Art Imitates Life: First Armenian action film released about Karabakh war

Vardanyan is Armenia's Rambo in "Destiny"
Last week “Destiny”, the first fictional film about the Karabakh war, was shown in Yerevan and Stepanakert.

Gor Vardanyan, the scriptwriter, major actor and the producer of the film, had been thinking and dreaming of shooting a film about the Karabakh war long ago.

“Every time I initiated it I felt we were not ready yet. My previous films – the “Choice”, “Unwritten Law” -- were a kind of preparatory, experimental films. We dared to reflect on this topic only after them,” says Vardanyan. At a cost of $3.8 million, “Destiny” is the most expensive film ever made in Armenia.

The full hall of the Moscow cinema from time to time interrupted the “action” film with applause and fevered excitement.

The nearly two-hour long film tells about the beginning of the Karabakh movement, particularly the Operation “Koltso” (“Ring” in Russian) organized with the joint efforts of the Soviet Army and the Azerbaijani police.

“The plot of the film is based on true historical facts, we have used some 300 true stories and the heroes have their prototypes in the real life,” says Vardanyan.

Some of the main heroes have been participants to the war and the greater part of the villagers included in the mass scenes are the heroes of the true stories.

The events of the film begin developing in 1985 in Afghanistan where Gor, the main hero, was on military service. He, along with his special detachment appears surrounded and only he and his friend Zhenya survive. Saving the friend’s life, Gor is taken to prison by the mojaheeds and only a happy accident saves his life. Later he meets Zhenya, but on the other side of the barricades.

Returning to the native village Gor decides to leave his military life and devote himself to family.

Later in 1991 the Azerbaijani OMON (Russian abbreviation for Militia Detachment for Special Purposes) threatens Gor’s village. The villagers decide to resist, but Gor refuses, as he doesn’t believe they can forcedly deport Armenians and he trusts in the Soviet Army he has served in.

This confidence turns fatal for Gor as he loses his parents and the seven-year-old son.

“We don’t have the right to die; we have to fight to live,” the hero says, rallying a band of untrained villagers who’ve never held a weapon, but are driven by survival.

“The plot of the film is structured to spread the idea that one should rely only on his own forces and that is the only way to win,” says Vardanyan.

The anti-hero of the film, the Azeri head of police, is played by war veteran Martin Yesayan who was wounded three times in Karabakh and also taken prisoner.

“It was very difficult to embody someone you hate with all your essence, but I found supernatural force in me to play the role, but after the show in Yerevan I felt bad because of the excitement and an ambulance was called. Simply no one could embody that man better: I fought against them and know their every step and movement,” Yesayan told ArmeniaNow by phone from Karabakh.

Artistic director Armen Mazmanyan is also a veteran who has also participated in the Karabakh war and plays a character similar to his own experience.

“The creation of this film was an extremely important event, the Azerbaijanis have already five fiction films they used to spread the history they want across the world,” Mazmanyan says. “For me personally it was dramatically difficult to play in this film and to recall all those things I have experienced in my real life.”

After the ceasefire Azerbaijanis indeed managed to shoot 5 fiction films, while this is Armenia’s first.

“Better late than never, the new generation will at least see it and will be raised with this spirit of a hero. Of course, no one has forgotten those cruel years but film is a necessity, since the strong national spirit should be trained by this kind of means,” says wirter Razmik Davoyan.

Hayk Bakrjian, producer of the film in the US Eagle’s Nest Studio believes the film is about not only Armenians but all the people who have passed the road.

“At this very moment in different places of the world thousands of people are suffering like those in Sudan, Iraq, and I hope voicing this truth at least one such event will be prevented,” says Bakrjian.

He plans to support creating the continuation of the film, which, he believes, should present the necessity to keep the victory and the hardships it has.