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A film by Leah Bedrosian Peterson, associate professor of film and video arts, and chair of the communications department at Lycoming College, has been selected to screen as part of the prestigious fifth annual Armenians in Film at Lincoln Center: 6 Short Films by Armenian Filmmakers, in New York City. A screening of the film, “Under the Walnut Tree,” and a panel discussion, sponsored and juried by the AGBU Performing Arts Committee, will take place on Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m., at the Francesca Beale Theater at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.itsmyseat.com//events/121662.html.
The event is part of a series featuring short films by filmmakers whose works have been screened at some of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, such as TIFF, Cannes Film Festival, Sunset Film Festival, Pomegranate Film Festival, and Sundance Film Festival, among others. Bedrosian’s film has received substantial recognition at multiple national and international film festivals including being awarded the “Director’s Choice Award” at the Black Maria Film Festival; nominated for the “Women Film Critic Choice Award” at the Socially Relevant Film Festival New York by a network of women in film, TV, and media; nominated for the “Best Short Animation” by the Arpa International Film Festival held at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood; and won first place as “The Audience Favorite” at the Florida Animation Festival. “Under the Walnut Tree” has been an official selection at 19 international and national film festivals.
“Under the Walnut Tree” tells the story of a young boy has been displaced during the massacre of his people and his family. After wandering alone for days, he is ready to give up but fights to continue to safety. His struggle for survival ends when he finds his mother singing to a lifeless body. The film is loosely based on the true story of Shahan Natalie, who survived the Hamidian Massacres, also known as the Armenian Massacres, which were the precursor to the Armenian Genocide.
Peterson utilized her own talents in designing and sculpting the characters, designing the set, and shooting and editing the film, but she received help with many other aspects of production from Lycoming College faculty and students, as well as from faculty at other institutions. Maria Hebert-Leiter, a lecturer for the English department at Lycoming, wrote the touching narrative, which was translated by Vartan Matiossian, director of the Armenian National Education Committee and book review editor for Armenian Review. The film was narrated by Charles Garoian, Ph.D., professor of art education at Penn State University, and the title song for the film is by Hooshere, a well-known Armenian singer. The set and costumes were created by Gabriela Burch ’18, the digital animation was done by Brianne Charnigo ’14, and Geena Woodley ’17 assisted in costume modification.
“As an artist and filmmaker, I’m always looking for new inspiration and, for me, reading plays a big part in that,” said Bedrosian Peterson. UTWT was inspired by the stories passed down by her Armenian family, Shanan Natalie, and the book, What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, written in 2006 by David Edgers. Achak Deng, a Sudanese child who lost his family during war, became one of the notorious “Lost Boys” who immigrated to the United States under the program, “The Lost Boys of Sudan”. Peterson says, “I was moved by the power of Deng’s narrative which expresses the isolation, the loneliness, and the cellular-genetic level need for survival while having no idea what the future holds. Natalie’s and Deng’s personal stories of survival in a world plagued by genocide and war are painful but inspirational and shaped the story that I developed into my film.”
Bedrosian Peterson is an interdisciplinary artist who works in digital film, video, 2D animation, photography and drawing. Her artwork deals with issues of cultural identity and questions the role of fantasy in our daily lives. She has exhibited and screened both nationally and internationally. Bedrosian Peterson teaches filmmaking and video art at Lycoming College. She received an M.F.A. in studio art from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and a B.F.A. in photography and art history from Pratt Institute.