• Filmmaker Zareh Tjeknavorian (left) moderates a discussion with directors Jesse Soursourian (middle) and Saro Varjabedian (right) during an AGBU University Outreach film screening at Columbia University in New York.

January 3, 2013 | Blog Entries

Up-and-Coming Stars Celebrated at AGBU University Outreach Film Screening in New York

Rising talents, both behind the camera and on the silver screen, recently had their moment in the spotlight at the AGBU University Outreach presentation of “Armenians in Film,” which was co-hosted with the Armenian Society of Columbia University in New York.

Dozens came out for the November 29, 2012, event showcasing the short films “Band Girls” and “After Water There is Sand” by up-and-coming Armenian directors Jesse Soursourian and Saro Varjabedian, respectively. The evening kicked off with an introduction by AGBU University Outreach Coordinator Nicole Zabounian, who provided an overview of the many AGBU youth programs available to college students worldwide, before the filmmakers gave a behind-the-scenes look into their productions.

It was a stroke of luck, as Soursourian described, that first put the “Band Girls” script in his hands. While a student at Columbia supported by an AGBU Performing Arts Fellowship grant, he swapped screenplays with a classmate. Immediately excited by what they read, each agreed to direct the other’s work. The result is an original picture about two aspiring musicians on a quest to win a radio contest. Soursourian’s own music is featured on the soundtrack, as well that by the film’s 12-year-old actress Emeline Herreid – proving that another young star is on the horizon.  

For Varjabedian, also an AGBU scholarship recipient, the inspiration for “After Water There Is Sand” hit even closer to home: it pays homage to his late grandfather, as well as his family. The film follows an American Armenian mother’s emotional journey back to the homeland with her two daughters to take a photo in front of Mount Ararat and satisfy her husband’s last wish. Shot on location in just a single month, the movie’s authenticity brought tears to the audience’s eyes.

Established filmmaker Zareh Tjeknavorian, who moderated the event, was full of praise for Soursourian and Varjabedian. After leading a Q&A session, he also praised AGBU’s commitment to helping promising students advance themselves, noting that the grant he received from AGBU allowed him to pursue his career.

“After Water There Is Sand” has just hit the film circuit, following its screening at the Arpa International Film Festival in Los Angeles. To learn more about the movie, visit its website.

To learn more about AGBU University Outreach and upcoming events, visit its Facebook page.

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