Armenian Film Foundation Collection

In April 2010, USC Shoah Foundation signed a historic agreement with filmmaker Dr. J. Michael Hagopian, his wife Antoinette and the Armenian Film Foundation.

The agreement paved the way for the preservation and dissemination of the one of largest collection of filmed interviews of survivors and witnesses of the Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the twentieth century.

Regarding the agreement with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, Hagopian said, “We believe this agreement is the beginning of a long-term partnership with the world-renowned USC Shoah Foundation that will promote the study and prevention of future genocides. Inclusion of these filmed genocide survivor interviews—a ‘national treasure’ of the Armenian people—side by side with testimonies of Holocaust survivors, in an archive that can be accessed and searched around the world, will finally help us fulfill our mission of disseminating these eyewitness accounts worldwide.”

“Victimization and genocide perpetrated and denied in one part of the world can become the breeding ground for greater crimes against humanity in another part of the world,” Hagopian once said. “I have felt that it was my responsibility to educate and inform, so that history won’t be repeated.”

Hagopian, who passed away in December of 2010 at age 97, ultimately produced 17 films about Armenians and the Armenian Genocide. In the partnership with the Institute, Hagopian agreed to turn over raw footage of more than 380 interviewees so they could be integrated into the Visual History Archive.

With the help of AFF chairman Gerald Papazian and AFF board member Carla Garapedian, USC Shoah Foundation has digitized, indexed and translated the interviews to make them searchable as testimonies in the Visual History Archive. All 333 interviews have available since December 2016.

About the testimony collection and the Armenian Film Foundation

The Armenian Film Foundation’s film archive contains 333 interviews with more than 380 interviewees Armenian Genocide survivors, descendants, witnesses, scholars and other types of experiences.

Interviews were conducted and recorded throughout the world in 10 countries, primarily in English and Armenian—some in rare Armenian dialects—though other interview languages include Arabic, Greek, Spanish, French, Kurdish, Turkish, German, and Russian.

Most of the interviews were conducted by Hagopian, who recorded them on 16 mm film between 1972 and 2005 for a series of documentaries. About half a dozen interviews were also conducted by Carla Garapedian after 2011. Learn more about nature of the collection’s footage.

The Armenian Film Foundation was established in 1979 as a non-profit, educational, and cultural organization dedicated to the documentation in motion pictures of Armenian heritage and life. Its goals are to inspire pride in and to create worldwide recognition of the Armenian people and their contributions, and to preserve the visual and personal histories of survivors and witnesses of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

As aging survivors and witnesses of the genocide began dying in large numbers, the Armenian Film Foundation embarked on a massive project to interview those who remained. When the project commenced in 1982, an estimated 2,500 potential interviewees were still alive. Fifteen percent of these were subsequently interviewed, and their testimonies documented on 16mm film by the Armenian Film Foundation, which retains the original footage, sound tapes, record books, and relevant photographs, as well as other documentation that may have been provided by the interviewees.

Dr. J. Michael Hagopian, co-founder of the Armenian Film Foundation, released 17 documentary films on Armenian heritage, culture, and history, including an epic trilogy on the Armenian Genocide comprised of Voices from the Lake, Germany and the Secret Genocide, and The River Ran Red.

About Dr. J. Michael Hagopian

Born in 1913 to an Armenian family in Kharpert-Mezre (presently Elazığ, Turkey), J. Michael Hagopian was a genocide survivor who dedicated his life to the visual documentation of Armenian Genocide history. In all, his work encompassed nearly 400 interviews of survivors and witnesses of the Armenian Genocide and 40 years of research.

Dr. Hagopian held a doctorate in international relations from Harvard University and an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He also did two years of graduate work in cinema at the University of Southern California. He taught political science and economics at the University of California, Los Angeles; American University of Beirut, Lebanon; Banaras Hindu University, India; and Oregon State University.

Hagopian was Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Armenian Film Foundation and producer/director of many award-winning documentary films. As president of Atlantis Productions, he also engaged in the research, writing, and production of educational and documentary films for instructional and informational use in the classroom and on television.

He has written, directed, and produced more than 70 educational and documentary films, which collectively have won over 160 national and international awards, including two Emmy nominations for the writing and production of “The Forgotten Genocide,” the first full-length feature film on the Armenian Genocide. “Germany and the Secret Genocide” received the coveted First Place Golden Camera Award in the History Category from the 2004 U.S. International Film and Video Festival, the largest festival of its kind. “The River Ran Red” was voted Best International Historical Documentary by the New York International Film & Video Festival in 2009, and it won second place in the History and Biography categories at the 2009 U.S. International Film and Video Festival.

Hagopian himself was the recipient of numerous honors, including Jewish World Watch’s “I Witness” Award for dedicating his professional life to chronicling the history of the Armenian people and commemorating victims of the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian National Committee honored him as Man of the Year in 2000.

On Friday, December 10, 2010, Dr. J. Michael Hagopian passed away; he was 97 years old.