By, Christine Aghakhanian
It was his desire to educate the world about the human rights violations and acts of terror committed against the peaceful indigenous Armenian people in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) during the September 2020 attacks, when activist, journalist and documentarian Vic Gerami wrote, directed and produced “Motherland,” a documentary film about the 44 day war, which Gerami refers to as the genocidal attack and ethnic cleansing of Artsakh by Azerbaijan and Turkey.
“Making ‘Motherland’ was a necessity that came from months of watching, reading, and witnessing the genocidal assault and ethnic cleansing unleashed on the Armenians of Artsakh,” said Gerami. “I was like millions of Armenians worldwide who were devastated and couldn’t believe what was happening in 2020, and worse, see the international ‘community’s’ deafening silence,” he added.
A week after the invasion, Gerami and his colleague produced a celebrity PSA campaign “I Stand with Artsakh & Armenia” featuring Kim Kardashian, Serj Tankian, Congressman Adam Schiff, Ed Begley Jr., Sally Kirkland, Lawrence Zarian, Andrea Martin, and several other stars. He then asked his longtime friend, West Hollywood City Councilmember Sepi Shyne, to sponsor a resolution recognizing the independent Republic of Artsakh. Mayor Lindsey Horvath co-sponsored the resolution, which unanimously passed on January 19, 2021. Gerami then petitioned the City of Burbank of create a similar resolution which also passed unanimously on March 2, 2021.
“Soon, it became obvious that I needed to be in Armenia in order to document this 21st century slaughter,” Gerami said. “If I did not interview the eyewitnesses, the veterans, and the refugees created by Azerbaijani and Turkish war crimes, who would? I went to my Motherland. I interviewed officials, experts, and journalists there. I had to see for myself, exactly how Azerbaijan’s president, Aliyev, and Turkish President Erdoğan – a pair of dictators and self-professed ‘brothers’ – are pulling the wool over the world’s eyes and, in the process, getting away with mass murder.”
When Gerami arrived in Armenia, the documentarian found his interview subjects to be very open and willing to speak about their horrific experiences during the unprovoked attacks by Azerbaijan and Turkey. “I am eternally grateful for the generous reception I’ve received in Armenia from veterans, refugees, officials, journalists, and other eyewitnesses. I was not expecting so many people to talk to me on camera and be so open. The veterans were exceptionally impressive in their desire to tell their stories,” he said.
Asked about the overall message he is trying to convey through the documentary film, Gerami said: “The message pertaining to the people of Artsakh is they have the right to self-determination, freedom, and human rights. The overall message is that if the civilized world doesn’t respond to brutal dictators like Aliyev and Erdogan, genocides and ethnic cleansing can happen anywhere. We should not be picking and choosing which nations deserve intervention based on their natural resources and our self-interest.”
In a short amount of time after its release, “Motherland” has received many accolades with an “Official Selection” in 21 film festivals. The compelling documentary has won 10 awards, including the prestigious Cannes World Film Festival, Toronto Independent Film Festival, and Doc Without Borders International Film Festival.
On August 4, at its premiere in Los Angeles, “Motherland” received a standing ovation and on the 30th, Glendale Mayor Ardashes Kassakhian, Senator Anthony Portantino and Assemblymember Laura Friedman co-sponsored a special screening at Glendale Community College, followed by a Q&A by Dr. Levon Marashlian. Gerami plans to turn the three-hour version of the documentary into a three-part series, making it available to high school and university students for educational purposes. “Our premiere and the two screenings so far have been spectacular, and we’ve had incredible audiences,” he said.
“Motherland” will have a Congressional screening in Washington DC on September 15 and the following day in Philadelphia, both presented by the Knights of Vartan. The screening in Armenia is slated to take place in October of this year. “Premiering ‘Motherland’ in Yerevan was not initially on my radar when I was making the film. I thought, why preach to the choir? But considering recent events and the current circumstances, I believe it’s imperative to premiere the movie in its Motherland. But doing so takes funding, so we have several sponsorship opportunities for companies, organizations, and individuals to be in the spotlight while doing something worthwhile,” Gerami stated.
As a testament to his commitment to activism, Gerami founded the Truth And Accountability League (TAAL), a non-profit advocacy organization which monitors and addresses Armenophobia, extremism & bigotry around the globe on the level of media, including social media, public policy, academia, and intelligentsia.
“We’ve been advocates for decades, but we need to become activists,” Gerami attested. “We can’t afford to be complicit and think someone else is taking care of it. It’s as simple as becoming a social media warrior and confronting Azerbaijan’s, and Turkey’s well-funded disinformation and propaganda campaigns.”
Gerami attributes the attacks on the Armenian people to the pan-Turkic movement and high paid lobbyists funded by petro dollars. “It’s mainly due to decades of well-orchestrated lobbying, bribing, and sometimes even blackmailing various nations, governing bodies, and organizations by Azerbaijan and Turkey. Azerbaijan uses its fossil fuel to silence a world thirsty for oil and gas and purchase billions in weapons from various nations. Turkey abuses its position as a member of NATO, plays all sides, and threatens to unleash 3.6 million Syrian refugees on Europe if the continent doesn’t co-sign its crimes. The European Union gives Erdogan’s authoritarian government billions of euros annually to take care of the Syrians, who Turkey then uses as mercenaries to kill Armenians, Kurds, and Yazidis. Erdogan and his ‘brother’ Aliyev’s ultimate wish is to see all Armenians exterminated and Armenia and Artsakh wiped from the map. They’ve said in their rhetoric. These two States stand in the way of their pan-Turkic ambitions,” Gerami stated.
Although he has traveled extensively, Armenia holds a special place in Gerami’s heart. “I was taken to Armenia by my parents when I was three-year-old. Remarkably, I have bits of memory from our three-month trip. Armenia is magical, special, and extraordinary. That’s something we forget sometimes as we’ve gone through so much hardship as people. But we are resilient, creative, and survivors. I can’t get enough of Armenia’s scenery, historical places, and monuments. I’ve written travel articles for several publications to remind people around the globe what a spectacular nation Armenia is for tourists with discriminating tastes. I’ve traveled the world extensively and have visited some of the most famous cathedrals, monasteries, and churches. But none come even close to Geghard Monastery. I always tell people that if God exists, he lives in Geghard.”
During the 44 day unprovoked attacks by Azerbaijan and Turkey, a handful of well-known media outlets published and aired factually inaccurate news reports on what was happening in Artsakh and others chose not to cover the events at all. Gerami believes that combating lazy journalism and biased reporting is essential in creating an educated and well-informed public.
“We must call out these publications, reporters, and editors while producing our own factual alternatives and taking back the narrative. My work with TAAL has a lot to do with this. As a contributing writer for multiple publications, I’ve written articles about the attack on Artsakh in The Blunt Post, Desert Daily Guide, KPFK.org, GoWeHo, and many other outlets. I granted interviews to The Immigrant Magazine’s TV program, Bionic Buzz, BEONDTV, Buy Armenian, and Brave New Hollywood to discuss the situation,” said Gerami.
The investigative journalist believes that another attack against Armenians is inevitable if we are complicit. “We must be proactive in our activism and hold nations, agencies, and world leaders accountable for Azerbaijan’s, Turkey’s unprovoked genocidal attack and ethnic cleansing that resulted in the massacre of 5,000+ indigenous Armenians from their ancestral homeland. Another attack is definitely possible as both leaders continue to threaten Artsakh and Armenia all the time. That’s why we must be united, vigilant, and proactive.”
To view the trailer and support the documentary film, visit: https://motherlanddoc.com/