Have you ever heard the haunting, ethereal, emotional vibrations of a theremin in the hands of a master?
Do you enjoy art, glamour, style, and beauty?
Have you ever seen home movies from the aristocracy of pre-Revolutionary Iran? Are you a fan of opera? Of classical Armenian music or Persian laments?
Have you ever been ushered through the doors of the underground party scene of 1980s and 1990s New York? Club Edelweiss? The Limelight? The Pyramid? Have you even been curious about the high art of gender illusionism, or taking a glimpse of the nightly club performances?
Have you ever been bullied for being who you are? Did you ever want to fight back?
The answers, and experiences to these questions, live in Armen Ra's story.
We've crafted an incredibly moving, entertaining, and revealing feature length documentary, and now ask for your help to bring it to the screen.
In order to maintain the integrity of Armen's life story, we want to fund this project independently. Without your help, these stories will stay hidden as before, never to reach the light of the screen, the music silent to your ears, the beauty unseen by you.
By donating, you will help us gather and employ:
- Post Production Services
- Promotional Materials
Your support will ensure our best chance of success in making a powerful, poignant film. AND generate the ability to bring it to the Festival Markets.
Additionally, we plan on filming a once in a lifetime performance by Armen to be included in the film, documenting the experience of his music for ages to come with beautiful precision and artistry.
Aside from these big ticket items, smaller things like catering, props, and location costs will be covered by your donations and contributions.
Please know that our hearts are fully invested in this project because we believe completely that Armen's story is worth listening to. For those who wish to be inspired by it or for those who simply want to be entertained, "When My Sorrow Died" will do that without question.
Please support this film, support the filmmakers, and support Armen Ra!
Armen Ra Biography
Born into a life of privilege, fine art, opera, and honor. Reared to be a gentleman and the last heir to a sizable fortune. Armen Ra was prince of not just any home. His aunt was a renowned opera singer, musicologist, and a graduate of the famed Santa Cecilia Conservatory of Music in Rome. His Mother was a concert pianist and his Father was a jazz enthusiast and saxophonist. Their home was frequented by artists, writers, and such musical luminaries as famed soprano Luciana Serra and French Armenian legend Charles Aznavour, to name a few. Armen was surrounded by talent.
What would have been a yearly summer vacation abroad became an event that changed his life forever. The Iranian Revolution of 1978 forced Armen Ra and his family to remain in the United States. He was never to return home again.
Exiled in America and forced into school, unable to speak a word of English, Armen had to adapt and adapt fast. He endured years of abuse from bullies, who ridiculed him for being feminine and from Iran. Although diminutive in stature, Armen fought back. The only way he could survive the world that he was forced into was to create his own world. After being expelled from school in the 10th grade, for fighting, Armen could no longer accept what his life had become and set out to create that unique world.
He moved to NYC at the age of 16, where he enmeshed himself in jewelry design and the drag scene. Armen was in a city that seemed boundless, at a time when being young and gay was dangerous.
He became an integral part of the famed Club Kid scene and was lauded as one of the most beautiful drag queens of his time. Armen was accepted into the social elite while learning the ways of the mean streets as an underground hustler.
At times homeless, at times staying with wealthy friends, and at times in crack hotels, the story spirals into drug addiction, alcoholism, and self destruction.
Attracting the attention of such luminaries as Vali Myers, Tim Burton, Andy Warhol, and Salvador Dali, hanging out at the Chelsea Hotel, performing in drag at all the "IT" clubs, and rubbing shoulders with greats of the entertainment industry, everyone wanted to be around Armen, except Armen himself.
Armen's friends started to die of AIDS, murder, drug overdoses, and suicide. But he survived. Divine intervention led him to what would essentially save his life: a voice. Armen taught himself to play the Theremin, the first electronic instrument ever invented, in 1920, by Russian physicist Leon Theremin. He mastered the most difficult musical instrument, refining his talent to the point of affecting people emotionally. This "gift from the gods" changed the direction of his life from slow suicidal escapism to total devotion.
A truly remarkable being, Armen tells his life stories, which read like mythology, yet are painfully true, with the sharpest of wit, a cutting sense of humor, and deep sincerity.
His story is encouraging to the discouraged, his music is the soother of the sad, and his mission is to bring beauty and compassion into a world in chaos.
Armen Ra is an alchemist with the ability to turn horror into beauty with such grace and power that it has to be seen and heard to be believed.
Intrigued by this strange and one-of-a-kind instrument (invented by a Russian professor/physicist in 1920, officially giving birth to Electronic Music), Armen Ra began to study the Theremin in 2001 and his debut performance came later that year when he shared the stage with Antony Hagarty and his orchestra (Antony & The Johnsons) in New York City. Soon afterward, Armen’s first solo concert at The Gershwin Hotel was covered by CNN and attended by many of NYC’s finest glitterati, artists, and promoters.
Armen’s career quickly grew into a wave of performances at upscale venues in both the United States and Europe: The United Nations, The New Museum (NYC), Disney Concert Hall (L.A.), Wiener Konzerthaus Mozartsaal (Vienna), and Villa Petraia (Florence, Italy). Also in the Fall of 2009, L.A.’s premiere venue, REDCAT, hosted a performance of his critically-acclaimed multimedia piece, METAL (A Tribute to Maria Callas), which originally debuted at The New Museum NYC.
Armen Ra collaborated with legendary British recording artist Marc Almond, on his 2010 release, Varieté.
Armen Ra is considered one of the finest Thereminists in the World today. His debut solo CD, "Plays The Theremin" (released on Bowl & Fork Records in Summer 2010), showcases Classical Armenian laments and folk songs, representing both Armen’s Heritage and his very first musical influence.
Armen Ra opened for Nick Cave and Grinderman on their 2010 N. American tour.
He collaborated with David Tibet, founder of Current93, on their 2011 release "Honeysucke Aeons" and garnered rave reviews
The filmmakers would like to thank the following artists for their kind cooperation and generosity:
Carol Alongi Khoylian
Jamey O' Quinn
Super 8mm drag film courtesy of Reavis Eitel
Yma Sumac video courtesy of Jimmy James
Cover picture courtesy of Reavis Eitel
Hair and make up by GOD!