vox populi

“The world enters Armenia through a very small and narrow information window”

Film always needs the media. Both the audience and the professional directors are always waiting for reactions, since the media is not only a means of spreading news, but also an opportunity to check yourself.

If we talk about the Armenian media’s attitude toward film, I can say that in Armenia the situation is very taciturn, especially if I compare it with Iran, where I was born, study, work, and live. My friends say don’t compare Armenia with 80-million-strong Iran. But I think it makes no difference whether the population is 80 or 3 million. What’s important is having an opinion and position on what you’ve seen.

In Iran, of course, there’s the misunderstanding known as censorship, which applies to everything. But all the same, there are huge numbers of websites where film critics and correspondents actively work.

For instance, the news that my film Yeva is to be sent from Armenia to the Oscars was reported in Iranian media more than in Armenian media. All the Iranian newspapers wrote about this — from the extreme right-wing to the extreme left-wing. Also those media outlets for whom it would be absolutely all the same if all the films in the world exploded and disappeared overnight.

You understand, anyone, particularly a creative professional, feels the need for criticism. After my film made it to the big screen, I was impatiently waiting for reactions (if I’m not mistaken, there have been two analyses, no more). Only from the film’s reactions can you understand where you went right and where you went wrong. I go to the movie theaters and, disguised, sit in a corner to see the audience’s reaction.

Of course I find my answers, but I would want there to be many analyses, since in some sense they put the film in its place.

But in Armenia, the field of criticism is so disconnected that I struggle to understand the attitude. In Iran, they take media criticism more seriously. 

It’s understandable that Yeva is the first Armenian-Iranian co-production (by the way, the Iranian participation is 70%), but it’s about Armenia, it was filmed in Armenia, and it presents Armenia.

Even if Yeva is a bad film, there’s the simple truth that it’s the first film that is actually getting international distribution. And it’s very important that it was included in the selection of the Mill Valley Film Festival.

Iran, which has a powerful film production and developed network of movie theatres, wants to develop joint film production, and Iran’s film leadership is ready to sign a cooperation agreement with Armenia. This is great news.

And if even this news or the news of participating in the Oscars doesn’t find a place in the media, then there’s passivity. 

Perhaps the reason is my being a diaspora Armenian. I’m not integrated into Armenia’s cultural fabric, and there are reservations toward me. Or that passivity is generally toward the entire cultural arena.

I’m not talking about the value and quality of my film, but presenting it to the Oscars is one of the film industry’s most important news of at least this month, about which almost nothing is reported.

Instead, I see disseminated the most and through all the news networks is, for example, some minister’s or regional governor’s careless, meaningless, and simply stupid remarks. I would call that a conversation of women sitting around a cup of coffee. And that conversation becomes the entire country’s news network’s sensational topic. 

All people and media outlets express themselves about these petty incidents, have a point of view and a position.

I don’t want to grumble, since I love Armenia, but we lack the ability to look at the world from a wide angle. In any case, I’ve constructed my film on the view that there’s a place on this planet that’s called the Eurasia continent, where there’s a South Caucasus, where Armenia is found; next to it is Artsakh, and in Artsakh there’s a village where my protagonists live…

That is, I’m trying to look from a small window to the big world. But I feel that Armenia’s media industry does the opposite: instead of widening the window, it narrows and shrinks it. 

That is, the world enters Armenia through a very small and narrow window.

Anahid Abad
Filmmaker, Iran

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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