Award-winning actor and filmmaker
“I came to Toronto by train. At first I couldn’t find my words, but I insisted on finding an intimate connection with the pulse of my new home. I soon discovered that the city was shifting her culture, and that I would become part of this transformation. I let my voice and imagination narrate new stories, and celebrate Toronto as a meeting place.”
Genie and Gemini Award-winning actor Arsinée Khanjian recently appeared in French director Gerald Hustache-Mathiew’s highly praised film noir, POUPOUPIDOU, inspired by the life of Marilyn Monroe. She was also featured in the Taviani Brothers’ epic film THE LARK FARM, which had its premiere as a Special Presentation at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival. The film was shot in Bulgaria over two months and is based on the award-winning novel by the same name. She starred in the widely acclaimed romantic comedy SABAH by young Canadian director Ruba Nadda, as well as playing Ani in Atom Egoyan’s critically acclaimed ARARAT. For this work she was honoured with the Genie Award for Best Actress in a Feature Film and was also awarded Best Actress by the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa. Internationally, her screen-work also includes a starring role in Catherine Breillat’s highly provocative A MA SOEUR! (aka FAT GIRL), filmed on location in France. Her other credits include two feature films for Olivier Assayas: IRMA VEP and LATE AUGUST, EARLY SEPTEMBER as well as Michael Haneke’s CODE INCONNU, opposite Juliette Binoche. She was also seen in Don McKellar’s debut feature LAST NIGHT.
Khanjian is best known in North America for her ongoing collaboration with filmmaker Atom Egoyan, in whose features she has played important parts. This relationship is especially poignant in the film CITADEL, which documents their family holiday in Lebanon, Khanjian’s birthplace, during her first return visit after twenty-eight years. In addition to ARARAT, her roles for Egoyan have included the pregnant club-owner in EXOTICA; the anguished hippie mother in the Oscar®-nominated THE SWEET HEREAFTER, (for which she shared a special award for Ensemble Acting from the National Board of Review), and a remarkable star turn as an ultra-glamorous cooking show host (and mother) in FELICIA’S JOURNEY. Khanjian also starred as the high-school teacher Sabine in ADORATION, Egoyan’s Cannes Film Festival award-winning film in 2008.
As a filmmaker, Khanjian designed and created the thematic concept of STONE TIME TOUCH by director Garinee Torossian, which had its premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2007. For the 2010 edition of the prestigious Visions du Reel Film Festival in Switzerland, Khanjian was commissioned to write and direct ‘L’, a film meditation structured as a haiku. CALENDAR, which Khanjian starred in and co-produced, was the first foreign feature film ever shot in the newly independent country of Armenia, and has been hailed as a landmark intersection of documentary and fiction practices, showing at major film festivals around the world after its premiere at the Forum of Young Cinema in Berlin.Khanjian has been nominated for a Dora Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female in a Principle Role for her portrayal of an Iraqi mother in Judith Thompson’s PALACE OF THE END. Her extensive stage-work includes Irina Brook’s French-language premiere of Brian Friel’s modern classic, DANCING AT LUGHNASA, at the Theatre de Bobigny in Paris and the Theatre de Vidy in Switzerland. The hit play was remounted for a French national tour and special festival appearances in Japan and Germany. Also at the Theatre de Bobigny, she starred in a major new production of Goethe’s STELLA, directed by Bruno Bayen. In her home city of Toronto, Khanjian has starred in a number of plays, including two critically acclaimed productions at Theatre Passe Muraille, BEAST ON THE MOON, directed by Hrant Alianak, and WEDDING DAY AT THE CRO-MAGNONS, by the highly acclaimed Canadian playright Wajdi Mouawad and directed by Banuta Rubes. She starred in Marivaux’s Canadian English premiere, COUNTERFEIT SECRETS (LES FAUSSES CONFIDENCES), directed by John Van Burek. Khanjian appeared in the lead role in Factory Theatre’s world premiere of Florence Gibson’s HOME IS MY ROAD, directed by Ken Gass, in April, 2003. Early 2012, Khanjian will appear in Martin Crimp’s CRUEL AND TENDER for Canadian Stage.
On television, Khanjian starred in the CBC drama series, SIDE EFFECTS and has established a dynamic collaboration with Ken Finkleman, having starred in his series MORE TEARS, FOREIGN OBJECTS, and FOOLISH HEART, the latter of which she performed entirely in Armenian, and for which she earned both the Gemini Award for Best Actress in a Series, and the Best Actress Award from the Cinéma Tout Écran International Cinema and Television Festival in Switzerland. Khanjian has also played Anais Nin for the PBS series, MENTORS, guest-starred on the CBC/Salter Street hit comedy, MADE IN CANADA, and hosted a special presentation on the CBC’s OPENING NIGHT, dealing with the Holocaust – an issue with which Khanjian has been fervently involved, especially as an activist for international recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, the 20th century prototype of this horrific crime against humanity.
In addition to her acting credits, Khanjian, with a Master’s Degree in Political Science, has an extensive administrative background in the arts and governmental affairs. In 1989, she became the first person to hold the post of Associate Officer in the Film, Video and Photography office of the Ontario Arts Council. Holding that position through 1994, Khanjian oversaw and evaluated grant and funding programs for video, holography, and the then-burgeoning field of electronic media, as well as the not-for-profit organizations that provided ongoing support for the artists. During her tenure, she also formulated the guidelines for the First Projects program, which promoted access to funding programs for individuals with limited experience in film or video production. This initiative was crucial in widening content matter to include diversity in cultural, gender and sexual orientation representation.
From 1986 until joining the Arts Council, Khanjian was Bilingual Community Heritage Advisor for the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Communications. There, her many responsibilities included liaising with heritage organizations, assessing grant requests, and providing background briefings to the Premiere and Ministers.
Khanjian continues to be active as a volunteer for arts and community groups. She has recently joined the board of the renowned Canadian contemporary dance company, Dancemakers. She continues her involvement with the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, and is a past board member of The Power Plant, Canada’s leading contemporary art gallery. She helped organize the multi-media exhibit and conference on artistic responses to genocide, Remains to Be Seen, commissioned by the Zoryan Institute and presented at the Lennox Gallery in Toronto in 2009.
Awarded to people who have made a significant contribution to Canada, Khanjian received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal to mark the 50th anniversary of Her Majesty to the Throne in 2002. She was presented with the Queen Zabel Award by the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America in 2003. The same year, Khanjian was also the recipient of the Sourp Mesrob Mashdotz Award by His Holiness Catholicos Aram I in Antilias, Lebanon. The Medal is given to those individuals who have shown artistic, historic, and cultural excellence. Khanjian was presented with the 2005 Crystal Award for Creative Excellence by Women in Film and Television.