US-BASED GREEK-ITALIAN DIRECTOR MAKING A MOVIE ABOUT THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

12:12, 02 Mar 2015
Siranush Ghazanchyan

Jon Milano, an Oradell native of Italian and Greek descent now living
in California, is making a movie about the Armenian genocide, the
North Jersey reports.

"I am not Armenian," Milano says, "but I grew up in Oradell, which
has one of the biggest Armenian populations in America. When I was
growing up, at first I had no idea that was the case. Then when I
went to public school, all my friends were Armenian. They have such
a great history behind them."

His movie, "Straw Dolls," has been a work-in-progress the past two
years. Final photography was completed in November. The film is in
its final phases of editing and is to premiere at a screening on
March 15 in Los Angeles, with subsequent screenings on the 100th
anniversary of the Armenian genocide on April 24 in Copenhagen,
New York City and Armenia, according to Milano.

Milano learnt the story of the Armenian Genocide from a childhood
friend.

"Over the years, he told me the horrible, horrible stories about his
grandparents and how they survived," he says. "The only people who
talk about this are Armenians. It's not taught in schools. And so I
wanted to tell their story."

The film stars the award-winning Iranian-Armenian actress Mary Apick
and Marco Khan, with a full ensemble of young Armenian actors. On
a shoestring budget of $40,000, the movie was shot on location at
a movie ranch in California's Simi Valley. It was the same location
used for shooting Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" (2012) and
"Saving Mr. Banks (2013), according to Milano. "It's the only location
in Southern California that doesn't look like Southern California,"
Milano said with a laugh. "It looks like the Middle East. It's just
a big-open-space ranch you can build movie sets on."

As for the story, he said that the challenge for him and his co-writer
was to tell a self-contained plot that reflected the bigger historical
picture without ever getting too broad.

"It's a slice of the Armenian genocide." Milano says. "It's about
this Armenian farmer and his daughter. They have gotten word of the
deportations, and in a last-ditch effort to escape their village
before the deportations happen, they are too late. Typically, men
were killed immediately. So he pretends to be a Turkish sympathizer,
and he convinces the soldiers he is one of them. His daughter hides
and makes a decision that will alter the rest of their lives."

Milano studied film at William Paterson University before graduating
and going on to get his master's in filmmaking from Chapman University
in Orange County in California. He has made two other films before
writing the initial screenplay for "Straw Dolls." Realizing the script
needed revisions, he brought in screenwriter Caitlin Riblett. "She's a
fantastic writer. She came in, and we ended up doing drafts together,"
he said.

Yervant Kachichian, 26, of Oradell, the Armenian childhood friend
who Milano says inspired the film, says he couldn't be prouder.

"My family was always very open about their culture, and John was like
part of our family," Kachichian says. "John is an honorary Armenian.

That's how it feels. He's like a brother to me. So whenever we're
together, he hears of our family's stories."

Some are pretty gruesome, Kachichian says.

"My grandmother barely survived," he says. "She got out when she
was a baby. The Turks took her from her mother, and they threw
her onto a pile of dead people, dead corpses, and they had a horse
stomp on her to kill her. By the grace of God, she didn't die. My
great grandmother then came back, found the baby on he pile of dead
people. My grandmother [now deceased] showed me the horseshoe prints
on the back of her neck."

Kachichian says that he has seen a rough cut of the film and that it
is a great tribute to Armenian people.

"It's incredible the way they were able to tell a story and make you
feel so emotionally attached in such a short amount of time," he says.

"It's really touching."

http://www.armradio.am/en/2015/03/02/us-based-greek-italian-director-making-a-movie-about-the-armenian-genocide/