1179) Ties Between Peoples Are Tightened by Culture

I was thrilled when I received an email from Armenian film researcher and my friend Dr. Artsvi Bakhchinyan (*) giving me the good news that he was coming to Turkey. After 5 years, we would have the chance to see each other again. . . But, soon I had to face the irony of a life which is always on the roads, not permitting me to go to Istanbul from Ankara. As a result, unfortunately I could not meet him, I could not listen to his lectures, I could not share his experiences in Turkey this time. Talking to him on the phone, I suggested sending him some questions online and conducting an online interview. He responded with his usual encouraging manner. Here are Artsvi Bakhchinyan's answers to my questions, and his impressions from Turkey.

We know that you have been in Turkey before, as a member of the jury at Istanbul Film Festival, what was your purpose of visiting Turkey this time?

It was unforgettable time when in 1999 I participated in Istanbul Film Festival as FIPRESCI jury member by invitation of Atilla Dorsay, your well-known film critic. In the same jury was also Alin Taşçıyan, my very dear colleague and friend, who was the member of Armenian Panorama jury in this year Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival. Seven years ago in Istanbul the FIPRESCI prize was awarded by Yeşim Ustaoğlu, who also was winner of last year's Golden Apricot Festival and this year also participated in Yerevan festival as international jury member. As you see, there are Armenian-Turkish cultural connections in the field of cinema, which I hope should be developed.

Anadolu Kültür Association had project to organize screening of Armenian films in Istanbul as well as in some other city in Turkey. This time it was Diyarbakir. The program officer of Anadolu Kültür, Kubilay Ozmen, who has visited Armenia this year, contacted the Golden Apricot office, asking for providing four Armenian films. The festival office suggested three films by Harutyun Khachatryan: "Return to the Promised Land," "Documentalist," "Return of the Poet," as well as Albert Mkrtchyan's "Merry Bus. "Return of the Poet" screened at the Diyarbakir Art Center and Mithat Alam Film Center of Bogazici University. Only it was in Bilgi University that all four films were screened.

This was your first visit to Diyarbakir, what was your impression as a foreigner and as an Armenian?

I have been in Istanbul for two times, but did not feel I was in Turkey. In Diyarbakir I had that feeling that I am in Turkish land, although I met only Kurdish and Zaza people there. Their interest and attitude toward the Armenian guest was very warm. For me it was thrilling to see the remnants of the Armenian church. It is a unique architectural monument that can be one of the beautiful sights Diyarbakir. Unfortunately the roof doe snot exist anymore but I have heard it is going to be recovered. The Armenian monuments in Eastern and Southern Turkey have important significance for the world cultural heritage so they need a special treatment from the government.

Which films were shown in Diyarbakir? Can you tell us about the feedbacks?

Only the "Return of the Poet" was screened in Diyarbakir. Before that there was an interactive discussion not only about the cinema but also about Armenian-Kurdish relations generally. I had a project to organize an Armenian-Kurdish film festival in Diyarbakir and not only there. The very first film about the Kurds is made in Armenia in 1926, by the founder of Armenian cinema Hamo Beknazaryan. By the way, this film, "Zare," is the second feature film production of Soviet Armenia. There are also some other films, both features and documentaries, that have been made about the Kurds in Armenia. I mean particularly Hineer Salem's films, "Vodka Lemon" of which was rather successful in international festival and was screened in Istanbul as well.

You gave some lectures in Istanbul too, on which subjects did you talk? How was the reaction in the conferences and screenings held in Istanbul?

I gave talks about the past and present of the Armenian cinema. Although the Istanbul audience had no problem with English and I also could give my talk in English, I preferred to talk Armenian and my colleague and friend Sevan Ataoğlu translated it into Turkish. I am sure that the neighbour peoples do not need intermediary languages; it is always preferable to speak in our native languages.

As I said already, because the audience of Diyarbekir was consisted of Kurds, their questions were mainly about their own connections with Armenia. Few people came to the meeting at Bilge University, but in Bosporus University the audience was very active and professional. I am especially impressed by the enthusiasm of the director of Mithat Alam Film Centre, Yamac Okur. We both are full of decisiveness to continue our cooperation. He gave me DVD-s of recent Turkish short films, which I would like to suggest including in the program of Golden Apricot 2007. The cultural cooperation is the best way for dialogues between nation, especially between Armenians and Turks, which are, as we always know, are more than complicated.

The last day of your stay coincided 12th of October, the day on which French parliament accepted the law penalizing the denial of Armenian genocide and Orhan Pamuk got the Nobel prize. What do you think about these two historical developments occurred during your stay in Turkey? Did these developments cause any change in program?

I was almost sure that Orhan Pamuk should be this year Nobel Prize winner! I hope this the most prestigious literary award will always remind Turkish society of what calibre of writer Pamuk is and hereby will seriously think about what he says.

The organizers first thought that because of the decision of French parliament it would be better to cancel the screenings and to have the lecture only for the closed audience. Fortunately that did not happen, the lecture hall was open, yet few people came and only three questions were given to me. Of course I was hearing "Ermenistan" and "Ermeniler" all the time by radio and TV, I saw the demonstrators near the Atatürk monument and how was the security of the French consulate on İstiklal Caddesi was strengthened. I am sure if I have had my lecture in some city cinemas nationalists could come to throw tomatoes or eggs on me just because I am Armenian. But fortunately I was in one of the best universities of Istanbul, which already run a conference on Armenians. It is time of breaking the taboos and for open and sincere dialogue. Enough of nationalism which does not build only ruins. I am absolutely sure that the Armenian and Turkish "enthusiasts of cinema" like me, Yamaç, Alin, Yeşim, Sevan, Kubilay, are able to make our humble contribution in the process of healing the distorted relations between our people.

(*) Artsvi Bakhchinyan, born 1971, Yerevan, philologist, film researcher, Dr. of Armenian language and literature. Contributed to periodicals of Armenia and abroad with articles on film, culture and various fields of Armenian studies. He is the vice president of Armenian branch of FIPRESCI (International Union of Film Critics and Cinema Journalists). Co-editor of "Armenian Cinema 1924-1999: a complete filmography" catalogue (Yerevan, 2001). Author of books: "Armenians by Origin" (a biographical dictionary of Armenian Diaspora: Yerevan, 1993), "Figures of Armenian Origin" (Yerevan, 2002), "Napoleon Bonaparte and the Armenians" (Yerevan, 2003), "Armenia-Scandinavia: Historical and Cultural Relations" (Yerevan, 2003), "Armenians in World Cinema" (Yerevan, 2004), "Armenia-Sweden" (in English, 2006).

BIA Haber Merkezi
16/10/2006 Talin SUCIYAN BİA (Yerevan)


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