Naré Arist (Hovhannisyan) (BAEC ’17): Achieving Success in Filmmaking

YEREVAN, Armenia — Naré Arist (Hovhannisyan) graduated in 2017 from the American University of Armenia (AUA) with a bachelor’s degree in English and communications. 

Valedictorian of the first undergraduate degree cohort at AUA, Hovhannisyan has continued to excel in the creative realm. She is a member of Creative Armenia, a foundation aiming to discover and support creative visionaries; an Armenian producer, director, and screenwriter; and the creator of her directorial debut, a short film titled @mariana.

At the age of 17, Hovhannisyan signed with the Flemish-Dutch House deBuren to create video art in Belgium. At the same time, she directed the animation for “Uneducated Democracy,” a song by the renowned Armenian-American artist Serj Tankian from System of a Down. 

In 2021, Naré worked as a production assistant for the French-Armenian-Belgian co-production It Takes A Village by Ophelia Harutyunyan, which received several awards at festivals, including the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival and LA Shorts Fest.

Why did you choose to enroll in the B.A. in English and Communications program at AUA?

It’s one of those stories where things happen at the right time. I graduated from Hakob Kojoyan Art School with a clear intention to direct films. I had already applied and been accepted to pursue a film degree in London, and news of the undergraduate program’s launch caught me by surprise. I scrambled to submit my application just before the deadline.

As the only program in the arts and humanities, English and Communications was the obvious choice. Obtaining an international education in my country was the best of both worlds, marking the start of an unforgettable journey.

What is your current occupation, and how did AUA help you succeed in this role?

I am a producer, director, and screenwriter. Wearing different hats comes naturally, despite the challenges. Many of the courses at AUA helped me build skills that are now crucial in my current roles: the writer in me thrived on literature and writing courses; the director gained insights from filmmaking, music, philosophy, and history classes; while the producer benefited from media and communication courses.

AUA instructors Sos Bagramyan, Zareh Tjeknavorian, and Artur Avanesov significantly influenced my professional growth, while Albert Stepanyan, Dr. Siranush Dvoyan, and the late Dr. Gregory Areshian shaped my overall development. These professors, among others, exemplified the true essence of being educators.

Please tell us about your film. What is the idea behind it?

Behind-the-scenes photos are exclusive to One Man Studio Production, protected by copyright. Intended solely for use with the interview. Reproduction or use for other purposes requires explicit permission from the copyright owner

Currently, I am working on my directorial debut, a short film titled @mariana. I developed the screenplay with my AUA classmate, Noemi Akopian (BAEC ’17).

@mariana is a powerful tale that depicts the life of an Armenian Gen-Z girl as she navigates real and virtual worlds. It’s the first Armenian film to explore themes of multicultural romance, digital lifestyle, long-distance relationships, and mental health all at once. The film received partial funding from the National Cinema Center of Armenia, and I’m co-producing it with One Man Studio Production. Among our partners is Birthright Armenia.

What is your hope for the next generation of AUA students interested in pursuing a career in the arts? Why do you think it is important to develop art programs in Armenia?

Being part of AUA’s first undergraduate class had its benefits, especially with regard to shaping our own education. We actively influenced the department, requesting courses like Filmmaking — a crucial part of my own AUA journey.

Tailoring our education around our interests was a privilege. With art-related courses both in my degree program and the General Education curriculum, AUA became my art haven. Now, envision students not only suggesting courses, but having entire arts programs accessible to them — a thrilling leap into creative possibilities! Whether it’s design, music, writing, or film production, an arts program promises an alternative arts education in Armenia, something I didn’t have ten years ago.

An arts program at AUA can be a creative hub, fostering collaboration and innovation. I hope it provides aspiring artists with state-of-the-art facilities, mentorship, and opportunities to showcase their talents.

It’s crucial to recognize that culture profoundly shapes a nation’s citizens. Investing in art education becomes a powerful means to safeguard individual expression and cultivate a resilient society.

What words of gratitude do you have toward your scholarship donors?

I’ve received the AUA Academic Scholarship twice, as well as a grant from the Hirair and Anna Hovnanian Foundation.

Both scholarships came as a pleasant surprise, as I wasn’t aware of my academic standing compared to my peers. These scholarships empowered me as a student. I felt immense gratitude toward the donors: it felt like a pat on the shoulder from anonymous cheerleaders, acknowledging my hard work and encouraging me to continue my intellectual voyage. This experience has instilled in me a deep appreciation for the importance of giving back to the community.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values. AUA’s Office of Development stewards the University’s philanthropic efforts exclusively for educational purposes.


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