You arrive in Yerevan, Armenia early morning. The taxi is taking you to the hotel, you enter the lobby and the music that meets you sounds familiar. Yes, Charles Aznavour sings La Boheme, wonderful, and a reminder of the singer and film actor’s Armenian origin. I am told that Aznavour was there the day before my arrival to open the festival, of which he is an honorary president, and I dare say that the Armenians are proud of him. Outside the Moscow Cinema (yes, Armenia was part of the Soviet Union) you find the Charles Aznavour Square, in the impressive Ararat brandy factory, there is a Charles Aznavour Alley of barrels etc. etc., and at this tenth edition of the festival the opening film was ”Tirez sur le Pianiste” (1960) by Truffaut, featuring Aznavour in the leading role.
The festival offers a huge programme. Feature films are in focus, competitions, retrospectives, Armenian panorama – but also a documentary competition section with films like the Georgian ”The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear” by Tinatin Gurchiani, ”Leviathan” by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Lithuanian Linas Mikuta’s ”Dzukija’s Bull” and Bulgarian ”The Last Black Sea Pirates” by Svetoslav Stoyanov.
I was there for two workshops, the ATCP (Armenian Turkish Cultural Programme) that included 10 short fiction and documentary projects to be discussed and pitched – two of them received awards for further development and production. The winners were the Armenian documentary project ”Our Atlantis” by Arthur Sukiasyan, who got 10.000$ to develop his film about a (now abandoned) camp for Armenians in Istanbul, and the short fiction ”The Woman in the Window” by Turkish director Doğan Baran Kurtoğlu and the producer Cenk Ozer. The latter, 8 mins. long, including animation scenes, is ready for shooting.
For Caucadoc, a great training and promotion initiative organised by Czech People in Need (that also arranges the One World Festival in Prague), Sakdoc from Georgia and Internews, I had the pleasure to have individual consultations with 6 Armenian documentarians, a fine mix of talent and experience plus to do a lecture entitled ”Documentary, the art form of the 21st Century?”
The festival takes good care of its guests offering a huge hospitality (excursion) programme and an endless list of dinners and receptions. Personally I profited from the generosity of the filmmakers at Bars Media Studio, who I have known for several years through their presence in European documentary workshops. The studio has produced – let me mention just two titles – ”The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia” (Inna Sahakyan and Arman Yeritsyan) and ”A Story of People in War and Peace” (Vardan Hovhannisyan). They gave me food and culture.