New York, New York, United States, Jan. 20, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh (natively called Artsakh) are struggling to survive a merciless economic and physical blockade, instigated and orchestrated by Azerbaijan in December of last year in what seems to be its last-ditch effort to eradicate or expel every last Armenian from their ancestral lands. Yet to understand how and why this crime against innocent civilians is happening today is to go back to the infamous morning of September 27, 2020, which is where the new wartime documentary Invisible Republic begins.
When Artsakh resident Lika Zakaryan woke up to an all-out attack by enemy forces across the entire line of demarcation with Azerbaijan, she wasted no time to take steps to wake up the world to the plight of her people. For each of the ensuing 44 days of the brutal military aggression, she summarizes her experience in a personal online diary. Each entry is another opportunity to deconstruct Azerbaijan’s rogue tactics to not only defeat Armenians militarily but also terrorize and destroy innocent civilians.
These entries were first published on CivilNet and became the inspiration and framework for Invisible Republic, which brings the diary to life through visceral and explosive footage captured by the on-the-ground filmmakers and complemented by the reportages of her then-partner and now husband Levon.
Invisible Republic was released on virtual cinema on January 19 and accompanied by a global education and outreach partnership with the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and the arts foundation Creative Armenia. 100% of the proceeds are being donated to the AGBU’s Global Relief Fund and other Artsakh-related charities.
“We have moved up the release of the film and made it available globally to bring attention to Artsakh at its existential moment,” says Garin Hovannisian, the film’s director and founder of Creative Armenia. “As Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor creates a deepening food, health, and humanitarian crisis for the 120,000 Armenians now trapped in Artsakh, we hope Lika’s story can help make her invisible republic more visible to the world.”
The film has already been translated into multiple languages in an effort to reach the hearts and minds of global citizens and concerned stakeholders in every corner of the world. The original film in English is currently available in French, Russian, and Armenian with Spanish and other languages on the way.
Producer Serj Tankian, the Armenian-American rock icon and human rights activist who is no stranger to leveraging cinema to raise awareness on Armenian issues – starting with the 1995 documentary Screamers through three previous collaborations with Hovannisian:1915, I Am Not Alone, and Truth to Power – notes that Invisible Republic is supported by a global awareness and education campaign designed to overcome the frustration and fatigue that comes with conflicting accounts of reality so rampant in today’s media. “We challenge any viewer to watch Invisible Republic and not be moved to agree that Ilham Aliyev, the autocratic leader of Azerbaijan, has committed serious war crimes during and in the aftermath of the 2020 Artsakh War. His deadly blockade has deprived innocent Armenians of urgently needed essentials to sustain life.”
Invisible Republic is indeed a teachable moment for geopolitical stakeholders and general audiences alike. It highlights the Azeri's heavy reliance on precision drones and chemical weapons, jihadist mercenaries, and targeted destruction of churches, maternity wards, and hospitals, putting Armenian lives on the line in defiance of international norms and human rights laws. These events are entwined as pain points across the arc of the film’s narrative, designed to help uninitiated viewers understand Artsakh’s complicated historical relationships with Azerbaijan and Russia, as well as Armenia.
Viewers should be prepared to ride an emotional rollercoaster with each entry in Lika’s diary. One can observe how emotions morph among the people – from pride and patriotism, courage and confidence to fear, doubt, despair, and ultimately the abject grief over the heavy losses of life and limb as well as the hard-won territories the Armenians gained in the first Artsakh War. These lands and the Armenian cultural city of Shushi were handed over to Azerbaijan in the ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia in 2020.
Dr. Eric Esrailian, who produced the film, put it this way: “At the end of the film Lika asks the viewer if anyone is reading or viewing the pictures she has posted or ‘Are we invisible?’ We need to make sure Artsakh is not invisible, and we need to raise awareness far and wide. The current humanitarian crisis is a result of apathy by world leaders, the press, NGOs, and many people around the world. We have made every effort to make Invisible Republic accessible to everyone. We owe it to our Armenian brothers and sisters in Artsakh and Armenia — who are reliving the horrors of our ancestors,” he noted, alluding to the women, children, and elderly expelled by Ottoman Turkey to perish in the unforgiving Syrian desert in 1915.
“The Artsakh War is a story of what can happen to minority peoples when nobody seems to be watching or listening," says the film’s writer and protagonist Lika Zakaryan. "Let’s hope that Invisible Republic will crystalize Azerbaijan’s true intentions to destroy Armenians and their cultural treasures. I believe in the power of communications and education to change the course of history. One day, I would love to see a sequel to Invisible Republic. It will be called Invincible Republic."
View the Invisible Republic official trailer on invisiblerepublicfilm.com. Watch the full feature with a $10 virtual ticket, and register for the January 24 global webinar discussion with diarist Lika Zakaryan and the filmmakers. Other research and educational resources are available at agbu.org/Artsakh.
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