4 February 2019
For the second edition of “Bridges. East of West Film Days” at Bozar, Armenia made its entrance as a country covered by the festival with a selection of films, programmed in close partnership with the Armenian General Benevolent Union – AGBU Europe. Two feature length films, in the presence of their directors, and four short films were showcased during the course of the festival.
“Hot Country/Cold Winter”, released in 2016, is David Safarian‘s latest film. Graduated from the famous VGIK Film Institute in Moscow, Safarian stands in the direct lineage of the Soviet school of cinema. Set during the energy crisis of the early 90′s in Armenia, his film tells the personal account of a couple of artists finding their way to cope with the harsh living conditions of the period, through freezing cold winters without heat, sparse electricity, food rationing but warm hearts. It is the story of a people and a country as a whole, striving to survive and to stay human despite the hostility of the environment, despite “the inhumane circumstances” as Safarian says. These hard conditions portrayed in the film are also reflected in the very production of the film, which took about 20 years to complete, due to obvious budget issues and the difficulties faced by the film industry in Armenia.
In this context, each film produced in Armenia is a battle that filmmakers have to gain, with patience and determination. If Harutyun Khachatryan works as a film director since the 1960′s, he is also the co-founder of the Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Yerevan and served as its director for many years. Considering himself more like a sociologist than a professional filmmaker, Khachatryan’s films have this powerful capacity of making us feel and experience the world that he recreates through an acute sense of observation and a strong cinematography. His film “Border”, made in 2009 and set in the post-war context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, follows the journey of a female buffalo found at the border with Azerbaijan and struggling to find her place in exile, in a foreign farm away from her home(land). In a strikingly powerful way, it makes us feel for this buffalo, immersing us in her internal experience. In the end, the film is a powerful poetic reflection on the consequences of war, on the sense of belonging as experienced universally.
The young generation of filmmakers were also represented in the Armenian programme, with a selection of three short films, growing between poetry and political activism.
The first film, “Tombé”, is a short fiction directed by Diana Kardumyan which touches upon the women rights issue in Armenia. A fish tank standing in a restaurant serves as a metaphor for Armenia, comparing the country to a fish in an aquarium, turning round and round without any complaint, despite the reality of the issues facing the Armenian society.
The second film is a road-documentary featuring Atom Egoyan and his wife Arsinée Khanjian. “Way Back Home” directed by Seda Grigoryan who was present at the screening, portrays this crucial moment in the advancement of civil society in Armenia when prominent figures from the Diaspora started to engage in Armenia and supported the movement towards democracy, redefining the relationship between Armenia and its Diaspora.
The last short film, “The Moon, the Sun and the Musketeers” directed by Vahagn Khachatryan, is set in a remote and ancient village between Portugal and Spain. The film drives us away from Armenia geographically, while its formal approach, its sensibility and its subject brings us close to the Armenian imaginary. The daily routine of the villagers, paced by rituals and the rhythm of the church bells, is caught up by the mystery of the past once the night falls down, allowing the villagers “to cast a glance to the other side”, as described by the filmmaker.
The film programme of the festival also included cinematic treasures from the past and from the region. In this context, the newly restored version of Paradjanov’s short film “Hakob Hovnatanyan” about the 19th century painter from Tbilissi was presented at the closing ceremony of the Film Days, by film restoration specialist Daniel Bird.
Coordinating the Armenian film programme on behalf of AGBU Europe, Céline Gulekjian expressed her conviction that “this contribution of AGBU Europe in the promotion of Armenian films abroad is a meaningful way to pursue AGBU’s support to ongoing initiatives and projects in Armenia led by GAIFF Pro (Cinethink, C2C Platform) to help the career of emerging directors and to foster the development of co-productions in the region”.
For more information on AGBU supported projects Cinethink and C2C, please click HERE.
To access the press review covering this event, please click HERE.
Partners of Bridges. East of West Film Days: Arthouse Traffic / Georgian National Film Centre / GAIFF (Golden Apricot Film Festival) / AGBU Europe (Armenian General Benevolent Union) / Centre socio-culturel arménien de Belgique (CSCAB)/ Ukrainian State Film Agency / The embassies of Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Belarus.