They Shall Not Perish Premieres to Sold Out Audience

On April 8, the Near East Foundation hosted the official premiere of They Shall Not Perish: The Story of Near East Relief at the Times Center in New York City to a sold-out audience of over 550 people. Esteemed guests including UN Ambassador to Armenia, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, and members of the Armenian Diocese, as well as actors from the film including Victor Garber and Andrea Martin were on hand to celebrate the event.

The long-awaited documentary tells the story of the Near East Foundation, previously known as Near East Relief, at the turn of the twentieth century after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, when a group of American businessmen and philanthropists rallied the nation to save a generation of Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian orphans following the Armenian Genocide.

Narrated by six-time Emmy-nominated actor Victor Garber, the film is set against a mix of historical footage and archival photographs, and utilizes contemporary interviews from leading academic experts to illustrate the sequence of events leading up to the Genocide, and the unprecedented relief efforts of American citizens that followed—which led to the largest humanitarian response in history up to that time. The letters of American officials, relief workers, and orphans are brought to life through the voices of leading actors—Michael Aronov, Kathleen Chalfant, Dariush Kashani, Andrea Martin, Ron Rifkin, Tony Shalhoub, and Kara Vedder—taking the audience on a journey from the depths of cruelty to the triumphs of survival and goodwill.

The screening was followed by a thought-provoking panel discussion with the filmmakers, Shant Mardirossian and George Billard, who touched on the historical significance of America’s relief efforts reflected in the film. “Today, as we confront an exploding refugee crisis, it’s imperative that we consider the humanitarian consequences when formulating U.S. foreign policy,” said Billard. The panel also featured expert historians who contributed to the film including Pulitzer Prize winning author Peter Balakian, Carnegie Scholar Susan B. Harper, and Taner Akçam, who recently made headlines with his discovery of evidence proving that the Armenian Genocide was premeditated by the Turkish government.

Executive Producer Mardirossian, inspired by his grandparents’ escape and survival during the Genocide, says he produced this film “not just to remember those we lost in the Genocide, but to shed light on an important chapter of American history when ordinary citizens stood together against a great injustice and saved the lives of 132,000 orphans.” During his remarks, he emphasized that all Americans, and most importantly our younger generations, should choose to be up-standers instead of bystanders.

The work that the Near East Foundation started a century ago continues to be reflected in its work today as the humanitarian crisis unfolds in the Middle East. NEF’s local teams are working on the ground, side by side, with Syrian (including many Syrian-Armenian) and Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Lebanon helping them to gain economic independence and achieve self-sufficiency, primarily though entrepreneurship, vocational training, and livelihoods support.

In a call to action, NEF President Charles Benjamin, asked the audience to be inspired “by the heroic men and women who responded to a crisis over 100 years ago and the impact they made in the lives of so many—by simply doing what they could—saving a generation of lives and futures that would have otherwise been lost.”

To support the Near East Foundation’s current work with refugee families in Lebanon and Jordan please click here.

The Near East Foundation’s new educational partnership with Facing History and Ourselves was also formally announced at the premiere. The partnership between NEF and Facing History bridges the gap between our history and present day, and will help call attention to what society can do to help give vulnerable populations a voice so that history’s mistakes are not repeated. Facing History and Ourselves will help bring the lessons from the film to classrooms across America.

The event was made possible by the following sponsors: Armenian General Benevolent Union, Armenian Assembly of America, The Armenian Center at Columbia University, Bob and Nancy Solomon, the Dadourian Foundation, Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation, Armenian Missionary Association of America, the Armenian Prelacy, Golden State Bank, and the Jebejian Family. 

To view the full gallery of photos, click here and use password: armenia.

They Shall Not Perish: The Story of Near East Relief is distributed by the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) and is being broadcast on public television stations nationwide beginning April 1, 2017, including upcoming distribution on May 16th on Philadelphia public tv, June 2 on Maryland pubic TV. Since the premiere, the film was screened at San Jose University (as a part of Dr. Mary Papazian’s inaugural celebrations) and Bergen Community College. The documentary will be screened in Yerevan, Armenia on May 30th as a part of the Aurora Prize Ceremonies and on May 31st at the Naregatsi Art Center. More information on the film, upcoming screenings and public TV distributions, and resources can be found at   

Sign up to receive news and updates from Near East Foundation delivered to your inbox.

Thank you! Your message has been sent successfully!