Click here to listen to the interview.
Michael Goorjian is the grandson of survivors of the Armenian Genocide that started in 1915 and continued for almost a decade. He didn’t really connect to his Armenian heritage, though, until he was in his 20s, when he moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles in order to pursue his acting career. It prompted a visit to Armenia in 2006, and then the film AMERIKATSI, the story of Charlie Bakhchinyan, a repatriated Armenian-American who discovers that Stalin’s promise of a good life in the homeland is tragically hollow.
When we spoke via Zoom on September 21, 2023, Goorjian talked about why he wanted his film, which depicts so much tragedy, to be a hopeful experience. We went on to talk about finding the center of a culture, the forces that have sought to squelch the truth of the Armenian Genocide for over 100 years, and what is was like filming AMERIKATSI on location in Armenia during the start of the 2020 COVID pandemic. We finished up with what it would mean for Armenia for the film to be shortlisted for the Oscar, as well as some piquant synchronicity.
The film co-stars Hovik Keuchkerian, Nelli Uvarova, Mikhail Trukhin, Jean-Pierre Nshanian, Narine Grigoryan, Aram Karakhanyan, and Lernik Harutyunyan.
Goorjian, who stars as Charlie, directed from his own script, as well as co-edited AMERIKATSI. His previous work includes NEWSIES, SLC PUNK!, and ILLUSION, which he wrote, directed, and in which he co-starred with Kirk Douglas, who told him a story that proves what a mensch the iconic actor was in real life. AMERIKATSI is Armenia’s official submission for Academy Awards.