Alex Kolandjian is a Partner in our Real Estate practice who volunteers his time behind the scenes at the Pomegranate Film Festival as part the organizing committee – a group of young Armenian professionals bound by a passion for film and culture. The Pomegranate Film Festival, established in 2006 stems from the Toronto Chapter of the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society. Now in its 15th year, the Pomegranate Film Festival is a unique community event celebrating Armenian inspired films.
Tell us how you got involved with The Pomegranate Film Festive?
I actually met one of the founders of the festival through the Armenian Bar Association (he’s also a lawyer). The festival focuses on Armenian-inspired film (be it the subject of a film, actors, directors, producers, etc.) so being of Armenian descent, it hits close to home. Pair it with my love of film and it was a natural fit.
In your volunteer role with the Festival, what are your activities and what do they involve?
I’m the head of sponsorship, so I deal directly with a lot of our business and individual sponsors, try and find new sponsors and co-ordinate other volunteers. I also love being hands-on with the festival with everything from screening films, event planning, selling tickets and welcoming patrons to the films. From time to time, I also introduce the films during the festival and run Q&A sessions with actors/actresses, directors and producers.
You’ve been with the Festival for eight years, what motivates you to stay involved?
It’s a way of giving back to my community and promoting the arts. Like I said, I really enjoy the films as well and meeting some of the actors, directors, producers. The other volunteers, sponsors and patrons are also fantastic people and many have become close friends and even clients over the years.
In your opinion, what is the most important work that the Pomegranate Film Festival does?
The goal of the Festival is to promote the arts, give a voice to the voiceless and draw attention to issues around the world through film. We’ve screened films from over 60 countries over the years with over 37,000 attendees. Through our POMgrant bursary program, the festival provides up-and-coming and aspiring film makers with funding towards their cinematic efforts.
What has been the most rewarding aspect about volunteering with this organization?
The festival has an on-going program with a local Armenian high school where the students have been creating their own short films. It’s amazing to see their work and be introduced to the next generation that will run the festival one day. I’m hoping that my daughter, Sophia, will take an interest when she is older. I’d love to think that the festival may inspire the next Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter, Ararat, Chloe, Remember) or Sev Ohanian (Searching, Run, Judas and the Black Messiah). Many of the films that we screen have serious subject matter, including genocide, human rights and war. It’s amazing that the festival draws attention to those issues.
While volunteering, you will meet people from all different walks of life. Have you had the experience where those paths cross with your law practice?
Absolutely. I’ve gained clients through my involvement in the festival, from individuals to businesses for corporate, real estate and litigation work.
Does this experience volunteering with the Pomegranate Film Festival give you a different perspective – that you bring to your law practice?
It really lets me see things from a different perspective and appreciate the trials and tribulations of artists and small business owners. As a part of a non-for-profit organization, the goal of the festival is not to make money, but rather to cover its expenses and contribute to the arts and the next generation of film makers. In terms of my practice, this helps me by putting myself in the shoes of business owners and understanding their varying goals.
What advice would you give to a new lawyer who is looking for an opportunity to give back to their community?
Find something you’re interested in (it doesn’t have to have anything to do with the law), figure out how you can get involved and give back. Find the time (having an incredibly patient wife helps) and try to balance work, family and volunteering.
To learn more about The Pomegranate Film Festival visit http://pomegranatefilmfestival.com/