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"The Attempt" Becomes Fifth SMC Film to Screen at Cannes

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By Jorge Casuso

September 16, 2020 -- A Santa Monica College (SMC) student film based on an assassination attempt that took place in Berlin a century ago will be screened at the world renown Cannes Film Festival this year.

“The Attempt” -- written and directed by Daniel Despart -- is the fifth film by an SMC student to be screened at the festival's Emerging Filmmaker Showcase.

The venue has been a stepping stone for several films that have been shortlisted for Academy Award nominations, college officials said.
"The Attempt film poster

"The Attempt" is based on the true story of Soghomon Tehlirian, a young man given the mission to assassinate the chief orchestrator of the Armenian genocide that killed millions during World War I.

In the short film, Tehlirian realizes the difficulty of killing another man and contemplates starting a new life with the woman he loves, film program officials said.

“My intention with this film was to inspire others to look further into the true story behind Soghomon Tehlirian and in turn, the Armenian Genocide as a whole," Despart said.

"We must never forget our past, and in this modern age of wholesale disinformation and double-speak, this has never been more pertinent."

The historical Tehlirian would assassinate Talaat Pasha -- the former Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire -- with a single gunshot fired in broad daylight on a Berlin street on March 15, 1921.

Tehlirian -- who became a national hero -- was tried for murder and eventually acquitted by a twelve-man jury.

Ara Woland, who plays the lead and co-produced the film, said he first heard Tehlirian's story from a history teacher when he was a boy.

“I was immediately drawn to his enigmatic character, and for years tried to bring his story to life,” Woland said.

“It’s truly an unbelievable story of a young man who carried the weight of a whole nation," he said.

"And it was a particular challenge to portray the side of him that carried the contradictions and the vulnerabilities inherent in being human, especially in one who survived unspeakable tragedy.”

SMC Film Professor Salvador Carrasco, who heads the film production program, called "The Attempt" "gripping and beautifully executed."

“The mission of SMC’s film program is to ensure that our students' films have artistic integrity and challenge the world we live in,” Carrasco said. “‘The Attempt’ is the perfect example of this."

The 2020 Finalist Films will be screened at a future Festival in Cannes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the American Pavilion website.

"In the meantime, we will virtually showcase these exceptional and diverse films to our American Pavilion audiences for a limited time," said Monika Skerbelis, programming director.

Each film will be followed by a scheduled live Q&A with the filmmakers, she said. Screening dates will be announced soon.

The other SMC shorts that have screened at Cannes' Emerging Filmmaker Showcase are “Solidarity,” “Cora,” “Spaghetti Romance” and “Life in Color.”

To learn more about SMC's film production program visit or email

The film program -- as well as the films the students produce -- is on YouTube as the “Santa Monica College Film Program” channel.

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