Three films will be showing throughout the month of April, looking at past recognized and unrecognized genocides in the world. The films will screen at Portland State and in the surrounding area.
The films’ focus will be on mass atrocities committed against Armenians 100 years ago, which are not legally recognized by the current Turkish government as genocide.
“These movies bring up really important questions that we want to ask the PSU community,” said Tavi Gupta, director of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Project at PSU. “The Armenian Genocide is a hinge-point for all three movies we are playing this year.”
After each film there will be a discussion with the audience about the issues brought up. The first movie, Screamers, will play on April 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Smith Memorial Student Union room 236.
Screamers is a 2007 documentary that follows the band System of a Down while they spread information about modern genocides and how the Armenian genocide, begun in 1915, has influenced the way current genocide can be defined or ignored.
The second movie, and most acclaimed of the three, Watchers of the Sky, won two 2014 Sundance Film Festival awards, a Monadnock International Film Festival award and Best Documentary at the Jerusalem Film Festival.
It will show April 14 at the NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave, at 7:30 p.m.
Watchers of the Sky follows the life of Raphael Lemkin—a Polish Jew who lost many friends and family in the Holocaust—on his journey to find legal recognition of those crimes and others like them. Lemkin eventually coined the word genocide.
“Raphael Lemkin created the word genocide in part because of the Armenian genocide, which of course wasn’t called that then,” said Amelia Green-Dove, producer of Watchers of the Sky.
By giving these mass atrocities a name, Lemkin, in effect, gave a way to recognize them.
“How does the word genocide impact the way we look at mass atrocity?” Gupta said. “And how has language shifted the way we legally and socially address these events?”
These are issues the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Project would like to address with these screenings.
The third film, AGHET: Ein Völkermord, will be showing on April 23 in SMSU 236 at 7:30 p.m.
AGHET: Ein Völkermord is a 2010 documentary specifically about the Armenian genocide with never-before-seen footage and documents on the historic telling of the mass atrocity, and of the current Turkish government’s refusal, since World War I to classify the events as genocide.
“Currently, 22 countries and 43 states within the USA recognize the Armenian genocide,” Gupta said.
In 1915 Turkey did not exist; instead, the Ottoman Empire occupied the area until 1923 when Turkey was formed. During those years and after, many cultural Armenians faced persecution, forced labor, homelessness, displacement and death in the area.
The country of Armenia was formed 1918. Many Armenians within the Ottoman Empire fled to this new country and to surrounding countries, especially Syria.
Many Armenians annually commemorate the genocide on April 24. This year will be the 100th anniversary of the genocide.
The Holocaust and Genocide Studies Project is a PSU program started in 2012 and is funded through private donations to the Portland Center for Public Humanities.
The program seeks to engage students, faculty and the Portland community members in the study of the Holocaust and other genocides. It works with survivors, local organizations and the community to educate about both the local and global effects of genocide, according to the group’s MYPSU profile.
“Students and community members are welcome to email and connect with ideas and thoughts at our email, Facebook page…or Twitter,” Gupta said. “We welcome anyone who wants to be involved.”
Years ago Raphael Lemkin asked: “Why is the killing of a million people a lesser crime than the killing of a single individual?”
“Lemkin would spend his entire life trying to address this,” Green-Dove said.
All three movies will be free and open to the public.