Film Independent Member Chris Chambers never thought his directorial debut would be an Armenian language film set in Los Angeles. As an LA native who is not Armenian, Chambers said his pre-conceptions about the community were challenged when a colleague on a film he was crewing on schooled him in Armenian cultural history over lunch one day. “The more I learned, the more interested I became,” said Chambers. “It’s a very rich and interesting culture. I can’t explain why, but somehow I became hooked and started getting ideas for a story in my head.”
Produced by Film Independent Documentary Lab Fellow Jared Parsons, Aram, Aram, which made its world premiere last month at the Los Angeles Film Festival, tells the story of a 12-year-old Armenian boy (John Roohinian) sent to live with his grandfather (Levon Sharafyan) in Los Angeles where he must navigate the conflict between the culture he left behind and his new-world identity.
Chambers, who also wrote the screenplay and shot the film, said that despite their initial misgivings, the Los Angeles Armenian community was crucial, not only in the making of the film, but also in ensuring its authenticity.
“They came out to help and guide me,” he said. “From script to screen there was a small family of people who were skeptical at first, but then said, ‘We’re going to support you and make sure you don’t screw this up.’” Chambers said the Armenian community’s assistance included everything from help finding locations to giving him more anecdotes to use in the film. “When you stop to listen, people will tell you amazing things,” he said. “Then I would go home and revise the script to make it more authentic and more real.”
Chambers continued tweaking the script all through rehearsals as the actors contributed their experiences to the characters and stories.
While Chambers didn’t speak the same language as his stars, he was able to direct the film relying primarily on their body language and his own knowledge of the beats of the story. He also had a translator assisting him.
“Once we started rehearsals, I could see how [the actors’] intonations would change and I could lock in to where they were going with it,” said Chambers.
Glen Golightly / Film Independent Blogger