Natalie Gravenor | Friday December 17th, 2010
Source: Ashbarez Armenian News
Armenian-American documentary filmmaker J. Michael Hagopian, whose 70 educational and documentary films have won more than 160 national and international awards, including two Emmy nominations, died Dec. 10 in his Thousand Oaks, Calif., home. He was 97. Among Hagopian’s acclaimed documentaries numbers GERMANY AND THE SECRET GENOCIDE.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. in Samuelson Chapel on the campus of California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Rd., Thousand Oaks.
Hagopian was a Genocide survivor who dedicated his life to the visual documentation of the Turkish extermination of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915. Over a 40-year period, he filmed nearly 400 interviews of survivors of and witnesses to the Armenian Genocide, traveling around the world to record their accounts in 10 languages. He established the Armenian Film Foundation in 1979 as a non-profit, educational, and cultural organization dedicated to the documentation in motion pictures of Armenian heritage and life.
During the past several years, his mission had been to preserve the film footage of those eyewitness interviews. On April 13, 2010, he and his wife, Antoinette Hagopian, and the Armenian Film Foundation signed an historic agreement with The USC Shoah Foundation Institute for the preservation and dissemination of the Genocide testimonies on the internet.
On Dec. 9, Hagopian was to meet Steven Spielberg, Shoah’s founder, at the foundation’s Ambassadors for Humanity banquet but was unable to attend because of a cold. Spielberg personally expressed his support for the Armenians to two of Hagopian’s colleagues on the AFF board who attended the event, and Hagopian’s work was acknowledged at the gala. He passed away before he would have received a report of the evening, but his legacy will no doubt long endure.
Born in Kharpert in Historic Armenia in 1913, Hagopian survived the Genocide because his mother hid him in a well behind the family home. His father was spared because he was an important medical doctor, and the family left Turkey for Boston, Mass., in 1922, eventually settling in Fresno, Calif., in 1927.
Hagopian attended Fresno State University, transferring to UC Berkeley, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science. He went on to earn another masters and a Ph.D. in Government and International Relations from Harvard University. After serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, he taught at several universities, including Banares Hindu University, India; American University of Beirut, Lebanon; UCLA, and Oregon State University. While teaching, he discovered a lack of good films to show his classes and concluded that he could produce better documentaries.