French-Armenian actress Nora Armani is a founder of the only festival
of socially relevant films in New York. She told about her festival and
her roles in an exclusive interview with NEWS.am Style.
Nora, please tell a little about the new project you are working
at. What the Rated SR Socially Relevant Film Festival New York is about?
How did you come up with the idea and what are the goals of the
Rated SR ?ˆ“ Socially Relevant Film Festival New York is
the project I am currently working on. I am the Founding Artistic
Director of this festival.
RATED SR is a festival and film lab that aims to
satisfy a market need concentrating on everyday positive human stories
while offering a financially viable alternative? to the proliferation of
violence & crime in today's movie industry.The downstate-upstate New
York event provides filmmakers & festival attendees with the best
of both worlds: the buzz of Manhattan (New York City)& the rural
setting of upstate New York.
The Grand Prize of the festival is a Free week-long
all-encompassing release in New York of the winning film at the Quad
Cinema. This would give the film a first step towards an eventual Oscar
Our mission is to support filmmakers who deal with
socially relevant content by creating a platform that encourages them to
produce SR films overshadowed in the marketplace.
The goal of the Festival is to make SR films a reliable
and marketable brand of motion pictures. Rated SR Films are
entertaining, enlightening, uplifting but most of all artistically
appealing.The idea has been with me for a while, and it became
manifested when I found the right time and the right elements with which
to launch it. The proliferation of violence in our society is
appalling, and I personally lost two very dear people to me, namely my
uncle Hagop and my cousin Vania Exerjian a number of years ago in Egypt
as a result of a violent hate crime. This festival is homage to their
memory in addition to all the socially relevant human stories that need
to be told.
Are you playing in movie at the moment? If yes, what is it about?
Yes, In fact I just finished shooting a new film last week called:
The Last Show. I play the character of Eve, a modern woman, whose
daughter is torn between an artist she loves and a rich banker she feels
she must marry for security. My character is advising her to make the
right choice, based on her own experiences but also shocked to find out
that the artist she her daughter loves is none other than the cousin.
This is the 6th film I am doing since I started shooting my
own film Moving Stories last February that premiered at the Cannes Film
Festival in May 2012. It was seen at the Golden Apricot Film Festival in
Can we see "On The Couch With Nora Armani" performance at any stage? Did you stage it in Armenia?
I am not doing On the Couch with Nora Armani at this time, as I am
busy doing films and also my new show with Cellist David Bakamjian,
Evocations of Armenia, that we recently performed in Washington, D.C.
The show is part of 100 concerts in commemoration of the Armenian
Genocide and will be seen in a number of cities during 2014.
This does not mean that I will not pickup On the Couch with Nora
Armani again some time later. I performed in in the Armenian version in
Kapan, Armenia, at the new Theatre there, (unique event since the show
is written in English and I also do it in French for primarily a
non-Armenian audience) But in Kapan, I did it in Armenian in my own
You have a lot of international awards. What is for you significance of the Yerevan Theatre Festival award?
It is very important to be appreciated by one?ˆ™s own family, friends,
and in this case compatriots and country. For that reason, it means a
lot to me, alongside all the International awards. Usually it is very
difficult to impress the people that are the closest to us, our family,
our close friends, as they always look at us as the person they have
known a long time ago, and find it hard to accept the achievements and
developments and the journey we often chart with a lot of hard work and
perseverance. And sometimes, they want to minimize all that out of sheer
insecurity on their own part. But when close people acknowledge and
accept our successes and appreciate what we do, it not only reflects on
their genuineness, it created a really special feeling. That is why I
cherish that award very dearly.
Nora, you are one of few celebrities who, despite not being raised
in Armenia, are still followers of the Armenian spirit and have
Armenian soul. Isn?ˆ™t it hard to be live outside Armenia but still be a
part of it?
It comes from my family, my upbringing, and my early schooling in
Egypt. We grew up in an Armenian environment in our schools, our
churches, and our cultural clubs. That is something that stays with you
throughout your life. Plus I was lucky enough to visit Armenia as a
child, when I was 12 years old, and attend Summer Campin Hangavanduring
the then Soviet era. This experience had a strong imprint on my mind and
soul as a child and of course the result was that I have always been
very aware and sensitive to things Armenian.
Where are your ancestors coming from? You wanted to write a book
about your ancestors who survived the genocide. Did you fulfill the
idea? I read that your last name? "Armani" came from your mother?ˆ™s name-
Armine. Is this true? Why have not you keep your last name?
My ancestors come for Kaiseri (Kessaria) and from Istanbul. I have
not written the book yet, though I am working on it. The venture is a
long one and I am not sure when it can be finished. Yes, indeed, when I
had the misfortune of losing my mother young, I wanted to do homage to
her and take on her name to continue the journey for us both as she
herself was an artist. Her name was Armineh and she played the violin.
So I changed my stage name to Nora Armani. My family name is Ekserjian.
Your husband is Armenian. Is your family maintaining any Armenian traditions?
Yes. We do speak Armenian at home, and I like cooking Armenian
traditional dishes, only these days I do not have much time. But
fortunately there are shops that sell these foods, and we can buy them
ready made. We also like to listen to Armenian music, Opera, read
poetry, and history. My husband likes to read history books and he knows
Armenian history (as well as other histories, Roman, Egyptian, very
When you come to Armenia (you are an Armenian, but you still do
not live in this country) you are probably looking at the country
through the eyes of a foreigner. What are advantages and disadvantages
of modern Armenia?
Modern Armenia is a child compared to many countries of the world and
it is still learning to walk, talk and behave like an adult in society.
We have to be patient with our child?ˆ¦ I have witnessed the birth of
this child, as I was there in January 1991, and then again in September
of 1991, in 1992, 1993. Then there was a big gap, as I was running
around the world taking care of my own work and career. I came back in
2007 after 14 years of absence, and noticed a youthful Armenia, with
many new changes, but that still needed to mature and develop to become a
full-fledged adult. Then I came back regularly in 2008 to direct my
adaptation of Saroyan's 'Papa You're Crazy' for the stage on the
occasion of Saroyan?ˆ™s centenary, then again at the end of 2008 to
discuss theatre projects with the Ministry of Culture, and Hakob
Ghazanchyan, then again in 2010 to perform, in 2011 to do a workshop
with the National Theatre and Cinema Institute in Yerevan and in Shushi.
I have been observing Armenia all this time, and trying to understand
Right now Armenia is passing through a difficult youth where a lot of
identity definition and social issues are being tackled. There is also
much corruption and nepotism going on, and this is a hard blow to the
natural development of the country, because proportionately it is much
higher than in any of the other 'mature' country. Our leadership needs
to consider thinking in terms of what is good for future generations and
what would be a good legacy to leave behind increasingly. And to be
less concerned about their own personal and immediate needs. There is a
certain prevailing irresponsible and selfish approach where more
emphasis is put on the immediate instead of working towards building a
lasting infrastructure laying the foundations of our country that could
possibly outlive several generations.
This is my own humble observer's opinion. The mentality that
prevailed during the Soviet times of grabbing what you can, seems to not
have left many of the people in power. My only hope liesin the youth
and the younger generations, provided they do not despair and leave.
The hope lies in that there is at present a healthy atmosphere of
protests and opposition in Armenia that was not present before. I wish
these concerned individuals and groups much courage and most of all
patience and perseverance. Rome was not built in one day (but it was
destroyed in a relatively short period of time?ˆ¦) It will take time to
build a strong nation and homeland and we should be careful of the
destructive elements that are often ready to destroy everything for
personal gain. Building something everlasting and solid takes time,
energy, effort, patience, and most of all FAITH! I wish everyone
courage, faith and self-confidence. Armenians are a talented people.
There is no reason why Armenia should not become again the great nation
it once was.
Do you have any plans related to Armenia?
Always, but not right now. On the other hand, who knows what might
happen in the near future? I am open to all propositions and would
definitely respond if invited for an interesting project.
I just want to add a word about Rated SR Film Festival. It is a great
platform for all filmmakers who are keen on penetrating the US market. I
urge all young and not so young Armenian filmmakers to submit their
films either through our website: www.ratedsrfilms.org
or through Without a Box the International Festival portal as well as
Festhome. We have short and feature (documentary and fiction)