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AUA Lecturer Zareh Tjeknavorian’s Film Wins Theremin Award for Best Sound Design

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YEREVAN, Armenia ‒ The American University of Armenia (AUA) is happy to share that AUA Lecturer Zareh Tjeknavorian’s film “Crowned & Conquering” has won the Theremin Award for Best Sound Design at the First Hermetic International Film Festival (FHIFF) in Venice, Italy. Tjeknavorian teaches Filmmaking and Cinema Studies in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS).

The FHIFF is a unique event dedicated to underground and visionary films that explore mystical, occult, and esoteric themes. The festival took place from March 7-10 in the heart of Venice, where an eclectic program of 33 works was screened. The Theremin Award is named in honor of the Russian inventor Léon Theremin (1896-1993), creator of one of the earliest electronic instruments, the theremin, whose unearthly, eerily beautiful sound was popularized through Hollywood film scores in the 1940s and ‘50s.  

Shot on 16mm film, “Crowned & Conquering” is inspired by the philosophy of the occultist, ceremonial magician, and writer, Aleister Crowley. Through mythical scenes, symbolic imagery, abstract graphics and textures (including collage and painting directly on the film itself), and a monumental psychedelic soundtrack, the work visualizes the alchemical process of chrysopoeia, the transmutation of the spirit from lead into gold: a cinematic allegory of the gnostic path in sight and sound.

This is the second time Tjeknavorian’s work has won at the FHIFF. His film “Elegy in Light” won the Rosenkreuz Award for Best Foreign Documentary in 2018. “From the beginning we had the feeling that this precious documentary, seemingly fragile yet in its essence as resilient and enduring as an archaeological artifact, would be awarded”, said FHIFF director Sara Ferro. “Rarely does a documentary film possess such mesmerizing cinematography.”

Zareh Tjeknavorian was born in Fargo, North Dakota into a family of musicians and grew up in Tehran, London, Frankfurt, Paris and New York, where he attended the Professional Children’s School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, majoring in film & television. Over the years he’s pursued his interests in ancient and esoteric cultures, lost histories, and the lives of the forgotten and dispossessed through short and long-form films.  His acclaimed documentary Enemy of the People, an oral history of Stalinism based on over 200 interviews, was broadcast on PBS and noted by National Geographic Magazine as one of three must-see films about Armenia. His recent work includes a folk history of the Armenian Genocide, and a series of films exploring vishap (dragon) stones, prehistoric landscapes, and the persistence of archaic beliefs in rural Armenia.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.