The Armenian Film Foundation was established in 1979 as a non-profit, educational and cultural organization dedicated to the documentation and preservation of Armenian heritage in multi-media formats. Its primary aim continues to be to inspire pride in, and world-wide recognition of, the Armenian people and their contributions to society, thereby fostering human dignity and enhancing understanding and goodwill between present and future generations of Armenians and other cultures.
Over the years, the Foundation has provided scholarships for film students working on projects of Armenian interest, established an industry-wide networking association to encourage young filmmakers, and conducted two international Armenian film festivals.
A primary focus of the Foundation has been the interviews of survivors of and witnesses to the Armenian Genocide. During his lifetime. Dr. J. Michael Hagopian recorded nearly 400 eyewitness testimonies of Armenian Genocide survivors and witnesses on 16mm film. In 2010, the Armenian Film Foundation entered into an agreement with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute to incorporate these 400 testimonies into the USC Shoah Archive that will make them available worldwide to benefit scholars, students, historians, statesmen, and the media.
The Foundation has produced and distributed numerous award-winning films and videos that depict the cultural heritage of the Armenian people. Two of these films have received awards for excellence: The Forgotten Genocide, narrated by Mike Connors, received two Emmy nominations for production and writing; and Strangers In A Promised Land, narrated by California Governor George Deukmejian, was the winner of the CINE Golden Eagle Award for Excellence.
The Witnesses Trilogy is a series of three documentary films (Voices from the Lake, Germany and the Secret Genocide and The River Ran Red) written, directed and produced by Dr. Hagopian and based on his filmed interviews. Dr. Hagopian chronicles the near extinction of the Armenian people against the sweeping canvas of the lack of human rights and the absence of democratic traditions and principles in the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
The Armenian Film Foundation has been awarded several major grants, including some of the following foundations: the California Endowment of Humanities (received jointly with the Armenian Assembly), Milken Families Foundation, United States Office of Education, Arshag Dickranian Foundation, George Ignatius Foundation, Alex Manoogian Foundation, J. Roderick MacArthur Foundation, and ARCO Foundation.