Golden Apricot: Int’l film festival picking up pace in Yerevan

Apricots are not affordable to many in Armenia this year because of their unnormally high price, but cinema lovers can enjoy instead Golden Apricot, an international film festival held in Yerevan every year since 2004.

Three days into the weeklong event that commenced on Sunday, Yerevan has turned into a real cinema city. A total of 120 international and Armenian films will have been shown at cinemas and other halls in the Armenian capital by the time the international festival ends on July 18.

Noted filmmakers offer master classes at the Arno Babajanyan Concert Hall, while jazz performances are offered in downtown Charles Aznavour Square, right in front of the Moscow Cinema that is one of the major venues hosting Golden Apricot film shows along with the Nairi Movie House, the Puppet Theater, the Narekatsi Art Union and the National Picture Gallery of Armenia.

Evenings in Yerevan this week end in open-air screenings of films at the capital’s Boghossian gardens and at The Club, a popular indoor gathering place.

“For us it is very important to bring the world closer to Armenia and Armenia closer to the world, which becomes a reality during this very festival,” says Ralph Yirikian, general manager of Armenia’s leading mobile phone operator VivaCell-MTS, which acts as the main sponsor of Golden Apricot. Yirikian this year has received a platinum medal bearing the name of “Knight Mantashyan”, a recognized 19th-century Armenian philanthropist.

The “Knight Mantashyan” silver medals have also been awarded to the Moscow Cinema director, the Nushikyan Association president and the Dolmama restaurant director. Other supporters have also been presented with medals of the Ministry of Culture.

In the past days of the festival [great Armenian film director] Sergey Parajanov’s Thaler Award was posthumously given to French-Armenian film director Henri Verneuil, which was collected by his son, Patrick Malakian. The award has also been given to renowned Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, who was the guest of honor at the festival. (The 72-year-old actress played one of the leading parts in Verneuil’s Mayrik (Mother), a 1991 film telling about the fate of Armenian genocide survivors in France. The show of this film opened the 2010 festival program on Sunday). Cardinale also received medals of the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Yerevan. A Municipality medal has also been awarded to French-Armenian film producer Alain Terzian, whose film opened last year’s Golden Apricot festival.

Turkish film directors participate in this year’s festival as they did last year. One of them, Fatih Akin, a Germany-born Turk, who has made more than a dozen films at his still relatively young age of 37. The filmmaker says differences between Turkey and Armenia are the result of fear.

“The thing is not about recognizing the genocide or not, but that in Turkey people do not have the right to get this information or that or criticize,” the film director told ArmeniaNow.

He said in the future he is going to make a film about boxing, which will show how Armenian and Turkish athletes interact, what kind of hostility there is in online discussions of boxing bouts and what friendly relations in reality are established between the fighters themselves.

Golden Apricot creates an opportunity to present films not only for local Armenians, but also for Diaspora Armenians for whom it is very important to present their film in their homeland. One of such Diaspora filmmakers is Koms Shahbazian, from Belgium, who participating in Golden Apricot in 2004 found his future wife. It is jointly with her that he has made a new film, “Down Here”, which he presents at this year’s festival in Yerevan.

The film is about evictee families in downtown Yerevan who are expelled from their old houses being pulled down to clear the way for so-called elite construction.

“We were making that film for a year and for a year we shared the lives of those people, at that time my wife was expecting our daughter,” Shahbazian told ArmeniaNow.

Another young filmmaker, Hayk Ghazarian from Venezuela, is participating in the festival with his maiden film, “Venezzia”, which is a love story set around the time of the Second World War. He believes this film will be of interest to everyone.

Daily film shows and other events on the sidelines of the festival will continue till Golden Apricot closes this coming Sunday.