An Emotional View on the Dramatic Fate of the Armenian People

in 13th Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival

by Alexander Grozev

Sifting through the rich programme of the 13th edition of the “Golden Apricot” festival in Yerevan, Armenia, the FIPRESCI jury had to choose their favourite film among ten titles. I must say right away that the choice was difficult, since many of the competing projects had already received awards at various prestigious events around the world, such as for examples About Love (Pro liubov’) by Anna Melikian (Russia); Dust Cloth (Toz bezi) by Ahu Öztürk (Turkey); Immortal (Mamiroo) by Seyed Hadi Mohaghegh (Iran), The Prosecutor, the Defender, the Father and His Son (Bulgaria/Sweden/Netherlands) by Iglika Triffonova, and Insight by Alexander Kott (Russia). Along with these titles, however, vied entirely new or unfamiliar works of debutants, such as Anna’s Life by Nino Basilia (Georgia), Good Morning (Bari Luys) by Anna Arevshatyan, The Last Inhabitant by Jivan Avetisyan, and Ungiven (Imena visnje) by Branko Schmidt (Croatia). Yet another reason for the difficulty in choosing a favourite film was the range of different styles, genres, subject matters, and the originality of the filmmakers’ artistic expressions.

From the mosaic of these really interesting films, I would like to draw out the Armenian 28:94. Local Time (28:94. Teghakan zhamanak) by David Safarian. The film is impressive because of its unusual narrative and rich cinematic imagination. The longstanding experience of the director hints at his preference for documentary-style filmmaking; however, his work does not correspond in earnest with the style of this kind of cinema, albeit based on authentic documents, such as memories, letters, photographs, and excerpts from historical accounts. Rather, 28:94. Local Time is an intimate and very personal confession of someone who has experienced many difficult moments of doubt and frustration, hope and despair, but has kept his faith in the power and importance of art. In fact, the film is a celebration of the eternal pursuit of the artist to express in images his relationship with the surrounding world and make sense of his own inventions in the broader context of what we call “national destiny”. Full of reminiscences about a by-gone historical time and imbued with personal memories and references to the biography of those who were close to the director, 28:94. Local Time is an emotional description of the drama of the Armenian people at the end of the last century. The collapse of the Soviet empire, hunger and the lack of electricity and fuel become the dynamic historical backdrop against which the author’s personality reveals itself as he meditates on eternal existential problems: death, love, creativity, survival. Starting from the picturesque descriptions of everyday banal domestic details and problems, David Safarian gradually draws the viewer into the dramatic fate of the Armenian people in this complex historical moment. Without falling into a political rhetoric, the author delicately shows the fortitude and optimism of the Armenian people, as well as their instinct for community that unites people from different generations in moments of utmost challenge.

28:94. Local Time lacks a consistent storyline. The film is a mosaic consisting of seemingly carelessly scattered scenes, in which the director’s imagination and emotions paint whimsical landscapes of memories, visions, and realistic objects. At times, the internal logic of the story is lost; however, this seems understandable as the author is tempted to supplement the narrative with novel visions and original arguments for his thesis. Certainly, the rhythm of the film suffers most due to such aberrations, as it currently stands at 130 minutes…

Noticeable lengths during montage, evident repetitions, as well as hardly recognizable characters notwithstanding, 28:94. Local Time commands respect thanks to the depth of the author’s message expressed through the highly impressive final sequence of black-and-white photographs. The expressive faces filling up the screen to capacity are quite a truthful and poignant image-summary of a small nation overcoming suffering, shortages and the elements with the power of its creative spirit. The feeling of freedom permeates every frame of this film and makes it an interesting and memorable cinematic opus.

Edited by Birgit Beumers