5th Yerevan Golden Apricot - International Film Festival

Armenia, July 13 - July 20 2008

The jury

Sheila Johnston (UK), Alin Tasciyan (Turkey), Siranush Galstyan (Armenia)

Awarded films

5th Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival. In its fifth year, the Golden Apricot IFF in Yervan has reached the ideal critical mass for a film festival: large enough to attract international talent, small enough to retain a lovely intimacy and warmth (the latter was also true in the literal sense, with summer temperatures well into the Thirties). Whatever the economic and political difficulties currently facing Armenia, the organisers did a tremendous job, despite the odd glitch — a very poorly designed screening programme brochure, without an index, was a prime example.

Shorts and documentaries were particularly well-represented, and Wim Wenders, Dariush Mehrjui, Catherine Breillat and Goran Paskaljevic gave masterclasses (Wenders even held a second one by popular demand). Atom Egoyan, the Festival President, came to show his Cannes competition entry, Adoration, and stayed on after the event had ended to shoot an experimental project with young local talent.

Perhaps partly due to the Armenian diaspora, there was a broad cosmopolitan swathe of delgates. Specialists from Paris and Los Angeles supported a centenary tribute to the American-Armenian writer/film-maker William Saroyan. The Russian film, Mermaid (Rusalka, directed by Anna Melikyan — already a FIPRESCI winner in Berlin) took the Golden Apricot, the festival’s top prize.

Last but not least, a major component of any really successful festival is a social hub; it’s astonishing how often organisers neglect this vital ingredient. In Yerevan, this function was perfectly fulfilled by the Golden Tulip Hotel, where most delegates were lodged. A stone’s throw from the main cinema complex and festival offices; its high, cool atrium made up for the spartan facilities in the main information centre. A generous programme of social activities and excursions — besides being enjoyable! — facilitated the forming of friendships and future working alliances. (Sheila Johnston)