Shameful conduct at the Golden Apricot Film Festival in Yerevan that ends July 16…
“We want to inform you that the ARMENIANS: INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL VIEWS non-competition program is completely cancelled. We apologize for any inconveniences.” This was the content of an email that was sent to the filmmakers, whose films had been selected. Around 40 there were. The films were to be screened in a theatre that belongs to the Cinematographers’ Union of Armenia. The former director of the theatre Rouben Gevorgyants passed away June 23 and the new temporary director, when he discovered that there were two LGBT related films in the program, demanded to the festival to take them out. The festival would not do so and thus the whole program was cancelled.
Which naturally created a lot of protests from filmmakers, critics, rights activists et al., who wrote an official complaint including this: … “We condemn the actions
of both the Union of Cinematography of Armenia, that has dared to censor the special program of the Golden Apricot International Festival because of the themes broached in the films “Listen to Me: untold stories beyond hatred” and “Apricot Groves”, and the Golden Apricot management, that has sent a note to 37 film directors without any explanation, rather than putting all its efforts to restore the whole program in another venue.
By removing the program from the festival, the “Golden Apricot” is giving a green light to censorship in Armenia and confirming that in Armenia any film can be treated in an arbitrary way. Moreover, the Armenian people are well acquainted with the results of censorship when taking into consideration the incidents of censorship during Soviet times, by the Young Turks, by the Ottoman Empire and others… We are calling upon the organizers of Golden Apricot to protect the films selected by them, instead of issuing an apology, and to restore the whole program and screen all films in another place and to publicly condemn the actions of the Union of Cinematography of Armenia. Only by restoring the program can the festival maintain and protect its former reputation.”
Also from outside the country there was an immediate reaction – Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and his actress and activist wife Arsinée Khanjian posted an announcement on Facebook decrying the decision to cancel the slate of films. They also argue that the best way to honor a late cinematographer is to ensure that the medium continues to flourish and proliferate:
“We are very concerned about the censorship by the Union of Cinematographers and the following decision to cancel an entire programming by the Golden Apricot Film Festival. Atom was President of the Festival for almost ten years and it’s dismaying to see a festival that we both proudly advocated for within the international film community in the name of films and filmmakers that spoke of such urgent human rights issues can be suppressed, especially when these ideas need to be discussed and brought to light,” said the announcement by the two Diasporan artists.
“Surely there is no better way to honour the spirit of an important Armenian filmmaker, Rouben Gevorgyants, than by making sure new films from Armenian voices can be seen and shared. We have never heard of a program of new films being cancelled to commemorate a cineaste’s death as a sign of mourning and respect! This claim seems, therefore, quite preposterous. We urge the Festival to review this outlandish decision. We urge the Festival to present this programme of thought-provoking work which reflects the true diversity of voices present in Armenia today and the Diaspora alike,” added the announcement.
I was in contact with Inna Sakahyan, producer and director at Bars Media and right now working on a film with a LGTB topic. She sees it very difficult if not impossible to get funding in her own country or in the region and internationally there is topic-wise a huge competition. I saw the trailer, it is excellent. Help needed!