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Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Monday, 17 May 2010 15:37 UK
From Ararat to Zion via Swansea Film Festival
St James' Church in Jerusalem
The 12th century Armenian Cathedral of St James in Jerusalem is close to the entry gate to the Armenian quarter

Far from the glamour of Cannes, a film about how a small nation has preserved spiritual traditions has won plaudits at the Swansea Bay Film Festival.

Four years in the making, and narrated by Hollywood actor Aidan Quinn, From Ararat to Zion, won the award for best European documentary.

Written and produced by Father Mesrop Aramian, it looks at the role of Armenians in the Holy Land.

Edited in New York, it was filmed in Egypt, Turkey, and Israel.

Some times small nations do precious things for humanity
Father Mesrop Aramian

A landlocked country with Turkey to the west and Georgia to the north, Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion.

It has a population of 3.1 million, but it has a much larger diaspora, many of whom live in Russia, France, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, the United States and Israel.

Holy Sepulchre

In Jerusalem's old city, the Armenians are among the primary custodians of a site venerated by some Christians as the place of the death and resurrection of Jesus - the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The film From Ararat to Zion follows the paths taken by Armenian pilgrims between two focal points in history, from Mount Ararat to Zion, from A to Z.

head and shoulders picture of Fr Aramian on location
Father Mesrop Aramian got the idea for the film while on a pilgrimage

Mr Aramian said: "It's really a film to help people understand the Armenian identity and their unique aspects of history in the Holy Land."

"Some times small nations do precious things for humanity," he said.

"Pilgrims were described as the ones who saw death," he said, "they knew that there was a 50 percent chance that they would die on the way."

The film shows the Holy Sepulchre at night, as well as Mount Sinai in Egypt, the Monasteries of the Judean Desert, and the summit of Mount Ararat.

Mr Aramian trained as a theoretical physicist and engineer in Moscow before becoming a priest, but sees nothing unusual about his change of direction.

"My scientific interest is always with me," he said, "history, science and religion have run parallel, it's only in the 20th century that a mythology has built up that there is a contradiction - personally I find no contradiction."

The film will now be shown in Moscow, but he hopes that ultimately it will reach a larger audience and be screened on a mainstream television channel.

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