Golden Apricot, held in Armenia every year since 2004, opened last Sunday with a grand ceremony attended by several star guests, including renowned Italian actress Claudia Cardinale.
Observers say the Yerevan festival has lately been turning into quite a distinguished boutique event due to attendance by some renowned artists and a special atmosphere created by sideline events such as jazz performances, cocktail parties and others.
Symbolic stars honoring several noted Armenian cinema artists, such as renowned French-Armenian filmmaker Henri Verneuil, were inaugurated at the Hall of Fame in front of downtown Yerevan’s Moskva Cinema House, one of several main venues for the festival’s film shows.
Participants and guests of the festival were also received by President Serzh Sarkisian, while the main opening ceremonies were attended by Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglarian, which only underscored the significance of the festival in Armenia’s cultural life.
“I am happy to be in Armenia,” said Cardinale at a press conference on Monday.
The 72-year-old actress was in the principal cast of Verneuil’s 1991 film Mayrig (Mother), which tells about the struggle of an Armenian immigrant family in France who had fled the horrors of Ottoman-era massacres of Armenians at the beginning of last century. The show of the film opened the Yerevan festival on July 11.
“I was lucky to play the part of the mother in Verneuil’s film and get acquainted with Armenian history,” added Cardinale, who received a tribute award and a commemorative festival medal for her contribution to world cinema.
About 120 films selected from some 500 applications coming from around 70 countries are to be shown during the Yerevan festival, which ends on July 18. Festival organizers say they have spared no effort for this year’s events to prove a success.
Speaking to reporters on July 11, Festival President and renowned Canadian-Armenian director Atom Egoyan said: “Golden Apricot is not only a cultural but a political event, as it helps reflect upon various international issues.” “The festival gains popularity year by year. It’s a unique brand of Armenia,” added Egoyan.
Among the remarkable parts of the festival this year is also the so-called Armenia-Turkey platform, a meeting point of sorts for Armenian and Turkish filmmakers. The platform is the fruit of a series of Armenia-Turkey cinema workshops organized within the frameworks of the Armenian-Turkish Cultural Initiative. The initiators of the program are the Anadolu Kultur Association from Turkey and the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival from Armenia.
Fatih Akin, a 37-year-old German-born filmmaker of Turkish origin, said of the Turkey-Armenia relations that the conflict between the two neighbors is primarily based on fear that he said “must be overcome.” “This is the fear of truth. And cinema is that force that can help overcome this fear, just like rock-and-roll once managed to clear lots of barriers,” he underscored.
French-Armenian film director Serge Avedikian, who won a Short Film Palme d’Or at the Festival in Cannes this year for his 15-minute “Barking Island” animated documentary, also spoke of ways of overcoming fear between Turks and Armenians.
“There is a great fear not only among artists, but also between the peoples about how normal relations can be established,” he said. “I think art and especially cinema could play a great role, because politicians are doing their bit, and artists, if they are really free and do not work under government pressure, are doing theirs, which I think can be very useful.”
Avedikian’s film closes the festival program this coming Sunday. “Barking Island” tells about 30,000 street dogs in Istanbul, Turkey, that were rounded up and slaughtered by the Young Turks government in 1910, which is also an indirect reference to the genocidal policies of Ottoman rulers against Armenians.