“Production - Armenia - The Apricot Revolution” - this is the headline of the article on Armenian cinema by David D’Arcy published in Screen International on 25 July, 2008. The name of the article is very significant, highlighting the fact that Golden Apricot International Film Festival, formed years ago in Yerevan, upraised as a revolution in overcoming the deep crisis of national film-production in Armenia and integration of Armenian cinematography in world cinematographic process. D’Arcy continued: “… At the Golden Apricot Festival … international cinema is meeting the culture of this small nation whose Diaspora reaches from the former Soviet Union to Paris, Santa Monica and Toronto...” Armenia does not have much film production today, but Armenia, country with the settled tradition of film production dated back to the beginning of XX century, has acquired a new symbol – an international film festival, Golden Apricot. By this new symbol Armenian cinema has got known worldwide. The First Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival was held in 2004. Since then the festival is being held annually every July during apricot maturing. It has fast become a premier destination for filmmakers of Armenian origin all over the world. Their films are presented in one of the competitive section entitled Armenian Panorama. Such concept had a serious substantiation under itself: owing to certain historical circumstances Armenian filmmakers had successfully worked and are still working worldwide outside the historical native land, their films are participants of prestigious festivals, and, having collected all together, it is possible to create a certain space of a national cinema. Just let’s remember the Hollywood classic Rouben Mamoulian, or one of the most successful directors of France Heinri Verneuil (it is Achod Malakian’s artistic pseudonym) or not less successful Frenchman Robert Guediguian or famous Canadian-Armenian film-director Atom Egoyan whose name is strongly connected to the Golden Apricot. All the films included in this program are Golden Apricot
IFF nominees and winners of last years and all of them in one way or another carry the features of a cultural phenomenon, which might be named as “New Independent Armenian Cinema”. This cultural phenomenon is still in formation process and is inclined to transformations, but still a number of common patters and components can be pointed out. Which are the essential components of what we can call “New Independent Armenian Cinema”? New names, new thematic axis plus a search for new ways of expression and visual storytelling. The new names are Aram Shahbazyan, Maria Saakyan, Jivan Avetisyan, Arman Yeritsyan, Inna Sahakyan, Arnaud Khayadjanian and others. Even with a quick look, the common features, specific for this generation, become apparent. For example, many of the mentioned directors came to filmmaking through documentaries. And this a principal point, which in many ways determined the direction of the creative expeditions during last 25 years. The new generation directors did not cut the umbilical cord that connected them to reality. Hunting out their heroes, their themes and subjects in real life, constructing their dramaturgy on the principle of juxtaposing documentary fragments, arming themselves with the technique of observation and fixation, they conquered the borderline between fiction and non-fiction film. Meanwhile all mentioned films demonstrate a search for national identity on all levels – social, historical, individual. The questions are the same: who are Armenians? Where did they come from and where are they going? How does an Armenian perceive the modern world and how does he feel in it? Straight or indirect, these questions are present in most of the films. It is from these questions that the living tissue of contemporary Armenian cinema is being woven. Basically, this is an indirect and personalized answer to all the political and social convulsions that shook Armenia during years of independence.
Film Critic, Artistic Director of the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival
Armenia/ Lithuania/ 2014/ Drama/ 81’
Director: Jivan Avetisyan
Scr.: Arnold Aghababov, Karine Khodikyan
Cinematographer: Narek Martirosyan
Cast: Henrik Shahbazyan, Mary Movsesyan, Hovhannes Khoderyan, Sos Janibekyan, Arthur Manukyan, Marineh Gabrielyan, Sergey Magalyan, Karen Jhangirov, Vahagn Galstyan, Narek Nerisiyan, Satenik Hakhnazaryan, Greta Mejlumyan, Babken Chobanyan, Ara Sargsyan, Grigor Gabrielyan, Rehina Budnik
STORY: The film is about the consequences of war; an incomplete childhood, regret for the shattered life and glory of rediscovered human values.
ONE, TWO, THREE
Armenia/ Documentary/ 74’
Director: Arman Yeritsyan
Scr.: Arman Yeritsyan
Cast: Hovsep Jibiryan, Mikhail Zinoviev, Anahit Petrosyan, Aida Mnatsakanyan, Mariam Aghajanian, Jasmina Karapetyan
STORY: Through the amazing, heartfelt, and sometimes hilarious story of Mikhail, the film shows the journey of The Chosen Ones. It collects each character’s personal narrative and artfully weaves them together around the main protagonist. Although each story is deeply personal, and the struggles of The Chosen Ones are defined by their lives in Armenia, the larger issues addressed by the film are much more universal. In every country, every city, and every community people grow old and need more care and attention. Mikhail and his friends take the first steps and in the sunset of their lives, finally start to live a full life.
ENDLESS ESCAPE, ETERNAL RETURN
Armenia/ Netherlands/ Switzerland/ 2014/ Documentary/ 90’
Director: Harutyun Khachatryan
Src.: Harutyun Khachatryan, Mikayel Stamboltsyan
Cinematographer: Vrej Petrosyan, Suren Tadevosyan
Cast: Hayk Khachatryan, Ruben Hakhverdyan, Gevorg Aghekyan, Stepan Hovhannsiyan, Yura Hovhannisyan, Sayat Ayvasyan, Hayk Alexanyan, Volodya Asatryan
STORY: Between 1988 and the first years of the 1990s, three events shook Armenia: a terrible earthquake, the Nagorno- Karabakh war and the break-up of the Soviet Union. Following this, many people chose the path of exile. It’s from these same years that HarutyunKhachatryan begins his painful explo¬ration of the alienation and uprooting induced by this kind of event. He decides to follow the path of one of these men, a man of the theatre who went elsewhere in search both of the absolute that art can provide and of peace of mind. He has spent a large part of his life in north-eastern Siberia and is now stuck in Moscow, waiting to cover the last stage of his return to Armenia, the country of his family and his ancestors. Through comings and goings in time and space, the filmmaker recounts a deeply moving epic tale of a rebellious man, an extraordinary storyteller whose mental and physical space are diminishing with age. This character, a huge dose of humanity, who came and left again, makes this film a work reminiscent of the literature of Dostoyevsky.
MAP OF SALVATION
Armenia/ 2015/ Documentary/ 88’
Director: Aram Shahbazyan
Src.: Svante Lundgren (дополнителен сценарист / additional screenplay writer), Anna Sargsyan (сценариост / script writer)
Cinematographer: Arthur Gharayan
STORY: The film tells about the humanist movement that emerged as a wave of protest and resistance during human tragedies in the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, especially the Armenian Genocide. The film is a documentary and is built on the basis of actual events only. The heroes of the film are humanists known to history, real people, who have witnessed the massacres of the Armenians. They are five, European, humanist women: Maria Jakobsen (Denmark) and missionaries Karen Eppe (Denmark), Bodil Bjorn (Norway), Alma Johansson (Sweden), HedwigBul (Estonia). They are witnesses of the Armenian Genocide and the founders of shelters for Armenian children and women who barely escaped death. Their extremely dramatic encounter with a tormented people unknown to them was fatal for these great humanists. And they left their comfortable lives in Europe, came to the Armenian land from different countries, and devoted themselves selflessly and unconditionally to the people residing on that land. The film is told by Finnish historian Svante Lundgren. Passing through the path of mission of the films heroes, he draws a new map: The Map of Salvation. The film is dedicated to the memory of great humanists as a payment of gratitude on behalf of the entire Armenian nation, other nations espousing humanitarian views, and generally all people who cherish noble values.