In this #itchysilkLIVE we head back to the Hoppenheim school with the Armenian animator 28-year old Anna Maria Mouradian. Born in Aleppo it is no surprise that Anna Maria Mouradian’s two animated films look at the Syrian crisis and the Armenian genocide of 1915. Using animation both films display Anna Maria Mouradian using an array of animative skills to create her emotively visual shorts.
Have you always wanted to work in animation?
My parents had a big influence on my interest in drawing. As a kid my father used to draw calligraphy for me and help me to participate in drawing contests at school. This influenced me to study art. But in Syria we did not have any film animation field, so I had to study graphic design. But after coming to Canada I had the opportunity to study film animation, which was my dream.
Hoppenheim school of Cinema helped me to make four great films in an artistic way. In my 3 years in Hoppenheim I was given three awards for my outstanding achievements in the Film Animation Program. I was also awarded the ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Educators Forum Student Scholarship, which helped me to make my graduation film Pomegranate Tree.
I always wanted to tell people about the Armenian genocide and Hoppenheim School gave me the opportunity to make a film about it. I could have not done this film with any other medium. Animation (for me) was the only way to make my two films Pomegranate Tree and Seen Through the Eyes of Children.
For Pomegranate Tree I needed animation to animate the genocide inside the people’s bodies. And as for Seen Through the Eyes of children I had to draw all the animation with my left hand although I am right handed person in order to achieve the style of children’s drawings that I collected online from the internet.
Tell us about the impact that your Armenian/Syrian heritage has on your work?
Most of the Armenian people learnt about the genocide of 1915 through school or through their families. Today, every single Armenian lives, with this memory. It is engraved in my mind, even though I was not present at that time. There is an impact on every Armenian because of these stories. I feel my entire body is wounded and aching with our severe past. This has inspired me to make a film about Armenians and show their past within their bodies.
The hand drawn watercolour in the film is derived from the old Armenian ornaments’ colours; it shows the resilience of the culture. I recorded Armenian people’s voices in this film with Armenian accents to convey a stronger message to the viewers. With this film I wanted to show the world a small culture that spread its wings all around the world, a culture that keeps growing as do the pomegranate seeds.
Pomegranate Tree is a short documentary about Armenian people who are forced to disperse through the world after the harsh genocide in 1915 in Western Armenia. Despite the severe days they endured, their resilience allowed them to stay optimistic and find a way to start a new life all around the world. The Drawing insides the bodies are real images of the genocide that I collected from the Internet and books. I redraw the images and then animated them in a very subtle way.
And of course, broaden on your metaphor of the pomegranate.
I used the pomegranate tree at the end of my film, as it is the most recognizable symbol of the country. It symbolizes fertility and good fortune. I made the tree more stylized and symbolic to represents the fertility, future, survival, and hope of a culture. The red color represents the suffering of the people. And the seeds that come out from the pomegranate represent the Armenian culture that keeps growing.
Can you talk about that voice?
The voice over of the film is a quote from the short story The Armenian and the Armenian written in 1935, by William Saroyan, an American Armenian novelist and writer. In the story, he talks about meeting an Armenian waiter in Russia. Even though each one of them comes from different sides of the world, they speak to each other in Armenian. Over the years this quote became one of the most famous sayings about the Armenians’ survival.
Seen Through the Eyes Of Children with the use of children’s drawings an interesting medium.
For this work, I collected drawings from the Internet by Syrian children and then I redrew and animated them. As I said before, although I am right-handed person, I drew the whole film on paper frame by frame with my left hand, so it could be like children’s drawings. I made this film because I was in Syria when the war began, and it affected me a lot. The film begins with children voices. I got this idea from my cousin who was in Syria when the war began. She was 6 years old at the time. I remember she was imitating the sounds of different kind of guns and rifles.
Do you think that in the West in many ways we forget or choose to ignore those being affected?
I think there are lots of people in the west supporting Syrian’s and Armenian’s in many ways. And others have decided not to get involved. As for me I choose to do these films to remember those who have been ignored and were affected by the war and the genocide.