Sargon Saadi (S), alumnus of the Assyrian Student Association of Los Angeles (ASA of LA), one of AYFA's Member Organizations, was interviewed by AYFA's Western Regional Director Ramsin Youkana (R) about his experience watching the newly released documentary "Assyria A.D", created by our partner organization ACSYA.
R: What were your expectations before the event/film?
S: I didn’t know much about the film. However, I assumed it was going to be a little longer, the film is only about 50 minutes long. What drew me in was the title, Assyria A.D. It is a bold statement. As Assyrians, we always talk about ancient Assyrians in B.C. times, and never really hear of Assyria the region mentioned in A.D. times. However, Assyria continued even after the fall of the empire, as a cultural and religious institution. The title also manifests the dream that Assyria as a state could have been part of this chapter of world history (A.D.). What if Assyria lasted throughout the millennia? The country Assyria continuing into the modern age. A historical and sentimental statement, with a political tone.
R: Can you describe the ASA of LA event?
S: The event was an outdoor movie screening. ASA of LA had a good quality screen/ projector and really good audio. There were a few Assyrian owned vendors, like Mary’s Bakery selling baked goods and Perfect Picnic which organizes personal picnics. As this was ASA of LA’s first event in over a year due to COVID-19, there was a pretty good turnout with around 20 people attending. After the event there was a small hangout with the members.
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R: Can you summarize the film in a sentence or two?
S: No. There’s just so much information packed into 50 minutes that you can’t really summarize it. However, it is an attempt to show the continuity of Assyrian existence from Ancient times to the modern period. Definitely worth watching.
R: What was your favorite part of the film?
S: My favorite part was Dr. Nick al-Jeloo’s topic. He talked about the Christianizing of Assyrians. Interestingly, the ancient Assyrian religion lived simultaneously along with Christianity for a while, but slowly Christianity replaced. Many old holidays were converted into Christian holidays and ancient temples were converted into Christian churches. It goes to show a continuous link between ancient Assyrians and modern-day Assyrians. Also, the music was incredibly well implemented, from the beginning to end there was continuous music that matched the scene perfectly.
R: Would you recommend young Assyrians to watch this documentary?
S: Yes definitely, I would also advise them to bring a pen and paper to follow along. I wish it was longer, so the information was easier to absorb, it’s very fast paced. I think that Assyrians should support Assyrian-created media. It will only benefit our people in understanding the full Assyrian experience. We are more than just a sad story; we have a more complex and rich identity than we currently focus on. By participating in events like this, we can be better humans and better members of our own community.
R: As a filmmaker, what is some advice to give the filmmakers?
S: First off, I shared some footage that I took in Iraq and Hakkari in 2014/2015 to the producers of Assyria A.D., which they ended up using in some scenes. One thing I would say is that the documentary should have been made a little longer to better unpack the information provided. However, the film industry is very subjective. The editing was good. Also in my opinion, the introduction and ending should have been a little slower. From my perspective I think they should have added more actionable things, like following a certain character or digging deep into certain topics in an actionable way other than in just an interview structure. Interviews could get preachy, and audiences nowadays are more into seeing than hearing. However, I understand things like that require more money, and most Assyrian creators don’t have that kind of funding. All in all, the film was great, with a good lineup of professors and academics. I am looking forward to a series or a part 2.
Blog Post prepared by Ramsin Youkana and Anthony Narsi