ARMENIAN GENOCIDE FILM PRODUCER ANDREW GOLDBERG SPEAKS TO KURDISHMEDIA.COM

Kurdish Media
May 14 2006

New York (KurdishMedia.com) 14 May 2006: On April 17, PBS aired
The Armenian Genocide, a one hour documentary written, directed and
produced by Emmy Award-winning producer Andrew Goldberg of Two Cats
Productions, in association with Oregon Public Broadcasting. Using a
variety of sources, this film tells the story of the nearly complete
elimination of the Armenian population of Anatolia at the beginning
of the 20th century. While remembrance of these events, known as the
Armenian Genocide, is a major component of modern Armenian identity,
the Turkish government and many Turkish groups actively seek to
convince the world that the Armenian Genocide never occurred and work
tirelessly to prevent any discussion of the mass murder.

Following the airing of the documentary, certain PBS affiliates
decided to air a panel discussion featuring two historians who
dispute that the Armenian Genocide ever occurred, drawing protest
from Armenian-Americans and others. Andrew Goldberg took the time
to speak to KurdishMedia.com regarding his experiences in producing
the documentary, which included having staff travel to Turkey and
Kurdistan, and his response to the controversies generated by his work.

Can you please explain what motivated you to make a documentary on
the Armenian Genocide? What do you want viewers to take away from
your documentary?

I am not an activist about this issue, I am journalist. As
a journalist, my job is to report on issues that are important for
people to know. I feel the Genocide is far too underreported and is far
too important to be overlooked. I also felt like the Armenians were
trying to get people to listen to their story, to their pain, but no
one would. So I wanted to help that effort by simply telling the truth.

Please describe the different types of research that went into
making this documentary. How long did it take to gather sufficient
information?

I had done other work on the Armenians before this project so we had a
running start... but the whole project took about two years. Research
was done on the internet and with both new and old books, and on the
telephone. Photos and old video came mostly from archives around the
world. We dealt with archives in Russia, Turkey, the US, England,
France, Germany, Yugoslavia and others. We also relied heavily on
our scholars - Peter Balakian, Ron Suny and Fatma Muge Gocek.

Did you face any difficulties doing firsthand research in Turkey?

What, if any precautions did you staff take?

We generally traveled undercover. Still, our "tourist" camera
crews were stopped several times by the army and police. It was very
frustrating. We also hired a Kurdish cameraman and producer to travel
to eastern Turkey and Kurdistan. He went there *very* undercover and
asked that we not disclose his name for fear of Turkish reprisal.

We know that you conducted a few Kurdish-language interviews for this
film. Was it easy traveling through Kurdistan and finding people able
and willing to speak on the Armenian Genocide? Was there anything
unique about the Kurdish perspective on these events?

See above question for the first half of this and yes, it is Kurdistan
and must be called that! The Kurdish voice is tremendously important
because they tell the truth about the events and are not wrapped up
the nationalism of many Turkish people - a nationalism that prevents
them from telling the truth. Kurds do not suffer from denial, which
I believe is a psychological issue for many Turks, and not just an
issue of what people "say in public."

How do you feel about the current state of scholarship and awareness
on the Armenian Genocide?

Far too little is done. And far too much is done by Armenians only.

Also, the work in my opinion has too much of an activist tone. Others
need to help the issue. The community can be very closed and often
are not inclusive of others. This needs to be overcome so other
scholars enter the field. Also, the amount of photos and film around
the world is immense. This is first hand witness material to the
events in ways that paper documents can never equal - for example,
we have Raphael Lemkin actually saying he invented the word genocide
because of what happened to the Armenians. That is why this material
is so important. Philanthropists need to give millions and millions
more to this effort.

Are you surprised by the controversy generated by your documentary?

What kind of feedback have you received from viewers and cultural
and political organizations with respect to this controversy?

The controversy with the Armenians themselves had to do not only with
my show but with the after panel. I was not at all surprised that
that happened over the after panel. It was kind of obvious (to me
at least) that that would be the response from the Armenians. The
Turkish reaction on the other hand was less public but they did
aggressively go after PBS to stop the film from showing. This effort
included getting several congressmen to ask PBS to drop my film from
the schedule. This is typical Turkish government and nationalist
behavior, though, so it did not surprise me either.

Do you have any future plans to further explore the Armenian Genocide
or other historical events in the region?

No. This was a very upsetting experience for me. Seeing PBS get so
incredibly assaulted by the whole world - justified or not -- was very
upsetting to watch. Seeing congressmen try to stop PBS from showing
either the film or the panel, regardless of the value of either,
reminded me of Turkey where government controls the media.

Terrifying. For the record, I never want to live in a country where
the government tells the press what to do. The people can always
speak out instead. Our government cannot even build a sidewalk and
yet we are take seriously their nonsensical efforts at censorship?

Again, no matter how offensive something is - the government cannot
be the ones to tell us what we can and cannot say. It must only be
the people and the viewers.

Going on, being attacked, often with fabrications, by nationalists in
the Armenian press in California was very upsetting and uncalled for.

In my opinion, it is press like this that only harms efforts at
recognition. It divides rather than unites and prevents any consistent
voice to speak for the issues.

Furthermore, raising money was nearly impossible. I was told by one of
our funders that a man named Walter Karabian actually suggested that
supporting our efforts was a mistake! But we were able to finish the
film and we are very, very proud of what we achieved for journalism
and for human rights.

As for the Armenian organizations such as ANCA (Armenian National
Committee) and the Armenian Assembly? We tried to work with them
many times but we found them to be entirely non-responsive. The AGBU
[Armenian General Benevolent Union] on the other hand was amazing,
outstanding and incredible. They were truly wonderful to work with
and I wish I had such talented and generous people to work with on
all our projects.

We wish you the best of luck with this and other efforts. Thank you
for your time.

Thank you!

http://www.kurdmedia.com/news.asp?id=12344