Scars of Silence


An Armenian-American father and daughter set out to understand the powerful legacy of genocide and the ways that a century of silence and denial has shaped their family and themselves. When your family’s brutal past is denied, how do you make sense of the present?

Nubar Alexanian, a second generation Armenian-American, was raised speaking Armenian as his first language and surrounded by the haunting sounds of the Oud. Yet, no one, ever, spoke of the persecution that had brought his grandparents to the United States, not his grandmother who lost three young daughters on a death march, nor his grandfather, who fled everything he knew, never to return. Nubar felt suffocated by the unspoken suffering and fled as far from his Armenian identity as he could. He rarely talked about his Armenian heritage. Until his daughter Abby, half Armenian, asked a simple question. “Dad, will you come with me to Armenia?”

Scars of Silence is the result of that question. Without even fully understanding where their ancestral “Armenia” was, Nubar and Abby set out on a journey to understand their shared history.
What does it mean to be a modern Armenian? We live in a world in which genocide – whether that of the Jews, the Cambodians, the Rwandans — is widely acknowledged and condemned. Yet the murder of more than a million Armenians, perpetrated 100 years ago by Ottoman Turks, remains largely hidden, a crime to even mention in modern day Turkey.

When your family’s violent past is denied, how do you make sense of the present? What is your story?

Nubar and his daughter Abby set out to find their story. They travel to Eastern Turkey in search of their family’s ancestral homes. For Nubar, the return to this land is revelatory. “I didn’t realize that trauma could be silently passed from one generation to another,” he says. “It was so much a part of me, I didn’t even notice it. Being in that land released it. It may sound dramatic, but I’m a different person now.” The film follows Nubar from avoidance, through painful recognition, to an embrace of his family’s story.
For Abby, the understanding of this past is a generation removed, yet intensely personal. “It’s heartbreaking to learn what really happened to them, to us. But now I feel like I’m beginning to understand my family and myself.”

The audience follows as they engage Turks, both friendly and hostile, in trying to discover what happened in the past and remains in the present. Turks have been taught since childhood that the massacres of Armenians never happened, and Nubar, with a clearly Armenian name and “look” is, shockingly, subject to physical threat while in Turkey. His experience leads to a dangerous act of reparative rebellion, one that may mean he can never return to this land. Yet, Nubar’s journey leads him to something even more powerful than the land. “You are denied your place in the world unless you can overcome the denial by telling your story. This is the key that unlocks that door.”

Scars of Silence will provide a timely and thought-provoking personal account of what it means to be Armenian today, and how Armenians’ identity and moral place in the world has been profoundly changed.

See Feature Film Trailer: Scars of Silence

12 thoughts on “Scars of Silence

  1. I am deeply moved and intrigued by your description of the film. And your determination to tell the story. The refusal to acknowledge the fate of the Armenian people by Turkey and the USA is beyond belief. And to think that in Germany it is a crime to deny the existence of the Holocaust.

    I applaud and support your efforts.

  2. From JD: Thank you for sending this to us. I have tears in my eyes as I write to you. I cry when I watch the trailer.

    I have a client who has been suffering for years. We have referenced the genocide for years in our work as I always felt she had 3rd generation trauma from the Armenian genocide; both her parents are Armenian. Her grandmother with whom my client was close, came here when she was 15 – her entire family killed.

    I sent her the trailer last night. I received the most beautiful email back from her. It is transformative. Her response was so authentic; she was deeply touched by what she saw. Her response has brought tears to my eyes. I am hoping she will give me permission to cut and paste some of the email to you so your own heart can be touched and encouraged by what you and Abby are doing.

    In the meantime, she is asking for permission to send this to her Armenian community in hope of donations. Is it ok for her to circulate this?

    Thanks again for listening to this story as one of many revealing the need for truth,
    Warmly,
    JD

    Client’s Response:
    “I just finished watching it. I have no words…

    I so want to see this complete movie made – to know the truth is out in the world for anyone to know.

    This makes it all so much more real – I have seen the pictures, but not the beauty of the land. And the river – I did not know about the river, and my tears surprised me. But they felt like they came from a pure grief, a communal grief I guess. It made me gasp to hear that story.

    The ‘death’ threats on facebook must have made it feel unsafe to share there. I am astonished that they were threatened this way. It must have made them feel what our ancestors felt. It makes it all the more imperative that this is finished and seen and witnessed…

    Thank you for sharing this, and for knowing how important it is. I will donate what I can, but I want to know how to get the word out to more Armenians.

    I am taken by both the sorrow and the connection this makes me feel. It is my peoples truth – their narrative.

    How essential truth telling is – telling your story, being heard & believed.
    That is what this film is asking for, what my ancestors were denied, and what Armenians need.

    Thank you with all my heart. Your words mean so much to me.
    Absolutely share what you choose with Nubar – I have no worries
    about my privacy. I feel safe, and heard.

    Please tell him how touched I was – I keep thinking about the river…
    The horror felt closer – and I felt closer to my roots, which surprised me.
    It was so moving to see them bring his family back to their home where they belonged.

    No matter what becomes of this film, I am sure that gave them some peace.”

    Thank you for everything,

  3. I just watched your trailer and am feeling so much…….tears, courage, tenderness, beauty, anger. This is so moving and I am just filled with admiration at the journey that you are making for the healing of so, so many people.

    May your journey continue on and on, safely and very deeply.
    with so much gratitude for you all,
    SH

  4. I watched your trailer of selects, and think that you have the makings of an incredibly powerful film.

    The footage is beautiful. And Abby’s journey into her family’s past is incredibly powerful. Abby’s observations along the way are haunting and raw. And it’s a story that needs to be told. And ultimately, it’s Abby’s story to tell. She’s a beautiful, strong guide, and is captivating to watch as she retraces the footsteps of her ancestors.
    SM

  5. Hello! I am so excited to see that someone else has thought about looking at the Genocide from this perspective. My name is Lara and I am an undergraduate student at Georgetown University currently writing my senior thesis on healing and reconciliation, specifically in the Armenian Diaspora community. This work is inspirational and I am looking forward to seeing the final product.

  6. looks very interesting, where can I see this film or buy it ? my thoughts always go back to 1 finding this whole history in a book named ‘ Pearl’ , written by Donitha Dyer in the 70’s and have wanted more information about the history of it. thanx for your work and for the information : )

  7. Oh Nubar, wow….. I’m choked up and on the edge of my seat wishing I could see the whole documentary RIGHT NOW. Those heart-stopping archival photos, the new footage, the great music, the emotion in you and Abby. The scene at the river, her talking about it….Tears in my eyes.
    This is so important a project.
    Just curious why using black and white of Abby in certain sections.
    Looking forward to seeing more!

  8. Thanks so much Syd! There are a couple of reasons for using black & white. First, these two clips are the only moments when someone is talking directly into the camera–to the viewer. Because of this, we needed a device to create a stronger connection between them. Second, Abby is recording herself with her iPhone and the resolution of the footage is very different (lower res). So I thought we could “crush” the image a bit to make their appearance look more deliberate. Make sense?

  9. Thank you so much for making this film! My grandparents survived the Genocide and came to the U.S. in the 1920’s. Feeling called to visit my homeland ever since I can remember, I was finally able to spend 9 weeks last year volunteering in what is Armenia today. What it is to be Armenian today is do complex and layered.

    I would love to see this film. When and where can I see this film?

    Vanya Garabedian

    • Thank you Vanya! We’re working very hard to raise the money to finish this film. You can help by making a donation here and by spreading the word.

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