‘Motherland’: Another Move in Putin’s Chess Game?

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Congresswoman Judy Chu with Vic Gerami at his ‘Motherland’ premiere.

Vic Gerami watched in horror as deaths mounted in Artsakh, a part of the world he refers to as the “Motherland,” also the title of his first documentary feature film.

Over 44 days beginning in September 2020, an estimated 5,000 deaths of mostly Armenians occurred in the Artsakh region (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh), according to BBC News.

Gerami is a journalist and activist of Armenian descent who hosts the Los Angeles radio program “The Blunt Post with Vic” on KPFK 90.7 FM, and operates his own media company in and around West Hollywood. With the premiere of “Motherland” this month, he’s added “filmmaker” to his credits.

In the film, Gerami explains that mercenary fighters from surrounding countries, including Syria, Pakistan and Turkey, assisted Azerbaijan with a “genocide” against the Armenians of Artsakh.

The details of such an attack on innocent citizens should sound familiar—echoing news reports out of Ukraine, where the country’s population is at the mercy of those determined to take control of their territory.

In “Motherland,” Gerami also exposes the fine line that exists for countries such as the United States, who want to support the people, but are also anxious to sell arms and/or hungry for natural resources such as oil.

An example of this dichotomy came this month, as President Biden visited the Middle East to secure more oil to bring down gas prices for desperate Americans. He was criticized, however, for dealing with the man most say is responsible for murdering Washington Post journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi.

Ironically in Artsakh, the killings ended last November when 5,000 Russian soldiers stepped in as peacekeepers.

“Russia is the biggest winner,” says Gerami, explaining that the geography allows Russia access to an area where it did not have a presence but desperately wants a foothold. Only Georgia stands between Russia and the two fighting forces (all three were part of the former Soviet Union), which both border Iran. Earlier this week, Putin traveled to Iran and not only deepened the ties between the countries but also received official support for its military actions in Ukraine.

When Gerami started the film with producer Henrick Vartanian and editor Chris Damadyan, it was well before Russia invaded Ukraine.

When the humanitarian crisis erupted there, people around the globe were motivated to back the Ukrainian people and provide aid. In contrast, there was little response or press coverage to the clash in Artsakh. Perhaps, Gerami suggested, Armenians “aren’t Western enough.”

Armenian Geghard Monastery dates to the 4th-13th centuries.

But there are certainly strong historical connections to Christianity among the Armenians.

“Armenia was the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity as the official state religion, even before Rome was a Christian nation,” Gerami said. He pointed out churches that are centuries old, and are now at risk of destruction by Azerbiajan.

The monastery of Geghard, dating back to the 4th through 13th centuries, and the Upper Azat Valley contains a number of churches and tombs, most cut out of rock, illustrating Armenian medieval architecture.

In “Motherland” we see familiar players—including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Vladimir Putin of Russia—as well as a clearer view of their quest for control in Europe and the Middle East. That’s why, Gerami says, the international reaction to aggression by Azerbaijan toward the Armenians in Artsakh was of interest to both leaders.

“It’s a chess game between world powers,” Gerami said. Putin “is trying to recreate the old Soviet Union,” while Erdoğan seemingly “is trying to recreate the old Ottoman Empire.” The move to “support” the Armenians has put Russia on the border of Iran, a strategic coup.

Gerami originally used his media platform to draw attention to the fight over Artsakh with celebrity promotional spots—those from Cher and Kim Kardashian are seen in the film. Through his radio show, he interviewed numerous members of Congress, which led to several appearing in the film, including Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Katie Porter, and Rep. Judy Chu, who also attended the July premiere.

Gerami also received early support from West Hollywood officials, including Mayor Pro Tempore Sepi Shyne and Councilmember Lindsey P. Horvath.

“We got a lot of support,” Gerami said, “but it takes the White House to do something.”

After seeing the premiere of the film, Mayor Ardy Kassakhian of Glendale approached Gerami about sponsoring a screening for his community. About 40% of Glendale residents are Armenian, Gerami said.

The Glendale screening is set for Aug. 4 at the Laemmle Theater, a Q&A with Gerami and moderated by Mayor Kassakhian. Tickets are $25, with some of the proceeds benefitting the Homeland Defenders Rehabilitation Center in Armenia, a facility for wounded soldiers.

“That’s where you see a lot of them in one room,” said Gerami, who interviewed several soldiers for the film. “No arms, no legs, and they’re all [young], it’s really tough.”

It’s the reason he made the documentary, he said: “I made it for non-Armenians … to educate them about this major humanitarian catastrophe.”

Get Tickets: on Laemmle’s website or at the Laemmle Theaters Glendale, 207 N. Maryland Ave., Glendale, 91206.

(Editor’s Note: Vic Gerami is an occasional contributor to

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and produces content via Saving Grace Films.

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