I Will Not be Sad in This World

A film by Karina Epperlein

distributed by Karina films

Los Angeles, 4th Annual AFFMA International Film Festival, 2001

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"A strong, educational piece, with a moving intimate feel. Viewers of all ages [will be] drawn in to its touching life details as well as to grand world events."

—Roxanne Makasdjian, TV News Producer


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video documentary, 56 minutes, ©2001

An hour portrait of 94-year-old Zaroohe Najarian that explores the major turning points of this Armenian woman's life. She survives the genocide of her people in World War One, grows up in a Beirut orphanage, immigrates to America, works in a sweatshop, and defies convention to be with her "true love". Her unselfconscious physicality and remarkable capacity for happiness bring dignity to her aging whether she is singing to her great grandson or tending her garden which she has made into the "ayki" of her childhood. Zaroohe is a model for surviving tragedy and hardships without bitterness. In her refusal to be sad she becomes the universal grandmother to us all.

“A touching and evocative film – having the children recreate Zaroohe’s story is particularly effective. Congratulations!”
—Atom Egoyan, filmmaker

"It is a very sensitive film, well made and narrated, and I loved it."
—Ara Sarafian, Gomidas Institute, London


"You have to believe in something. It doesn't matter what:
the sun, the sky, this little rock, to believe in nothing is impossible."

— Zaroohe Najarian

In I Will Not Be Sad in This World, a documentary film by Karina Epperlein, Zaroohe Najarian tells the story of how in 1915 as a ten-year-old she was torn from her mother by Turkish soldiers, never to see her again. The film reminds us that the Turkish massacre of the Armenian people was the first genocide of the 20th century, officially recognized as such by the U.N. Hitler used it as his model for the extermination of Jews and other minorities. "Who remembers the Armenians today?" he asked in a 1939 speech.

Today, 93-years old, Mrs. Najarian lives an independent life in her own home in Fresno, California. In this intimate and lyrical work we see that her life-story exemplifies that of the Armenian people over the course of this century and that in a remarkable way she has come to accept life without anger or bitterness.

The film also features three dark-haired girls, each the same age as Zaroohe when she lost her family. The girls read (and paint) an account of her life as if it were a fairy tale, but from their playful explorations, comments and questions we understand that they are encountering for the first time a true story from a history they and most Americans today know nothing about.

The star of the film is of course Zaroohe Najarian herself. We see her going about her daily rounds: pushing a shopping cart at the local supermarket, working at her sewing machine (as she tells us about her forty years in garment factories in New Jersey where she was one of the first to join the union), cooking dolmas for her son, telling her granddaughter about her "secret love" and divorce in the the early thirties, dancing to her favorite Turkish music, kissing her great-grandson goodbye, and above all tending to her grapefruit tree in the garden that reminds her of the "ayki" (vineyard) of her childhood, near Adana in Turkey. As the "film tale" comes to an end, with Zaroohe now 95-years old and recovering from a broken hip, we hear her ruminating about God, passing away and how she makes herself happy. The filmmaker - all along quietly listening to Zaroohe - recognizes the gifts of this ordinary and unique woman: her deep gratitude and utter faith in life.

Filmmaker and theater artist Karina Epperlein's earlier work is the highly acclaimed documentary Voices from Inside (1996), about women prisoners and their children on the outside. What's common to both - that film and I Will Not Be Sad In This World - is the focus on the lives of ordinary people, especially women, and those whom society and history have overlooked, as well as the inclusion of the young, our children, as central to her vision.

Karina grew up in postwar Germany. She says, "from childhood I've been haunted by my country's past. My most important theatrical work, i.e. Deutschland, dealt directly with the Holocaust. I conceived my film I Will Not Be Sad in This World as poetry and art, but also as an educational tool to raise awareness. I have always believed that commemorating the past is very important for the healing process. As a German I refuse to forget: let us walk forward into the next millennium by remembering our common humanity and extend it to all, let us find ways to avoid the wars and genocides of the 20th century."

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  • Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
  • Denver Int'l Film Festival
  • World Affairs Council, San Francisco
  • American Anthropological Association Film Festival
  • Fresno State University
  • Memphis Int'l Film Festival
  • Seattle Int'l Film Festival
  • Armenian Film Festival, New York
  • Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley
  • San Francisco State University
  • Stanford University

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