Filmmaker travels back to her roots in telling Armenian story through 'Hidden Map' - Albuquerque Journal

Filmmaker travels back to her roots in telling Armenian story through ‘Hidden Map’

Ani Hovannisian in the hidden chapel of Hokeats Armenian Monastery, Monastery of the Spirits, outside the city of Van. (Courtesy of Steven Sim)

Ani Hovannisian is always on a journey to find the truth.

In each project, she searches for it.

With her latest, “The Hidden Map,” she journeyed to modern-day Turkey to unravel some of her family’s history.

Her family story starts with the Armenian genocide, which began in 1915. During a short time, 1.5 million Armenians were killed or expelled by Ottoman Turks.

Those that were affected include Hovannisian’s family.

“I grew up with parents and grandparents who not only passed on the trauma, but the determination to overcome it,” she says. “It’s part of me. Being Armenian is my identity as much as being American is my identity. They go together.”

Hovannisian spent years working on the project and PBS is picking up the documentary and airing it nationwide.

“The Hidden Map” takes viewers beneath the surface of modern-day Turkey, where the forbidden Armenian past has been awaiting discovery for more than a century.

The story comes to life as Hovannisian, an American-Armenian granddaughter of genocide survivors, ventures to their lost ancestral homeland in search of long-buried truths.

A chance encounter with a Scottish explorer, Steven Sim, leads to a joint odyssey unearthing sacred relics, silenced voices, daring resilience and the hidden map.

The result is a story of discovery, heartbreak and hope that belongs to all of humanity.

Baydzar and Sarkis, among the last full Armenians in Diyarbakir, Turkey. (Courtesy of Ani Hovannisian)

“The Hidden Map” will air at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 5 and 10:30 a.m. on June 12 on World channel 5.4. It will air on New Mexico PBS at 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, on channel 5.1.

Hovannisian wanted to tackle the story because it’s often one that is not remembered in history.

She’s also thrilled that PBS is taking a chance to give her the platform to share the story.

“It’s not a cinematic masterpiece, but it goes deep,” she says. “The Armenian story has been hidden and forgotten by Turkey intentionally. My grandparents were exiled from that land.”

Hovannisian had traveled with her father to the area.

“I had to face the unfathomable loss and the story of my grandparents growing up,” she says. “I can’t tell you how filling that is. Before I worked on this project I was in nonfiction programming. I always knew that I would one day tell the Armenian story in a grand way. It’s not only a genocide history lesson. It’s much bigger than that.”

As she traveled back she met Sim, who lived in an old Armenian home.

This is where she was able to uncover more stories.

“That was the turning point,” she says of meeting Sim. “Here was this guy who spent 30 years of his life finding and discovering our Armenian past. He’s kind of a loner and he cares about the stories. To see these relics that he had was evidence of the genocide.”

Hovannisian wanted to bring attention to not only the Armenian genocide but to the many crimes against humanity that are allowed to happen without any accountability.

She wanted to tell the stories of the silenced and forgotten voices within this tragedy.

“For me to know that there are going to be 1,000 airings of ‘The Hidden Map’ across the country makes my heart beat fast,” she says. “The story has been forgotten for 100 years. These stories have been buried beneath the soil and going to be unearthed. What’s important is that this story is a continuing story. It’s a human story. It’s the story of every people’s struggle and how critical it is for the truth to be known. Every person has a history that is complicated. This is a jumping off point for others to learn about a piece of history that is always trying to be erased.”

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