Meg Ryan’s Film Based on William Saroyan Novel Featured at Festival

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By Danielle Saroyan

Armenian Agenda Associate Editor

In Meg Ryan’s
directorial debut, she directed and starred in a film called Ithaca, based on Armenian American William Saroyan’s novel titled The Human Comedy. This
year at the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) in Northern California,
Meg Ryan will be honored with a Sonoma Salute Award at a tribute event on
Thursday, March 31. The event will begin with a screening of Ithaca at 3:30 PM.

Based on
Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Saroyan’s 1943 novel, Ithaca centers around the fictional town
of Ithaca, California during World War II. It is a story about 14-year-old
Homer Macauley, who is determined to be the best and fastest bicycle telegraph
messenger anyone has ever seen. His older brother has gone to war, leaving
Homer to look after his widowed mother, his older sister, and his 4-year-old
brother. The Human Comedy is based on
Saroyan’s personal life, growing up in Fresno with his siblings and his mother.

Ryan was inspired
to film this movie when she read The
Human
Comedy while going through her divorce with Dennis Quaid, when her
son Jack – who is also cast in the movie – was 8. “I kept thinking, ‘How do you
become a man? I mean is he going to be all right?’ And I remember reading all
kinds of things, and I got to this book, and it’s about so many things…there
was so many great ideas inside of it,” she said in an interview with Deadline.

The film Ithaca was initially released on October
23, 2015, starring Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, Sam Shepard, and Jack Quaid. The Human Comedy had previously been
made into a film in 1943 with actor Mickey Rooney. That year, Saroyan won the
Academy Award for Best Story for this film.

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Ithaca will be featured at SIFF, which kicks off on March
30 and runs through April 4. In the 19th year of SIFF, nearly 200
filmmakers from around the world are expected to attend. The film festival will
feature more than 90 hand-selected films including independent features,
documentaries, world cinema, and short films. The Festival is dedicated to
promoting independent film, supporting filmmakers around the world and
inspiring film lovers.

Armenian Alumnus Remembered

By Julissa Zavala

(The Collegian) – Fresno State alumnus Dr. Harry Moordigian, Jr., whose legacy of support and generosity was fondly remembered, passed away on Nov. 11 at the age of 76.

“This is the ideal type of person that gives back to the university after benefiting from the education,” said Dr. Barlow Der Mugrdechian, coordinator of the Armenian studies program. “I’m sad to see him go, because he was very much present on campus.”

Moordigian was the only child of his Armenian immigrant parents and grew up on a grape ranch near Sanger. Moordigian graduated from Fresno State and became a dentist.

Mugrdechian said that he got to know Moordigian through his involvement with various Armenian Studies program events and through his direct contributions to the program.

Due to his Armenian background, Moordigian liked learning about the history and culture through the Armenian studies program’s events, Mugrdechian said.

Mugrdechian said that Moordigian was also an avid reader and supporter of the Armenian studies newspaper, Hye Sharzhoom, and kept up with program events and attended lectures over the years.

He said that Moordigian was very invested in Fresno State, and not just in the monetary sense, but because he felt that he wanted to give back as a graduate of the university.

Moordigian’s parents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Moordigian’s mother escaped to America, but she died of cancer when he was 2 years old.

Moordigian’s mother had written a letter that spoke of the traumatizing events that she had experienced during the genocide. Moordigian then decided to donate to help people going through counseling.

Dr. Christopher Lucey, director of the Fresno Family Counseling Center, had known Moordigian for several years.

Lucey said that before Moordigian’s support, the counseling center was struggling financially. Lucey also said that Moordigian helped the center get more attention from the university, bringing the total of sessions from 500 to almost 10,000 per year.

“The students loved this guy,” Lucey said. “They called him our guardian angel, because he came through for us in a time when we really needed a lot of help.”

Lucey said that Moordigian had a big heart and cared for people struggling in the community, and that he supported the center and believed in its mission.

“His generosity, vision and kindheartedness allowed us to not only survive, but thrive,” Lucey said. “His gift to us allows us to give back to the community.”

Alcidia Freitas Gomes, executive director of the Ag One Foundation and senior development director at the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, said that because Moordigian grew up on a grape ranch, he understood and appreciated the importance of agriculture.

Gomes said that Moordigian wanted to honor his parents, so he made an endowment fund in their names to the students of viticulture and enology.  

“He so much enjoyed supporting students that were pursuing degrees in viticulture and enology,” Gomes said. “He was someone that I was very fortunate to have known.”

Gomes said that Moordigian’s final gift to Fresno State is a microbiology laboratory in his name in the Jordan Agricultural Research Center that will open in spring 2016.

“He loved Fresno State,” Gomes said. “It was important that he be able to give back to his alma mater because it helped to change his life and so he wanted to make sure that he could do the same for others.”