By Mary Apick
I met Dr. J. Michael Hagopian at a critical point in my life. And he made my life better by giving me hope.
It was 1980, just after the revolution in Iran. Forced to flee my homeland, I was suddenly alone in a new country — alone, overwhelmed, and uncertain of my future. But with the warmth and compassion he was always known for, Michael welcomed me. He welcomed me as a person, as a refugee, and as a filmmaker. Aware of my background in film, television, and theater in Iran, he soon included me on the board of directors of the Armenian Film Foundation and during that time I worked with him on several of his documentaries. It was an experience I will always remember and cherish.
Michael was an inspiration to me through all the years I knew him. He still is. He single-handedly accomplished so very much for humanity, tirelessly pursuing the long overdue recognition and justice for the Armenians who suffered and died during the genocide in Turkey. Driven and passionate, fierce in his own quiet way, he relentlessly worked to present the individual stories of the men, women, and children, victims and survivors alike, who would bring this terrible period of history to life for the rest of the world. He was a man who fully understood the power of film.
He conducted, filmed and catalogued more than 400 interviews with genocide survivors and eyewitnesses. These people now lived in almost every part of the world, and Michael went to almost every part of the world to find them. He was a great documentary filmmaker, but to me, more importantly, he was a true historian, a keeper of the stories of a people.
His archive of interviews and films will continue to educate and inspire, both this generation and the ones to come.
When Hitler, just before World War II, made the terrible and ominous statement that he could do whatever he wanted to the Jews, because, after all, “Who remembers the Armenians?”, he hadn’t reckoned with Dr. Hagopian. Michael made a life-long commitment to making sure that everyone remembered.
He was a great filmmaker, a respected humanitarian, and a good friend.
My children and I always looked forward to and enjoyed his company through the years. He was warm. charming, polite, and had a wonderful sense of humor.
He led a long, full and important life.
I will miss him. We will all miss him.
Mary Apick is an award winning stage and film actress.