13th Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival
Armenia, July 10 - July 17 2016
The great winner in the most recent edition of the Golden Apricot IFF, Branko Schmidt’s Ungiven, has as original Croatian title Imena višnje, which means “The Name of the Cherries”. Some time after the war, an old couple returns to their home, trying to start a new life on the remains of the past: restoring the old farm, buying a cow, planting new trees… In every decision, the woman has no right to decide over her grumpy husband. The only thing she asks for is a cherry tree, so that she will be able to make cherry pie for her grandchild, a young boy whom we see later during a visit, but whom she does not even recognize.
In this simple but not naïve story converge some universal topics: memory, love, passing of time, old age, disease. The everyday life of this old couple over four seasons, detached from any extras or sensationalism, makes the story an authentic portrait of two people wishing to return to their lives, even if the weight of the past has left a deep scar. It is no coincidence that the old woman’s disease makes her start to forget things, although the common memory reaches a high level of emotionality and makes abundantly clear how important memory is and how a limpid narration (focusing on performances and taking time for small, connected details) can make an extremely touching film.
A film such as Ungiven, which won the Golden Apricot main prize as well as the FIPRESCI award, has a good raison d’être in the local spirit, since the Armenian films participating bring to our attention also events of the past that cannot be forgotten. This is the case with David Safarian’s 28:94 Local Time (28:94 Teghakan Zhamanakov), Anna Arevshatyan’s Good Morning (Bari Luys), Naré Mkrtchyan’s documentary The Other Side of Home and Jivan Avetisyan’s The Last Inhabitant, just to name a few examples. All of them recreate moments whose effects extend into the present: the Armenian genocide, the post-Soviet times and the conflict with Azerbaijan, from different perspectives and sensitivities, with Safarian’s the outstanding poetic vision of 28:94 Local Time.
Yerevan also attracts films that have already screened at different festivals. Maren Ade’s astonishing Toni Erdmann, Hadi Mohaghegh’s painful Immortal (Memiro), Cristi Puiu’s greatly composed Sieranevada or the realistic vision of Ahu Ozturk’s Dust Cloth (Toz Bezi) are some of the participants in this year’s International Competition, besides well-known names such as the Dardenne Brothers with The Unknown Girl (La Fille Inconnu), or Thomas Vinterberg with The Commune (Kollektivet).
The acclaimed actress Jacqueline Bisset, the Honorary Guest in this festival edition, received a great reception from the festival organizers and the public. Moreover, the recently deceased Abbas Kiarostami, a close friend of the festival, was honored with an exhibition of his photographs of Iranian roads and the screening of the Palme d’Or winner Taste of Cherry (Ta’m e guilass, 1997). (Pablo García Conde, edited by Birgit Beumers)
Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival: www.gaiff.am