AFF Review: ‘Archie: An American Journey’

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AFF Review: ‘Archie: An American Journey’
The poster for "Archie: An American Journey." (Courtesy Image)
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By Denise Dunbar | [email protected]

Filmmaker John Sullivan told Alexandria Film Festival Executive Director Patti North that he made “Archie: An American Journey” because he “was interested in ordinary people who do extraordinary things.”

Sullivan’s 28-minute documentary tells the story of Archie Avedisian, whose parents were Armenian immigrants who found work in a Binghamton, New York shoe factory. From his humble upbringing to his 47-year career starting and running Boys Clubs across the country, Avedisian’s mixture of courage and determination helped him effect important change in the communities where he served.

From Binghamton, Avedisian’s journey took him to Brooklyn, New York; East St. Louis, Illinois; California; Seattle, Washington and finally Washington D.C., where he ran what became “Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington” for 26 years.

Along the way, Avedisian integrated the East St. Louis club in the 1950s at a time when the city itself was strictly segregated by enlisting the help of a respected Black judge. He was responsible for allowing girls to become members of the Boys Club in D.C. and for renaming it the Boys and Girls Club. He also opened clubs in housing projects in D.C. because he felt the need was greatest there.

Avedisian’s journey was a quintessential American story not just because he was a child of immigrants who made good, or because his career took him cross country and back, but because where he saw need, he was fearless in trying to help.

“If you don’t feel that anyone cares about you, you feel empty,” Avedisian said in the film. Countless children grew up knowing they were cared for because of Archie.

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