Former GCC Student Produces Independent Film

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el-vaquero-staff-writer/" class="creditline">ARIN MIKALIAN
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Big budget movies dominate the movie screens, but the world of independent films allows a director to tell a more personal story without having to give into Hollywood clichÇs. This is exactly what former GCC student turned filmmaker Vahe Babaian has done in “After Freedom,” his first feature film.

“After Freedom” is about an Armenian family starting a new life in America. Leon Abcarians, played by Greg Satamian, is the proud father of the Armenian family who is a widowed man in his late 50s and has recently been laid off from his job. Leon used to work for British Airways in Armenia, but since he and his family moved to America he has only worked odd jobs. His son, Michael, played by Mic Tomasi, is an employee at the local grocery store and tries to find his father a job.

At the same time, he has to deal with friends and his girlfriend who is pressuring him to get married. “After Freedom” consists of several smaller stories and themes. The new generation of Armenians, who have spent most of their lives in America, try to carry on the traditions of their culture. “I’ve seen these characters throughout my life,” said Babaian, who also said that his experience of living in America was his inspiration for writing the story. Although the film may seem to have several meanings, Babaian did not purposely make the film to have a specific message or was not specifically made for the Armenian audience. “No filmmaker should write a film for a group of people,” said Babaian.

Babaian, 42, left his country with his family and came to America in 1976. Babaian graduated from Hoover High School in 1978, and then enrolled at GCC for two years until he transferred to Art Center College of Design from where he received a bachelor’s degree in film.

After he completed his schooling, Babaian wanted to one day make his first feature film. In 1995, Babaian began to gather ideas for a script.

In 1997, Babaian had the final copy of “After Freedom” in his hands and was ready to start production. Babaian worked for the money to produce the film along with a few other co-producers. “If you don’t have the money, take time,” said Babaian. After he had enough money saved, Babaian and his co-producers began shooting “After Freedom” in 2000 and it went into post-production the following year. The film was shot in various locations in Glendale.

By 2002, the film was complete and began being shown around the country and the rest of the world at various film festivals for the next two years. In 2002, “After Freedom” was shown at the Montreal Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Method Fest, which takes place in Burbank. At Method Fest, “After Freedom” took home the Audience Award.

Although its official release date was in May, “After Freedom,” like many independent films, did not immediately reach movie theaters. “It takes a couple of years,” said Babaian.

Now that he has completed his first feature film, Babaian knows that it is something he would love to do again. Although he does not have anything set in stone as of right now, Babaian has already begun reading several scripts for his next project.