3 February 2020
From January 22nd to 26th, the 3rd edition of “Bridges. East of West Film Days” was held in Brussels, at Bozar Center for Fine Arts. During five days, the public was able to see some fifteen films, in the presence of their directors, from the six countries forming the Eastern Partnership, an initiative of the European Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Armenian film programme was elaborated in collaboration with AGBU Europe.
Since its conception, the Film Days have aimed to shine a spotlight on the diverse film productions emanating from the countries of this region. If the films made in these countries share a rich Soviet heritage, each national film industry has followed their own distinct path since the dismantling of the USSR, each developing at their own pace.
On 22 January, nearly 300 people attended the opening night of the Film Days with the screening of the Ukrainian film “Atlantis” by Valentyn Vasyanovych, a price-winner at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. Supported by the European Commission for this third edition, the festival included among its guests Jeroen Willems, representative of the Eastern Partnership within DG NEAR, who expressed to the public, during the opening night, his support for the initiative which encourages meetings between countries of the region and also raises awareness among a European public still not very familiar with the region.
Among the films from Armenia, two of them were devoted to the city of Guymri and the life of its inhabitants, 30 years after the terrible earthquake. Arthur Sukiasyan’s “Wound” and Sona Simonyan’s “Great Expectations” showed, each with a very different approach, how the people of Guymri continue to live in the city where they grew up, a city that they love but where they have also greatly suffered. On the one hand, portraits of men living alone in cramped and precarious interiors that contrast with the vast spaces surrounding them, and on the other hand, the portrait of a family of musicians, in their small house full of life, also still haunted by the memories of the earthquake, passed on from one generation to another.
Another session at the festival paid homage to filmmaker Maria Saakyan, who died prematurely in January 2018, by screening her first feature film “Mayak”, The Lighthouse, which won awards at numerous international festivals when it was released in 2006. The first feature film directed by a woman in Armenia, “Mayak” is a dazzling film of great cinematic force. Set against the backdrop of the war in Karabakh in the 1990s, the film explores the emotional impact of the war, in the way that it shapes the inner world of the main character, a young woman who emigrated to Moscow but returns to the land of her childhood, in the midst of war.
Alongside the film screenings, the festival also organized an Industry Day dedicated to film professionals. This session brought together various European producers, mainly Belgian and French, for a presentation of current film projects in the region, in the form of a pitching session in the presence of the producers or directors.
Nairi Hakhverdi, scriptwriter of “The Driver”, pitched the film project representing Armenia to the producers in Brussels. “The Driver” had already been awarded the CineThink 2018 prize by GAIFF Pro – the professional platform linked to the Golden Apricot International Film Festival – with the support of AGBU Armenia. The film focuses on the issue of women’s emancipation in Armenian society and the challenges that it still represents for many women, especially after marriage.
The festival closed with the screening of another Ukrainian film, “Volcano”, Roman Bondarchuk’s astonishing tragicomedy which won the Golden Apricot Award for Best Film at the Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Yerevan in 2018.
Bridges. East of West Film Days was organized by Bozar in partnership with Arthouse Traffic, Golden Apricot International Film Festival (GAIFF), Georgian National Film Centre, Listapad Film Festival, Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU Europe) and Ukrainian State Film Agency, with the support of the European Commission, Screen.Brussels, the Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie Bruxelles and the embassies of the partner countries.