An Armenian non-governmental organization plans to hold a festival of Azerbaijani films in Yerevan this October as part of its efforts to promote Armenian-Azerbaijani reconciliation.
“The main purpose of our festival is to get the alienated citizen to discuss the number one issue facing our society,” Georgi Vanian, chairman of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Center for Peace Initiatives (CCPR), told RFE/RL on Friday.
“There is demand for peace, which exists in every family but is frozen,” he said. “We are trying to bring it out.”
Vanian said he and other festival organizers have already watched about 50 Azerbaijani movies produced after the Soviet collapse and will select those of them which they think “will appeal to Armenian society.” “We [Armenians] are not familiar with Azerbaijan’s contemporary cinematography,” he said. “We don’t know young filmmakers, the topics they explore, the issues they raise.”
According to Vanian, those filmmakers have consented to the screening of their movies in Yerevan, even though none of them is due to attend the unprecedented event sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Armenia. “The Azerbaijani press is quite actively discussing the matter,” he said. “I’ve already given two interviews.”
A similar festival of Turkish films, also organized by Vanian’s center, already took place in the Armenian capital in March. The CCPR claims that the Armenian government had previously opposed its holding.
But the government did welcome “days of Azerbaijan” in Armenia that were organized by the CCPR in December 2007. The British-funded initiative involved presentations by the visiting Azerbaijanis and their Armenian partners as well as an arts exhibition and the screening of a documentary film on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Holding similar Armenian-Azerbaijani contacts in Baku has long been practically impossible due to a government policy that considers the very presence of Armenian citizens on Azerbaijani soil an affront to Azerbaijan’s honor and territorial integrity.