Cast of IN VINO

This year’s 21st Annual Arpa International Film Festival at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater was a smashing success by all accounts. Forty-six films from seventeen countries were screened within three days, at what has become one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. Hollywood heavyweights and veteran filmmakers joined breakout talent and international artists for the festival which is the biggest annual event for Arpa Foundation for Film, Music & Art (AFFMA). Founded in 1995, AFFMA’s objective is to provide a platform for filmmakers, musicians and artists, whose works explore subjects of social and cultural importance.

This year’s special honorees included actor, producer and humanitarian, Edward James Olmos, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Seven-time Emmy Award winning actor and activist, Ed Asner, received the Icon Award. Actress Sveva Alviti received a Career Achievement Award; and producer Natalie Qasabian received a Rising Star Award.

Ed Asner and Vic Gerami

I spoke to Mr. Asner on the red carpet who seemed overwhelmed by the immense attention he was getting from the press and his fans. I asked him about receiving this year’s Icon Award and he said, “I’m always honored to be singled out.”

One of the standout selections was a short film titled, The Pursuit, directed by Randy Kent and produced by wife and husband team, Ani Holloway and Chris Holloway. The duo also acts in their first film which has been a darling in festivals circuits this year.

Speaking to them about The Pursuit, Ani Holloway said, “A lot of the films made about the Armenian culture tend to focus more on the (Armenian) genocide and the tragedy, but my film is about an Armenian-American woman, it’s a lot more contemporary and something that’s occurring on a day-to-day basis to a lot of people.” Chris Holloway continued, “Not just Armenian, any culture that has a hybrid hyphen, Indian American, Mexican American, it kinda relates to the culturation process in any country, but it just happens that ours has to do with Armenian in America.”

Robert Beitzel and Zarah Mahler

The evening began with a touching tribute to the late Charles Aznavour, the legendary and iconic French-Armenian singer, actor and humanitarian. Element Band’s choice of music for the collage tribute from La Cage aux Folles seemed poignant and apropos for some of us in the audience who were gay Armenian-Americans.

The Master of Ceremonies, actor Robert Beitzel, continued the theme of icons by also paying tribute to the late Armenian-American playwright, William Saroyan, who won the Pulitzer Award and the Academy Award during his illustrious career.

Awards were given to filmmakers in the following categories: Best Short Animation, Best Short, Best Documentary, Best Feature Screenplay, Best Feature Director and Best Feature Film.

For a list of all films, filmmakers and honorees, please visit



Arpa International Film Festival is dedicated to cultivating cultural understanding and global empathy by creating a dynamic forum for international cinema. Over the past 21 years, the festival has bridged cultural divides by fostering dialogue among people of diverse backgrounds. By showcasing local and international films that explore critical issues such as war, genocide, diaspora, dual identities, exile and multiculturalism, Arpa International Film Festival has solidified its role in safeguarding films that continue to make a social impact.