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.

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