Taking on an epic battle
Each year for the past eight years, filmmakers have travelled from far and wide to take part in the annual Parrsboro Film Festival.
This year, the star of one documentary also made the trip to Parrsboro.
“This doesn’t happen very often where we have the subject of the film here to speak along with the film,” said Helen Tyson, co-chairwoman of the Parrsboro Film Festival.
“I think it’s an extraordinary film. It’s called Zaven vs. Goliath,” she added. “Not only is it a documentary that’s interesting, it’s also a serious social justice issue.”
With those words, Tyson introduced Zaven Darakjian of Montreal to talk about Zaven vs. Goliath.
“I was living peacefully in my own house-business-residence, and all of a sudden a hurricane hit,” said Darakjian to the audience who attended the screening at The Hall on King Street.
The hurricane that hit his life was created by condominium developers.
“The mega-builders decided that that area was to be redeveloped. They came in ever-so slowly, and gingerly, and tried to talk us into selling our property and de-root us from our life.”
Darakjian’s has called the Pit Stop Garage home since 1971. The garage is located in Griffintown, an old, historical neighborhood in Montreal.
In 2005, condo developers began making entreaties to buy his property and the properties around him.
The money put on the table wasn’t nearly enough for Darakjian and his family to start a new life elsewhere in the neighbourhood.
“My business, residence, and whole existence was in this location,” said Darakjian. “Developers came in and said they were going to demolish the building and want the land.”
He told the developers to take a hike, and they told him he would regret that decision.
“This agent came and told me, he said, ‘You know, it’s going to be unbearable to live here when we are building this. You are going to regret it. It’s going to be noise, it’s going to be dust, it’s going to be terrible to live around here,’” said Darakjian in a scene from the film. “So, I told him, I said, ‘listen, I’m a tough guy. My grandparents survived the Turkish genocide of Armenians, we survived the genocide. We survived the deportations. I survived cancer. Do you think I’m not going to survive through this dust and sound?’”
With his garage cracking and crumbling around him, Darakjian was forced to move to a new location. The battle with developers has also left him fighting in court to this day.
After the film was screened, Darakjian talked to those in attendance.
“I still get goosebumps when I see my life on the screen,” he said.
“Fifty per cent of what happens in our life is circumstantial, the other 50 per cent is how we react to it and how we handle it, so be prepared.” he added. “Things could happen in a miniscule way or in a large way, like in our case, so be vigilant and be prepared.”
Zaven vs. Goliath also featured artists Judith Bauer and Harvey Lev, residents of Griffintown, who are also artists who live in Parrsboro for much of the year.
Darakjian thanked Bauer and Lev, and the Parrsboro Film Festival, for bringing his story to Parrsboro.
“I searched on the Web about Parrsboro, and I saw a lot of pictures, and it was magical area,” said Darakjian. “Driving here is like driving to a new area that hasn’t been discovered, that people don’t know about. It’s elevated my spirits to be here.”
He said he likes the street art found in Parrsboro.
“I see statuettes and all kinds of artistic things, and can see why people are magnetically attracted to this area because the beauty is unbelievable,” he said. “Believe me. I’d rather be here than in Montreal. I mean it.”
Tyson thanked Darakjian, the filmmakers, audience and volunteers for helping make the festival a success.
“The highlight every year for me is the connections made between the filmmakers and the audience, and with each other,” said Tyson.
Zaven Darakjian spoke before and after the screening of Zaven vs. Goliath, a story about his fight with condo developers in Montreal.