As a child, award-winning filmmaker Robert Nazar Arjoyan was consumed by rock & roll and movies, especially those directed by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. He began playing guitar at the age of 10, and started taking his filmmaking to a professional level at the age of 14, in the early 2000s. For his higher education, he studied cinema at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and since then has worked as a writer, producer, and director of shorts, commercials, and features in Los Angeles. He typically chooses to picture edit his own projects, and often writes original music as score and diegetic music for his films.
After writing, producing, directing, and editing 3 shorts films – Pencils, Connect, MidNight FistFight – 5 commercials, and editing dozens of projects for other companies and filmmakers, Arjoyan was ready to move upwards.
His feature directorial debut, When My Sorrow Died: The Legend of Armen Ra & the Theremin, has played the world over in festivals, garnering awards and praise everywhere it screened. A focused character piece, the film chronicles the life and tribulations of the glamorously eccentric and enigmatic Theremin master Armen Ra, who alchemizes his ancient sorrow into timeless beauty with the magical power of music.
Arjoyan founded his production company, Garuna Film Group, Inc., in 2017, going on to write, produce, direct, and edit its first project – a short film entitled I Promised Her Life. It tells the story of Elena, a grieving Armenian-American mother who, on the day of her daughter’s funeral, defies a centuries-old ritual and tests the limits of tradition as she walks the thin line between death and afterlife.
Arjoyan’s next directorial feature, Kill Rock & Roll, is a visceral story ripped from his own past, one that sets its sights on innocence lost, growing up unexpectedly, and the follies of idolatry. His desire is to continue to work with stories that showcase fantastic character, working alongside actors to help shape dynamic performances, and ultimately, unforgettable films.
My great-grandmother died when I was 10. 18 years ago now. 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.