written, directed, and edited by Robert Nazar Arjoyan
produced by Jonathan Maurer, Clayton Reed, Robert Nazar Arjoyan
cinematography by Gevorg Sarkisian
An official selection at 30 festivals, this seven time award-winning short film tells the story of Elena, a grieving mother who defies a centuries-old tradition and tests the limits of tradition on the day of her daughter’s funeral as she walks the thin line between death and afterlife.
My great-grandmother died when I was 10. I was lucky to spend that first decade with Elizabeth, picking up the wisdom she was putting down. Among the various tidbits of Armenian lore she bequeathed, the ritualistic washing of one’s hands after a funeral has always stayed with me. Why should we do that, I asked. To keep the dead from coming home, she replied. Soon after her funeral - my first - I washed my hands.
But what if I hadn't? I have returned to this question many times over the years. Would anything have happened? Could there have been some benefit? And if she did return, in what form would it have been?
I Promised Her Life explores the line between tradition and superstition. How do these tenets benefit us? Why do we hold them, and is it our right to defy them? Armenians are not ones to break from the mold. Having fought to keep our heritage alive, we are by nature traditionalists. Rebellion is often met with concern, criticism, or downright derision.
But what if your legacy was taken from you? What, if anything, is still worth holding onto? I Promised Her Life tells the story of a grieving mother, the dead daughter she hardly knew, and the lengths to which she’ll go to make things right.
I treasure my culture and explore the nooks and crannies by making movies about it. In telling this story, I invite people of all cultures to examine their own. Our traditions help define us - but not, ultimately, more so than our actions.