“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”
It took 106 years before the United States formally recognized the Armenian Genocide of 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. On April 24,2021, President Joe Biden became the first US president to officially recognize the Armenian genocide and to recommit preventing such an atrocity from occurring again. Tragically, history is repeating itself with Turkey’s ongoing genocidal attack and ethnic cleansing against Armenians as we’ve witnessed recently in Artsakh. “Motherland” tells the story of this ongoing tragic chapter through the lens of Armenian-American journalist and LGBTQ+ activist, Vic Gerami.
Motherland is a 90-minute documentary feature film about Azerbaijan’s, Turkey’s unprovoked genocidal attack and ethnic cleansing against Armenians of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, starting on September 27, 2020. Azerbaijan with the declared assistance from Turkey reawakened the conflict from dormancy by launching a large-scale offensive against Artsakh. In its war effort, Azerbaijan relied on thousands of Turkish-paid jihadist mercenaries airlifted from terrorist camps in Syria, Libya, and Pakistan, and brought to fight alongside the Azerbaijani Army. The 2020 invasion opened a new chapter in the history of regional warfare and involved unmatched suffering of the civilian population. For 44 days, the world largely watched in deafening silence as over 4,000 Armenians were massacred.
With illegal and banned weapons, including cluster bombs and white phosphorus munitions, the aggressors destroyed towns and villages, indiscriminately killed people mainly between the ages of 18-21, and occupied approximately 80% of Artsakh.
By November 9, 2020, when a new ceasefire was declared, 100,000 people, 2/3 of Artsakh’s population was driven out of their ancestral land and made refugees. Despite calls from bipartisan Congress members to intervene, most of the world stayed silent. Many nations, mainly in Europe, are heavily invested in Azerbaijan’s oil and gas and the Caspian pipeline that delivers it to Europe.
Through a journalist and activist’s lens, Motherland focuses the world’s attention on the atrocities, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed by Azerbaijan and Turkey against Artsakh and Armenia. It chronicles the struggle of the Armenian people to come to terms with its fate, mourn the loss of almost 5,000 people, and pick up the pieces and carry on as they have for millennia. It includes interviews with war heroes, displaced refugees, American and Armenian high-profile elected officials, and ordinary people.
The film also accounts for the apathy of the greater world community, the hypocrisy of public figures who preach about human rights but show inaction when reality hits, and how the press is easily manipulated by a rogue nation’s campaign of hate, disinformation, and propaganda.
ABOUT ARTSAKH (NAGORNO-KARABAKH)
Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), is one of three ancient provinces of Armenia located in the eastern end of the Armenian Plateau and has been an integral part of historic Armenia, as far back as 9th century BC.
In 1921, responding to economic blackmail from oil-producing Azerbaijan and threats from Turkey, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin forcibly placed Artsakh under the Azerbaijani rule, as the world’s only Christian territorial autonomy inside a largely Muslim nation.
For the next 70 years, Azerbaijan bombarded Artsakh with various forms of ethno-religious discrimination, economic mistreatment, and intentional demographic abuse, in an attempt to eliminate its Armenian Christian majority and replace it with Azerbaijani Muslim settlers.
After decades of intermittent protests, the dissolution of the Soviet Union finally allowed Artsakh to break away from Baku’s rule, in 1988, and, in 1991, re-establish itself as a free and sovereign nation.
IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT ARTSAKH
15 centuries of self-governance and factual sovereignty of Artsakh
Republic of Artsakh
Republic of Artsakh, a de-facto independent state proclaimed originally under the name of Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR), three months before the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.
NKR’s declaration of independence was underwritten by a referendum that adhered to the letter and spirit of the USSR’s legislation on the secession of autonomous territories from union republics.
In the beginning of the 1920s, Russian Bolsheviks initially declared Artsakh as part of Armenia due to its overwhelmingly Armenian character. Later, however, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin arbitrarily placed it under the tutelage of a newly-created and Muslim-controlled Soviet Socialist Republic that became known as “Azerbaijan” – a term unceremoniously borrowed from the neighboring province of Iran despite complaints from Tehran. The Armenian majority of the region (95% of the population) protested about this decision since it preferred to be part of Armenia instead. From 1923 to 1991, the region chugged along as one of the USSR’s autonomous territories – Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR), giving birth to the journalistic cliché “Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Artsakh: struggle for freedom
In 1988, a popular movement, initiated in NKAR and supported in Yerevan, renewed a campaign to petition Moscow to transfer NKAR from Azerbaijan to Armenia. Azerbaijan’s responded to the peaceful rallies by resurrecting its tradition of anti-Armenian violence that goes back to the 1905 pogroms in Baku.
The Baku authorities tried to recapture Artsakh in a war that lasted from 1991 to 1994, but Artsakh, with the help of Armenia, suppressed Azerbaijan’s campaign of ethnic cleansing, and the three parties to the conflict agreed to a ceasefire that lasted without peacekeepers for 26 years. During this time, Azerbaijan developed as a hereditary oil dictatorship ruled by the Aliyev family since the mid-1960s, whereas Artsakh evolved into a quasi-democracy that held competitive elections.
Although there is currently a fragile ceasefire in place, Azerbaijan continues its provocative attacks on Artsakh and Armenia. Despite condemnation from various nations and international organizations, Azerbaijan continues to hold 200+ Armenian prisoners of war (POW) captive, torturing, mutilating, and executing a few of them.
ALLIES & PARTNERS INTERVIEWED WHO SUPPORT ‘MOTHERLAND’
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Congressman Schiff introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives that would make it the policy of the United States to recognize the Armenian genocide, reject its denial, and educate the public on the genocide. The resolution passed in the House of representatives on November 29, 2019, by a vote of 405 to 11.
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
December 2020 marked the one-year anniversary since the Senate passed Senator Menendez’s Armenian Genocide Resolution Bill, which formally recognizes the Armenian Genocide on behalf of the U.S. government. the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks and honoring the memories of its 1,500,000 victims.
Baroness Caroline Anne Cox, British House of Lords
Baroness Cox is a cross-bench member of the British House of Lords. She is also the founder of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART). Cox was created a Life Peer in 1982 and was a deputy speaker of the House of Lords from 1985 to 2005, as well as being a minister in the government. In 2013, Baroness Cox was awarded the first Charles Aznavour Prize for Outstanding Achievements in Fostering Europe-Armenian Friendship. She has been one of the most vocal supporters of the Armenians of Artsakh’s right to self-determination.
Mark Geragos is a high-profile attorney who was one of the lead lawyers in two groundbreaking federal class action lawsuits against New York Life Insurance and AXA, for insurance policies issued in the early 20th century during the time of the Armenian Genocide of more than 1.5 million Armenians. The two cases settled for over $37.5 million, in 2004 and 2005.
LA Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell
Councilmember O’Farrell secured a grant for Motherland from the City of Los Angeles. His district includes the cities of Hollywood, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, and surrounding neighborhoods. O’Farrell recently spearheaded the Little Armenia Gateway Project. Currently under construction, the Gateway will establish a meaningful and substantive Armenian American cultural place marker that will be unmistakable to anyone entering Hollywood’s historically Armenian quarter.
Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA)
Congressman Brad Sherman represents California’s San Fernando Valley, currently serving his thirteenth term in Congress and has served in the House of Representatives since 1997.
Congressman Sherman currently serves on three major House Committees. He is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, and a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA)
In 1998, Congresswoman Barbara Lee was elected to serve California’s 9th congressional district (now the 13th) in a special election. In 2001, Congresswoman Lee received national attention as the only Member of Congress to oppose the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) in the wake of the horrific events on September 11th.
Congresswoman Lee has been a fierce advocate for ending HIV and ensuring an AIDS-free generation. Congresswoman Lee is the only African American woman in Democratic Leadership, serving as Co-Chair of the Policy and Steering Committee. As Co-Chair, Rep. Lee works to ensure that committees reflect the diversity, dynamism, and integrity of the Democratic Caucus.
Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA)
Congresswoman Katie Porter represents California’s 45th Congressional District.
Before being elected to Congress, Congresswoman Porter spent nearly two decades taking on the special interests that dominate American politics and drown out the voices of working families. As California’s independent watchdog against the banks, she made sure the big banks that had cheated Orange County homeowners followed through on their promise to help affected families get back on their feet. As a consumer finance expert, Congresswoman Porter also helped Congress pass the original Credit CARD Act in 2009, which enacted federal protections from abusive credit card fees.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Congresswoman Jackie Speier is a fearless fighter for women’s equality, LGBTQ rights and the disenfranchised who has dedicated her life to eliminating government corruption while working to strengthen America’s national and economic security. She was named to Newsweek’s list of 150 “Fearless Women” in the world and one of “Politico’s 50” most influential people in American politics for bringing the Me Too reckoning to Congress.
Israeli-Russian travel journalist arrested in Belarus in 2017, extradited to Azerbaijan for visiting Artsakh, imprisoned, and tortured by Azerbaijani authorities who attempted to kill him. Lapshin sued Azerbaijan in the European Court of Human Rights and won 30,000 euros.
High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs
Republic of Armenia
‘Bright Armenia’ Political Party
Dr. Irina Ghaplanyan
Former Deputy Minister of Environment for the Republic of Armenia, Senior Advisor on Climate Change to the World Bank Group, International Expert on Climate Change to the FAO, Professor, American University of Armenia, and published author.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER
Vic Gerami is an award-winning journalist, columnist, media commentator, and the host of his prime-time program THE BLUNT POST with VIC (TBPV) on Independent + Progressive Radio KPFK 90.7 FM (Pacifica Network). Vic is also the editor + publisher of The Blunt Post.
TBPV covers national breaking and headline news, politics, and current events, and Gerami offers analysis and commentary. He also interviews a high-profile member of Congress on every show. A few of his recent guests include Congressman Adam Schiff, Senator Bob Menendez, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Governor Howard Dean, Congresswoman Katie Porter, Congressman Brad Sherman, Congressman Mike levin, Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Congresswoman Judy Chu, LA District Attorney George Gascon, among many others. You can listen to all the interviews here.
Today reaching national international audiences, Gerami first built a foundation of knowledge and skills by learning the media industry during his years at Frontiers Magazine, followed by positions at LA Weekly and Voice Media Group. Gerami is also a contributor for some of the most prominent publications in the nation, including Windy City Times, California Courier, IN Magazine, OUT Traveler, The Fight, and The Advocate Magazine, among others.
The Wall Street Journal featured Gerami as a “leading gay activist” in its landmark 2008 coverage of opposition to Proposition 8, the ballot measure that for years denied same-sex couples in California the freedom to marry. In addition to his years of volunteer work as a leading advocate for marriage equality, later Gerami went on to serve as a Planning Committee member for the historic Resist March in 2017.
In 2015, Gerami was referenced in the landmark Supreme Court civil rights case, Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
One of the most recognizable criminal defense attorneys in the world, Mark Geragos is known for winning landmark cases, his countless A-list celebrity clients, and being an advocate for the underdog along with his associates at Geragos & Geragos Law Firm in Los Angeles.
Mark was one of the lead lawyers in two groundbreaking federal class action lawsuits against New York Life Insurance and AXA, for insurance policies issued in the early 20th century during the time of the Armenian Genocide of more than 1.5 million Armenians. The two cases settled for over $37.5 million, in 2004 and 2005.
Just a few of the famous clients he has represented have included Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Gary Condit, Susan McDougal, Scott Peterson, Scott Barney, and Jussie Smollett.
In his podcast, ‘Reasonable Doubt’, Mark brings significant details from past and present experiences and examines how current law affects society, current events, and are brought to the forefront.
Henrick Vartanian is a producer, journalist, and founder of Brave New Hollywood, as well as IAN media. His company, Brave New Hollywood has collaborated with Canal + French television for over a decade, with Henrick in the role of producer, interviewer, and cameraman.
Born in Burbank, California, Chris Damadyan was raised in the heart of the film industry. Growing up in a studio where his father was an executive producer, Chris would often sit next to the editors for hours watching and learning how movies, music videos, and commercials came together. His passion for filmmaking was born at this young age, so going to film school after high school was easy. Today, Chris has edited numerous feature films starring Malin Akerman, Luke Goss, & Bokeem Woodbine, to name a few. In addition, he has also been involved in the post-production of over a hundred music videos and commercials.
MOTHERLAND’S OFFICIAL TRAILER
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies,
but the silence of our friends” Martin Luther King