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The Blue Hour DVD Release Gala Banquet

Susan Aksu

Three years after making its international debut in Spain, writer-director Eric Nazarian's film, The Blue Hour, was honored at a DVD Release Gala, hosted by the Hamazkayin Pasadena "Shahan Shahnour" Chapter at the Pasadena Armenian Center on Sunday, March 29, 2009.

The program, along with nearly four hundred attendees, celebrated The Blue Hour's DVD release and its achievements in the international film festival circuit, with lively performances and presentations, including a viewing of the film's trailer and "Making of The Blue Hour."

Fresno journalist and author, Mark Arax, was one of the film's first viewers. Arax, the Master of Ceremonies for the evening and a close friend of Nazarian, graciously referred to him as "brother" throughout the evening.

Upon receiving it in the mail, Arax had watched the film and felt compelled to write Nazarian a note saying, "the film opens with a visually stunning shot of a river that isn't thought of as a river but becomes a river through your eyes that have now become our eyes." The river Arax was referring to was the Los Angeles River, whose constant presence in the film weaves together the narratives of four characters, having served as a significant part of Nazarian's adolescence in Atwater Village. Regular walks along the river with the company and conversation of his grandfather amassed a rich collection of material and inspiration for Nazarian, who was driven by his ambition to create emotion-infused images from an early age.

The Blue Hour, produced by longtime friend Lynette Ramirez and Nazarian's classmate from USC School of Cinema and Television, Brian Knapmiller, was created on a $140,000 budget and a 22-day deadline, forcing the crew to work up to 16-hour days.

The film is composed of no more than five minutes of dialogue, yet illustrates the universal language of love, loss and hope by evoking emotions through images and using music and sound to emphasize the commonality between four disparate episodes. Each episode focuses on a particular character living in the Atwater Village community alongside the Los Angeles River.

The cast of the film consists of Alyssa Milano, Clarence Williams III, Sophia Malki, Yurik Van Wageningen, Derrik O'Connor and Emily Rios.

O'Connor and the cast's youngest member, six-year-old Malki, along with several members of the production crew, were present at the Gala. Emily Rios, who makes her film debut with her portrayal of "Happy", describes her "enlightening" experience with working with Nazarian and the unique aspects of the script, in a segment of the "Making of The Blue Hour". Regarding the script, Rios said, "[There is] little to say out loud, but a lot to say with art."

According to Nazarian, his belief in pure image as the basic unit of film inspired him to use minimal dialogue in depicting the cultural diversity in Los Angeles, a city with an array of over 200 spoken languages, which he compares to a modern Tower of Babel.

The Blue Hour made its international debut in 2007 at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, where Nazarian was nominated for the Altadis-New Directors Award, a revered festival prize for any first-time director. At the Torino Film Festival, The Blue Hour was voted "Film of the Day" by the European Network of Young Cinema. Nazarian received the Best Director Award at the AFFMA (Arpa Foundation for Film, Music and Art) International Film Festival. The film also bagged four wins at the Golden Apricot Film Festival, including Best Film Armenian Panorama and the Prime Minister's Award.

A musical performance by political activist and musician, Antranig Kzirian, adorned the evening with the nostalgic sounds of Armenian folk music on the oud. Violinist Nanor Jamakordzian, accompanied by pianist Gohar Alexanian, also played a series of lively songs while gala guests sang along, and Heibert Sarian, of the Element Band, sang a moving piece by Gomidas with accompaniment by piano.

In closing, Hamazkayin's message was delivered by Dr. Viken Yacoubian, Chairman of Hamazkayin Western USA Regional Executive. A trophy award was also given to Nazarian on behalf of Hamazkayin for his accomplishments with the film.

As a token of his appreciation of a particularly inspiring member of the Hamazkayin organizing committee, Nazarian presented Vicken Haboian with a photograph he had taken in Nagorno-Kharapagh as a photojournalist.

He also presented Nora Yacoubian and Sona Haroutounian, members of the Hamazkayin organizing committee he referred to as "devoted souls", with a photograph entitled, "Portraits of Ambergh." "This is taken from my heart to your heart," said Nazarian while presenting it to the two women for their inspired vision of the event, as well as their hard work and dedication.

The generosity of several sponsors made The Blue Hour DVD Release Gala a successful evening in support of future film projects in the Armenian-American community. Gala sponsors, Mr. And Mrs. Harry and Cheryl Nadjarian and family and Mr. and Mrs. Rita Kablanian, platinum sponsors, Mr. and Mrs. Vahe and Nora Yacoubian, and silver sponsors, Mr. and Mrs. Ara and Julia Aghishian, among other sponsors gave graciously to kickstart the filming of Nazarian's next film, set in Nagorno-Kharabagh.

Honorable guests in attendance were Sherrif Lee Baca, Consul General of Armenia Grigor Hovhannisyan, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogard, Senator Dean Florez, Ara Allajanian of Artist for Kids, Sylvia Minassian of AFFMA, Paula Devine of Women of Glendale Civil Art Commission, Nazarian's USC Professor Paul Wolff and American Society of Cinemaphotgraphers Professor Woody Omens.

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