An Armenian Short Film Festival
A short film festival was held in Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city, which created a social dialogue rooted in understanding and curiosity. The audience was presented with three directors at Kasa Centre and their short films at an event organized by Gayane Astoyan. Each director highlighted three different issues, the first was the feelings of personal isolation, the second social isolation, and lastly a combination of the two, but more importantly we have the resulting difference between them.
But does it reflect back to what we see in Armenian society?
And why did these directors choose to focus on these specific topics?
By comparing the deeper meanings of each film I will explain why I came to the conclusion that there will be an exponential impact on society on account of today’s creative platforms, the Internet, and miscellaneous progress paved thus far by artists and cultural leaders.
Feelings of isolation will therefore decrease as the artistic community becomes stronger and more accessible. Quarantines will gradually fade out thanks to cultural and creative leaders and their communities.
Martin Poghosyan brings an intriguing short film to the screen, entitled “The Nameless.”
It was about the contrast of two separate subcultures, the “rabiz people”* and the so-called “colorful people.” As a young man was listening to music on a bench at six in the morning, another man came to sit next to him. The man sitting on the left was part of the “rabiz” culture, which is similar to the “guido” or “bro” culture in America.
The group discussion afterwards, which was led by film director Armen Vardanyan, revealed the director’s feeling of isolation. I thought it was interesting when someone pointed out that it’s not the “rabiz” people’s fault that the “colorful” ones don’t feel at home. And when he looked around and all he saw was rubbish, the one that felt at home saw beauty.
The second filmed, directed by Gohar Sargsyan, was about Armenia’s beloved composer, Komitas.
Shattering the Armenian ideal version of his image, Sargsyan revealed a very intimate and controversial side of Armenia’s treasured 20th century musician.** Vardanyan explained how it’s difficult to go against the grain in Gyumri, referring to her film as “provocative with heart.”
The legend as Armenians know it is that Komitas lived during the Armenian genocide and went mad because of what he witnessed.
The narrative motif of isolation was created through the use of imagery and symbolism. It begins with a man bearing a cross and inside the man are images of the genocide. He’s standing in front of a white screen while two men on either side of him are pulling him, tying him up, silencing him. Music notes are drawn on top of him as he composes.
Her film aimed to reveal the truth, that he didn’t go mad. He was actually exiled by the church and they sent him to a mental house for trying to write music outside of the church.
The feelings of isolation may still exist in modern society but it has improved drastically, when compared to the forced quarantine of Komitas.
Armen Vardanyan showed three separate commercials he directed, all dealing with victims of abuse and disabilities. He spoke about his film direction, saying you should never lie or exaggerate the truth; it’s boring that way anyway. He valued truth so much that he refused to use actors.
The lighting was artistically on point, as a close up of an elderly woman’s hands covered a family photo. The commercial closed with the caption, “We should not leave our elderly people alone.”
The second commercial was chilling. As an empty wheelchair rode through empty halls, it highlighted how people see a disabled person as nothing more than their wheelchair. It ended up with the message “Let’s live together.”
Lastly he showed a commercial narrated by a child in the format of a fairy tale, and it ends with the number to a hotline for domestic abuse.
Artists such as these film directors, who shed light on social issues and push the envelope, help to allay these feelings of social and personal isolation. Consequently they affect the way society views the so-called “colorful” ones.
The theme of these artistic compositions rings true in modern Armenian society. These feelings of isolation have deeper roots than just feeling different from others. They’re embedded in the Armenian culture, shaped by their long history of struggle and pain. Isolation is perpetuated throughout society and thus brought to Armenians’ everyday lives.
Personal and social isolation could be found worldwide, however when taking Armenia into account, it reveals much more about the nature of these eminent feelings of isolation. A land-locked country with its borders closed on either side, Armenia is located in the caucus region. Startling between Eastern Europe and the Middle East, it is situated in Eurasia. A Christian country surrounded by three Muslim countries to the west, east and south creates an apparent presence of cultural isolation.
The difference between the two types of isolation is crucial when viewing this social issue specific to this region of the world. The comparison shows how society’s reaction to creativity has changed. The “rabiz” man approached the artist in a polite fashion, whereas Komitas was approached in a very different manner. Artists are therefore able to flourish; as a result they are bringing voices to the voiceless, such as the disabled and abused. When you take a step back and view the bigger picture, you can’t help but notice that the future for Armenians will be much brighter than it’s past.
SOURCES AND MORE INFORMATION
* Rabiz music is pop music genre in Armenia with distinguished lyrics and music with elements of Armenian folk music. Spitakci Hayko is an example of a famous rabiz singer:
For a more detailed description about the “rabiz” also known as “kartu” subculture, read this article: “Women in Armenian Society Through the Kartu Subculture.”
** Gohar Sargisyan received her information through newspaper clippings from the beginning of the 20th centuries and DVDs of Garegin Chookasizyani. Click here for a biography about Komitas.