By Onnik Krikorian/UNICEF Armenia

At the age of fourteen, Gor Baghdasarian won the first-ever One-Minute Video Junior Award organized by UNICEF's Young People's Media Network, the Sandberg Institute and the European Cultural Foundation. Gor is a young Armenian filmmaker working with the ‘Manana’ Youth Educational-Cultural NGO in Yerevan.

His film, ‘Children must live without War’, was selected by the Oscar-nominated film director, Karim Traidia, as the best one-minute film in the junior category. "Gor's film had a very straightforward message, a great script and an interesting style of filming that captures the eye from beginning to end," said Traidia during the awards ceremony held in Amsterdam on 10 November 2002.

Two years later, and now with many more films under his belt, the young film maker has the unmistakable air of a serious artist about him.

"I tend to focus a lot on war because Armenia has had many problems with conflict," responds Baghdasarian when asked why he chose to make a film with an anti-war message. "When I grew up," he explains, "the war with Azerbaijan was continuing and, from my own experience during that period, I can understand why it isn't good for children to live during times of conflict. I'm not sure if my films will change anything but I hope so. It's very important that they have an effect."

However, things might have been different without encouragement from ‘Manana’, a youth educational-cultural center founded in 1995 in the Armenian capital. Although the organization began by encouraging children to write articles and poems about their lives and surroundings, it later expanded to incorporate photojournalism, film-making, web design, publishing and painting. Numbers vary from year to year but on average, approximately 50 children aged between six and 18 participate in the organization's activities.

© UNICEF/Armenia/
A young film-maker from "Manana" Armenian Youth Educational-Cultural NGO is preparing the scene at the Yerevan's Opera Square for "Asphalt Drawing", a one-minute film.

"At first, there was only one club for journalism but when the other clubs opened, film-making became my favourite," remembers Baghdasarian. "That's why I decided to become a director. While I liked the idea of telling a story in writing, I soon understood that it is easier and more effective to tell the same story through images. I like to realize the ideas and images that I have in my head through film."

Emil Sahakyan, UNICEF's Information & Communication Officer in Armenia, says that the international organization first started to work with Manana in order to promote the involvement of children and young people in the media. "In 2003, within the framework of the International Children's Broadcasting Day (ICDB), students from Manana developed scenarios and produced a series of one-minute videos entitled 'My Hero'," he says.

However, the films that were made for Armenian television also found a larger, more international audience. In March 2004 at the Videotivoli Film Festival in Finland, out of 80 films selected for screening from 400 works submitted, 10 were from the "My Hero" series. The same month, "End of the Line," a film produced as part of UNICEF's "Leave no child out" campaign, was shown at the Palma de Mallorca film festival for professionals where Baghdasarian was also invited to attend as a guest.

A film by Narineh Daneghyan won third place at the Aubern International Film Festival held in Australia in September and a month earlier, Manana also won an award at an International Children's Film Festival held in Serbia. In October, at the 21st Annual International Children's Film Festival held in Chicago, another film on an anti-war theme won the "Kenneth F. and Harle G. Montgomery Prize–Certificate of Excellence for Best Child-Produced Film or Video."

"The purpose of this project is to make children's voices heard and to provide an opportunity for children to express their thoughts and feelings," says Sahakyan. And that would certainly appear to be the case. Thanks to UNICEF's support - along with that of other UN agencies such as UNIFEM - the voices and visions of children in Armenia have managed to transcend geographical boundaries. But, despite this success in the form of recognition from the international film community, perhaps Manana has also managed to succeed on a more personal level.

"I have learned many things here," says Baghdasarian," and I am not sure what the future would hold in store for me if I wasn't involved with Manana."

For more information: 
Emil Sahakyan, Communication Officer, UNICEF Armenia:

Tel: (+ 374 10) 523 546,