This month we’ve handed over cinema duties to London based Talar Demirdjian. She was sure to let us know that when our editor put in the call she was still in bed, barely awake and couldn’t think of a single Armenian film. Having bit off more than she could chew, she did what anyone would in said situation…call her mum who, of course, listed off the names of films like they were her own children. So we present to you Miss Talar Demirdjian’s mother’s top four Armenian movies as written by Miss Talar Demirdjian.
Ararat by Atom Egoyan
“Ararat is not so much a movie about the Armenian genocide as it is about the refusal to acknowledge it,” proclaimed the movie’s director, Egoyan, about the intent of his latest work. Better known for his movies “Chloe”, “Where the Truth Lies”, and more recently “The Captive”, starring Ryan Reynolds, in 2002 Egoyan directed Ararat, essentially a movie about making a movie about the Armenian Genocide. Edward Saroyan, an Armenian director, wants to make a Hollywood-type movie about the Armenian genocide, from the fictionalised point of view of a real historical figure, Arshile Gorky. Considered to be Egoyan’s most personal work thus far, the movie is a multi-layered inspection of the legacy of the Genocide, in which fiction and reality, memory and history, all become fluid and unpredictable.
Namus by Hamo Beknazarian
Namus means ‘honor’ in Armenian, and is, needless to say, the central theme of this movie. It’s a silent movie based on a novel by the same name written by Alexander Shirvanzade. It explores the notion of ‘honor’ in traditional Armenian society – in relationships, customs, and so-called scandals between men and women. The story is about an engaged couple, Seyran and Susan, who, according to custom, are prohibited from meeting before they are married, but they arrange secret meetings all the same. The film delves into the ensuing consequences of the couple’s actions and the devastating derailment of their lives. The entire movie can be watched on YouTube.
The Lark Farm by Paolo & Vittorio Taviani
This movie is not for the faint hearted. It starts off smooth and unsuspecting; a rich Armenian family, the Avakian family, are not worried about the rising tide of Turkish hostility towards their people, and do not believe that it will affect them personally in any way. This is eventually proven untrue when soldiers of the Turkish military show up at their house and brutally murder every male member while forcing the women to trek off into the Syrian desert all by themselves, to perish from starvation, fatigue or disease. The movie is in Italian, starring Spanish actress Paz Vega, better known for her roles in Spanglish and Sex & Lucia. In the Taviani brothers’ The Lark Farm, Vega delivers a moving performance as Nunik, one of the Avakian daughters.
The only time Armenian is heard in the movie is in the song Ov Siroun Siroun which Nunik sings at the climax of the movie. It will without a doubt startle all your senses.
I remember my Armenian dance group hosting the premiere of this movie at the cinema. After it ended, we all left the room, our hearts aching and with tears in our eyes.
Gikorby Sergei Israelyan
As Armenians, we grow up reading the tales – stories, novels, poems – of the great Hovhannes Tumanian. Many of his most prominent works, such as Gikor, were later turned into movies, and others even into Operas, such as the world renowned Anush opera. Gikor revolves around the protagonist by the same name, a 12 year old son of the peasant Hambo, who is sent to the city Tiflis to find work in order to financially support his family. He is quickly offered a job as an apprentice to Bazaz Artem, but his wife is not too happy about it. We follow Gikor’s life as his status as apprentice soon deteriorates to that of servant, treated badly and with few rights. The sad story reflects the roughness of past times, the destructive powers of poverty, and the enduring love of a family. The movie will make you appreciate your life and family even more than you already should.