament voted to officially acknowledge and condemn the Armenian Genocide.

At the CMHR, the "Breaking the Silence" gallery features videotaped survivor stories, documents, photographs and text exploring the Armenian Genocide, the denial that continues to surround it, and efforts to break silence. A 100-year-old folding camera is used to relay the story of German medic Armin T. Wegner, who secretly captured important photographic evidence of the atrocity and wrote eyewitness accounts. The Museum also displays the story of Armenian orphans known as "The Georgetown Boys", who were brought to Canada in the wake of the genocide. Another exhibit examines the role of the Armenian atrocity in the evolution of the concept of genocide by scholar Raphael Lemkin, who first developed the term and a definition for this crime.

Atom Egoyan is an Armenian-Canadian filmmaker whose 16 feature films include The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica and Ararat. His latest film, Remember, was released in October 2015, starring Christopher Plummer as a Holocaust survivor. Egoyan has numerous awards including five prizes at the Cannes Film Festival (including the Grand Prix, International Critics Awards and Ecumenical Jury Prizes), two Academy Award® nominations, eight Genie Awards, prizes from the National Board of Review and an award for Best International Adaptation at The Frankfurt Book Fair. Egoyan is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Directors Guild of America, the Directors Guild of Canada, the Writers Guild of America, the Writers Guild of Canada, and the Royal Canadian Academy of Art. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and was honoured this year with the Governor General's Performing Arts Award.

Arsinée Khanjian is an Armenian-Canadian actor known for her work in film and on stage both as performer and creator. She starred in the widely successful romantic comedy Sabah, and in Atom Egoyan's critically acclaimed Ararat. Calendar, which Khanjian starred in and co-produced, was the first foreign feature film ever shot in the newly independent country of Armenia. Khanjian holds a Master's Degree in Political Science and sits on the board of the Zoryan Institute for International Genocide and Human Rights Studies. The recipient of numerous awards for her work in the arts and for human rights, Khanjian was a member of the jury at this year's International Independent Film Festival in Istanbul, and president of the jury at the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva. She also joined Turkish human rights activist Fethiye Çetin in a seminal series of historic and political conversations surrounding the Armenian Genocide for Civilitas, a group committed to furthering democracy and rights.

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Maureen Fitzhenry