- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 April 25, 2003 

Film Flap: Protestors stop showing of Turkish movie in Yerevan

Journalist Sevan Ataoglu brought the Turkish movie to the Film Festival.

The showing of a Turkish-produced movie at the film festival "Private Look" in Yerevan was interrupted and stopped Tuesday when some 100 members of a student union stood up during the screening, shouted protests and distributed anti-Turkish leaflets.

The disruption came about three minutes into "The Photo", a film by Turkish director Kazim Oz depicting Turkish-Kurdish relations and the friendship between two young men from hostile nations.

The film was being shown on the last day of the five-day film festival which presented features and documentaries from seven countries.

"We won't allow presentation of the Turkish movie in Armenia," shouted a leader of "Nikol Aghbalyan", a student organization affiliated with the Dashnak party of Armenia. "It is a shame to watch a Turkish movie on April 22, and then to grieve for the innocent victims on April 24."

Foreign guests and members of Armenia's Kurdish community were present for the screening and were encouraging organizers to continue the showing. Their calls to see the movie were drowned out by the shouts of the students who were also singing nationalistic songs. Police could not manage to subdue the protest.

Director of the festival, Hovhanes Galstyan said the action was not patriotic, but ignorant.

"When the same people who organized that action today wear clothes made in Turkey or use any kind of things produced in Turkey, why don't they want to accept that production of movies also can and must find a place here," he said.

This year's festival was the third time such an event has been organized in Armenia and is the second time a Turkish work as been part of the schedule.

Last year "Mammy" by Turkish director Ozkan Alper was shown without incident to a full hall and was honored with "Best National Movie" by the organizational committee.

Guests of the festival gathered in the hall of Cinema House.

Before Wednesday's interruption, "Private Look" festival organizers were in negotiations with "Tursak" organization from Ankara, discussing possibilities of arranging days of Armenian movies in Ankara and Turkish movies in Yerevan later this year.

"The Turkish side is ready for this action and is disposed very seriously," Galstyan said. "But this incident showed that the Armenian audience is not ready yet to organize days of culture with Turkey and I think that this project for the present moment won't be formed. In Turkey days of Armenian films will be organized but not here."

Kurdish student Asram Musutyan, who came to watch the movie with great interest, found difficulty in commenting on what he had seen.

"Turks are our enemies as well but the culture is different," he said. "It becomes possible to soften sharp edges, and the performance of this movie is a striking example of that," he said.

Presentation of the Turkish movie was not the only surprise of the festival. The first Chechen modern movie was presented by Georgia as well.

"Private Look" is the only international cinema festival founded and operating in the Caucuses region after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It aims to facilitate formation of independent movie production traditions, establishment of connections between producers, and experience exchange between Armenia, counties of CIS and former socialist countries of Eastern Europe.

However, Azerbaijan was missing among three Caucasian countries. Organizers of this year's festival did not invite Azerbaijan after their invitations were declined on the two previous years.

Bulgaria won the festival's prize of "Best Project". Other winners included Georgian director Zaza Urushadze who won "Audience Favorite", Vilnis Kalnielis of Latvia won "Best Animation", and in spite of the controversy "The Photo" won "The Bridge" prize.

"The language of art is an intermediary and is simply a bridge allowing finding cultural and even political foundations with Turkey," says Susanna Harutyunyan, head of the Cinematologists' and Cinema Critic's Association of Armenia.

  "Turkish Flag"
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  Photo of the week
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Pain in Paint

Yesterday (April 24) members of Mihr youth organization gathered in a park near the State Conservatory where they used black (tragedy) and red (blood) paint to depict Mt. Ararat from its western side. On a white canvas they painted names of villages where Genocide took place.



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