This documentary, which is the product of a unique collaboration between filmmaker Catherine Masud, Dildilian family historian Armen Marsoobian, and a talented group of University of Connecticut students, tells the story of that lost community through the voices of family descendants, supplemented by historical photographs and documents from the family archive.
Portraits of Unbelonging investigates the history of Ottoman Armenian emigration from the Ottoman east to the United States from the politically fraught and often violent 1890s to the end of Abdülhamid II's reign in 1909. Between 1896 and 1909, Ottoman Armenian subjects could emigrate legally only if they renounced their nationality and promised to never return to the empire. Having their photograph taken was a key step in the process. These photos recorded their “renunciation of nationality” and became one of the first uses of photography to police borders anywhere in the world.