13 September 2017
On September 5, AGBU London premiered the release of Voskan Yerevantsi at The Soho Hotel in the heart of London. The screening was attended by a mixed audience that included professionals, academics, clergymen and film buffs, as well as the director of Voskan Yerevantsi, Hakob Papazyan.
The evening was opened with a welcome by Ara Sarafian, on behalf of the AGBU London Executive Committee. He thanked Hakob Papazyan for his success in producing Voskan Yerevantsi, which is the longest of a trilogy of films entitled “Book – Homeland.” Though the film was shot in Armenian, it has already been dubbed into English for wider audiences.
The main introduction to the film was made by the primate of the Armenian Apostolic church in the United Kingdom, Hovakim Manukyan. He focused on the importance of the Bible in the Armenian national tradition and discussed how it was translated into Armenian in the 5th century. He added that the Armenian alphabet was also created at this time to support this new translation. While the early hand-written manuscript copies of the Armenian Bible had limited circulation, new technological advances in Europe meant that the Bible could be printed in larger volumes. During the 17th century, Armenians began printing thousands of copies of the Armenian Bible.
Voskan Yerevantsi, the film, is set in the complex world of 16th and 17th centuries, as the Ottoman Empire and Persia clashed, Europe was divided into Catholic and Protestant states, and a powerful Vatican had its designs over the Christian world. Most Armenians during this period found themselves under Muslim rule and made the most of their opportunities. Two key groups of global Armenian actors, the Armenian church establishment (organised around Echmiadzin, Sis and Constantinople) and fabulously rich merchants, realised the importance of book printing in the Armenian language to sustain the Armenian Christian and national identity. Voskan Yerevamntsi was the clergyman who succeeded in printing the first Bible in Amsterdam, in 1666.
The London film premiere, Voskan Yerevantsi, related the epic story behind this printing of the first Armenian Bible. It is a fast paced and absorbing film with contributions from a dozen well-known academics, including Raymond Kevorkian, Levon Zekiyan, Sebouh Aslanian, Zarouhi Poghosyan, Claude Mutafyan and others. Much of the film is re-enacted in authentic period costumes, printing presses, and locations such as Amsterdam, Paris, Echmiadzin, Constantinople, Venice and Isfahan. Watching the film, one can appreciate the monumental task that Voskan Yerevantsi faced in technical, political and financial terms. Following this first printing, Armenians went on to establish presses in the Ottoman Empire and Persia, on the road to their own enlightenment.
Hakob Papazyan and his colleagues should be congratulated for such an important, engaging, educational film.
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