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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."