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From Rising Star to Cultural Advocate: Dina Madison Empowers Armenian Voices Through Film

21:03, June 15

In conversation with STYLE, Dina Madison [Magpapian] reflects on her recent Rising Star Award at the French Riviera Film Festival, shares insights into her creative process, and provides a sneak peek into her upcoming movie projects.

The 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival has witnessed a remarkable increase in Armenians, with both the local and Diaspora communities making history on the French Riviera. Among the notable achievers is Diana Madison, a talented actress, producer, and YouTuber who has recently made waves at the Croisette.


Diana's cinematic journey spans several years, and within just two visits, she has managed to make a significant impact, culminating in the prestigious Rising Star Award from the French Riviera Film Festival. Madison spoke about her journey at Cannes:

My first time at Cannes was five years ago, and it holds a special place in my heart. I was three months pregnant with my son, Christian, and faced a major setback in my career. Despite the challenges, I never imagined that I would be returning to Cannes years later, especially as an award-winning rising star.

It was clear we were tracing the contours of a transformative journey. Our conversation revealed the indomitable Armenian spirit, coupled with an insatiable passion for creativity - the hallmarks of an individual ready to stage a formidable comeback.

As it stands, Madison finds herself occupied with an upcoming Armenian comedy film. This exciting venture sees her collaborating with a famous studio (as of now, the name of the studio remains confidential). Madison described the process of making the film and the vision behind it:

The Armenian comedy is currently in development, and we are revising the script. I have an amazing team of Armenian writers and producers working on this project with me. Initially, we pitched it as a show to platforms like Netflix and Amazon, but now we are taking the independent film route. The movie revolves around the experiences of being a first-generation Armenian-American, drawing inspiration from my own life. It's a light-hearted comedy that showcases our rich Armenian heritage and explores the challenges of growing up as an immigrant kid in Los Angeles.


Both the local and global Armenian communities eagerly anticipate seeing their experience represented on the big screen, especially since Armenian actors are prominently featured. Diana provided some details on the casting:

I will be acting in the movie myself, and we have reached out to some incredible talent. However, there is one person I have in mind to play my mother, and I'm really hoping to have her on board. Fingers crossed that it works out!

Throughout our engaging dialogue, Diana remained vague regarding the involvement of Armenian stars such as Angela Sarafyan, her past collaborator Kim Kardashian, or even the legendary Cher in the project. Diana explained that the release date of the movie is not finalized:

It's difficult to pin down an exact release date at this point. We are currently updating the script and will soon be pitching it to networks. As with any project, there is a process involved, but we have been receiving positive feedback and interest from various producers. So, while it's challenging to provide a specific timeline, there is a lot of momentum behind this project, and I believe it's the right time to tell this unique story.

The project holds significant importance for Armenian representation in the entertainment industry because it gives Armenians visibility. Even though the movie has not been released, Diana has already highlighted the Armenian voice in both Hollywood and in the French Riviera. Diana hopes that by sharing her Armenian-American experience, she can connect with a wider audience:

This project is driven by a purpose beyond personal success. I want to showcase the beauty of our Armenian heritage and shed light on the experiences of immigrant kids, especially those caught between two cultures. Growing up, I often felt like an imposter, not fully belonging to either world. I believe many immigrant children can relate to this sentiment. By telling this story, I hope to spark conversations, bridge gaps, and foster a sense of unity. It's an opportunity to create understanding and celebrate our shared experiences as human beings.

Diana also stressed that her own personal experiences will influence the film:

One memory that stands out is our family's unique tradition of having picnics at the cemetery during summer vacations. While it may sound unusual to some, it was an important part of our culture. I remember jumping around tombstones as a kid, not fully understanding the significance at the time. The cemetery picnics and the April 24 events had a profound impact on me. They symbolize the blend of joy and sorrow that is so inherent in Armenian culture. It made me realize that even in the face of tragedy, we find ways to come together, celebrate life, and honor our heritage. These experiences have inspired certain scenes in the movie, where we capture the essence of these cultural traditions and the emotional journey of the characters.

While storytelling is crucial in the filmmaking process, the production itself plays a vital role. Diana explained the numerous challenges that were encountered and the support she received in overcoming them:

One of the biggest challenges has been finding the right balance between authenticity and accessibility. I want the movie to resonate with both Armenian and non-Armenian audiences. It's crucial to capture the essence of our culture without alienating those who may not be familiar with it. Additionally, securing funding for an independent film can be a hurdle. However, I have been fortunate to have a supportive team and passionate individuals who believe in the project. We are navigating these challenges together and making progress.

Diana refers back to her experience as a YouTuber in engaging a wide and diverse audience:

Being a YouTuber has allowed me to connect directly with my audience and understand their interests and perspectives. It has taught me the importance of authenticity and storytelling. I strive to bring that same level of authenticity to this movie.

Diana embraces every prospect to elevate the Armenian voice, an ethic that permeates all areas of her work—even for her other projects such as her skincare line. She insists on sourcing ingredients directly from her ancestral homeland, choosing authenticity over cost efficiency. For Madison, it's less about profitability and more about creating awareness of her vibrant cultural heritage.

Even on prestigious platforms such as the Cannes Film Festival, she manages to weave subtle 'Armenian references' into the narrative. This is aptly exemplified by her choice of attire from POMMIE—an exclusive showcase for the best Armenian designers. Madison's deliberate decisions echo her unwavering commitment to her roots. She hopes her efforts to highlight the Armenian voice can help bridge cultural connections:

I hope the audience ultimately finds common ground with the characters, regardless of their background. It's my desire to foster understanding and appreciation for diverse cultures, while also celebrating the human experience in all its complexities. If even one person walks away from the movie feeling seen and understood, then I would consider it a success.


Victoria Pisarenko

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