Natalie Shirinian and her wife Elizabeth Baudouin star as lovers in their short film Hello Mother — or Parev Mama in Armenian, which Shirinian grew up speaking at home. With the help of her wife, who produced the film, and a small crew, the writer-director made the film during COVID with just the essentials — and when their pre-pandemic GoFundMe didn’t quite produce all the funding they needed to make the movie, they sold a garage full of furniture to get the last cash infusion they needed to make it happen.
“Our fundraising kind of stopped because of COVID, and you can’t ask people to help raise money during that time for a film. It just didn’t seem right to us. So we were like, okay, let’s get clever here and figure it out,” Shirinian told MovieMaker. “We also had a garage full of furniture and we needed to get the remaining amount to make the film happen, so we sold a bunch of furniture and it worked out awesome.”
Hello Mother is screening virtually on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10 and 11, as part of New Filmmakers Los Angeles’ monthly film festival presented by the Academy. You can get tickets here. Hello Mother also won Best Short Film at the 2021 Big Apple Film Festival, Best Short Film at 2021 LA Film Festival Storytella, and The Audience Award at the 2021 Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival.
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Shirinian is pretty sure Hello Mother is the first movie to show an Armenian lesbian love story — much of which comes from her own life.
“I literally have looked everywhere. From peers and colleagues and people reaching out to me, they’re like, ‘We haven’t seen this before,’” she said.
“A lot of it is based on my own life. The moment of coming home late and being locked out on purpose and then being let back in, that actually happened. And a conflict between mother and daughter about being Armenian and gay, that whole thing is true,” she said. “I lived with my family for many, many, many years where I kept my sexuality quiet.”
Shirinian’s family is fully supportive of her identity — but not everyone in the Armenian LGBTQ+ community is so lucky.
“After I put this film out, I was getting messages from the community being like, ‘Thank you for representing us,’ and that felt really, really good.”
Shirinian and Baudouin also produced the film together, which they shot in one single day at a house they were renting in Studio City with just nine people on set. Helen Kalognomos plays Shirinian’s character’s mother in the movie, and — fun fact — Kalognomos is also Larry David’s makeup artist on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Shirinian went so far as to teach Kalognomos the Western Armenian dialect she grew up speaking at home. Half of the film is in English, while the other half is in Armenian with subtitles.
“I still speak Armenian with my parents, and English, so it’s like a mix in our household. I thought it was important to do it where I have the Americanized version of my life, which is with my love interest and my girlfriend, and then come home and have it all be in Armenian,” Shirinian said. “So it’s like the external world with the love interest and then the other world with the family.”
Hello Mother (Parev Mama) will be available to stream online in 2022.
Main Image: (L-R) Elizabeth Baudouin, Natalie Shirinian and Helen Kalognomos, courtesy of NES Films.