ARMENIAN FILM HERITAGE – AN UNDISCOVERED GEM
In 2023, Armenian cinema will mark the centenary of its foundation. From its inauspicious beginnings in 1923, this small industry has risen to exceptional heights with films that have impacted the development of cinema both regionally and globally. But beyond universally -acknowledged names such as Hamo Bek - Nazaryan, Lev Atamanov, Sergei Parajanov and Artavazd Peleshyan, the legacy of Armenian cinema holds many fascinating moving - image treasures that remain to be discovered by audiences around the world.
In 2020, the National Cinema Center of Armenia established its Film Heritage Department that is actively involved in the restoration, preservation and propagation of the country's cinematic art. The NCCA took a major step in this direction by joining FIAF (Fedferation of International Film Archives) in 2022 as an associate member.
STILL MOTION: A SURVEY EXHIBITION OF ARMENIAN FILM STILL PHOTOGRAPHY
Rediscovered during salvage works at Armenfilm studios in 2020, NCCA's vast collection of over 6000 production stills and other photographic documentation gives an invaluable insight into the working methods, the history and the particular aesthetics of the largest Armenian film studio during the Soviet period.
Moreover, this find also allowed to rediscover a hitherto forgotten genre of Armenian photography - the film still - which has attracted some of the most important Armenian photographers of the 1930s-80s, including Andranik Kochar and Hakob Hekekyan. Curated by Vigen Galstyan (Head of Film Heritage, NCCA) the present exhibition presents a survey of Armenian film still art from its renaissance during the post-war period in the mid 1950s, to the last active years of the Armenfilm studio in the early 1990s. Comprised of over 80 images, this photographic narrative not only charts a visually - expressive path through the twisting terrains of Armenian film history, but also provides a revealing picture of the changing mores and aesthetic perceptions in Soviet filmmaking during the second half of the 20th century.
SERGEI PARADJANOV'S TRIPTYCH
Curated by writer, curator and documentary filmmaker Daniel Bird, this program of newly restored short films by Paradjanov - Hakob Hovantanyan (1967), Kyiv Frescoes (1966), and Arabesques on the Theme of Pirosmani (1985) - was produced by Hamo Bek-Nazarov Project in association with National Cinema Centre of Armenia (NCCA), Dovzhenko Centre and Georgian Film Studio. The results of the project were revelatory, helping to fill in the gaps of our understanding of the great master's artistic development between Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965) and The Colour of Pomegranates (1969).
Hakob Hovantanyan is something of a warmup for Pomegranates, an associative and evocative study of the paintings of the titular 19th-century artist, while his move toward the cinematic fresco is encapsulated by Kyiv Frescoes, cobbled together from footage intended for a feature - length work about post - WWII Kyiv before the Soviet authorities ordered most of it destroyed.
Arabesques further develop Paradjanov’s interest in the relationship between cinema and painting in the form of an intricately sequenced montage of details from the paintings of the Georgian outsider artist Niko Pirosmani.
The restored films have been printed back to 35mm positive film (courtesy of AGBU, NY) to be included into permanent archive collections of NCCA, Georgian Film and Dovzhenko Center.
In December 2021 Hakob Hovnatanyan was donated to Pompidou Center in Paris, in January 2022 - to MoMA, New York. The films are also available to screen in 4K digital projection.
TEMPLE OF CINEMA
An installation produced and curated by writer, curator and documentary filmmaker Daniel Bird, features nine wooden tables of different heights, in which a total of twenty-four monitors of different sizes are installed horizontally. Each monitor features an unedited single reel of out-takes from Sergei Paradjanov's Sayat Nova (The Colour of Pomegranates) playing on a loop.
Monitors can be viewed individually, in groups of two or three, or as a whole from above. Tigran Mansuryan and Yuri Sayadyan’s original sound collage plays on speakers while incense burns. The title refers to a quote by Jean-Luc Godard: "In the temple of cinema, there are images, light and reality… Parajanov was the master of that temple".
The installation marked the 50th anniversary of the Armenian release of Sergei Parajanov's Sayat Nova. Production memos reveal how Parajanov’s vision was compromised both during and after editing at both a local and international level. While the Soviet authorities ordered the destruction of all material not utilised in the final cut, over a hundred cans of outtakes survive, thanks to the staff of Armenfilm Studio. The project has been successfully presented during the Rotterdam International Film Festival and in Yerevan's "Ayrarat" cinema hall.
HOUSE ON A VOLCANO: A REVOLUTIONARY BLAST FROM THE SILENT ERA
The 1928 masterpiece of Armenian silent cinema, "House on a Volcano", was filmed by the founding father of Armenian cinema, Hamo Bek - Nazaryan on location in Baku, Azerbaijan. Presenting the struggles of Armenian and Azeri oil-rig workers against the oppressive control of multi-national oil magnates who ruthlessly exploited the working class at the turn of the 20th century, the film brilliantly combines elements of historical, action, thriller and propaganda genres. Inspired by the work of Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin, Bek-Nazaryan managed to craft his own vision of dynamic contemporary cinema by using avant - garde montage techniques and daring action sequences that are still breathtaking in their astonishing realism. Digitally remastered from a new scan of a 35mm positive copy, the film is presented with a new musical score arranged by the emerging British composer Juliet Merchant.
Dedicated to the 130th anniversary of Hamo Bek - Nazaryan, the project has been co - produced by the NCCA in association with the Kinoklassika Foundation and will have its dual premiers in London and Yerevan in September, 2022.
RESTORING A PIONEER: TWO FORGOTTEN MASTERWORKS BY HAMO BEK-NAZARYAN
Made five years after the establishment of the Soviet - Armenian film industry, Hamo Bek - Nazarian's 1930 silent docudrama Land of Nairi occupies a unique place in the annals of not only Armenian, but also Soviet film history. Mixing archival materials, staged scenes and observational footage, Bek - Nazarian created a remarkably poetic and kaleidoscopic portrait of Armenia's first decade as a Soviet republic. Bypassing traditional approaches to film documentation, the director achieved an almost surrealistic pitch in what is his most avant-garde work, and an entirely distinctive gem of early documentary cinema. Working in entirely different conditions a decade later, under Stalin's stifling ideological control of the Soviet film industry, Bek - Nazarian managed to continue his exploration of grand humanist narratives in his moving 1942 anti - fascist parable The Daughter. Practically unseen since the days of their theatrical release, both of these films reveal the rich diversity of the director's extensive oeuvre and the profoundly universalist rhetoric underlying his work.
On Hamo Bek - Nazarian's 130th anniversary, the NCCA is preparing new, digitally restored 4K scans of Land of Nairi and The Daughter from archival 35mm positive prints, to be presented as a double - bill for theatrical release in Armenia and international festival screenings.
SUBTITLED ARMENIAN CLASSICS
Since 2020, the NCCA has been working actively on the subtitling of Armenian cinematic classics in major European languages. Only an insignificant number of Armenian films have ever been subtitled, which has contributed to the glaring absence of these films on international screens and streaming platforms. The NCCA is happy to present an ever - increasing catalogue of Soviet - Armenian films with English subtitles that includes major classics such as The House on the Volcano (dir. Hamo Bek-Nazaryan, 1928), The Colour of Pomegranates (dir. Sergei Paradjanov, 1969), Karine (dir. Arman Manaryan, 1967, courtesy of Kinoklassika), Hello, It's Me (dir. Frunze Dovlatyan, 1965), Brothers Saroyan (dir. Frunze Dovlatyan, 1966), We and Our Mountains (dir. Henrik Malyan, 1969), Father (dir. Henrik Malyan, 1972), A Piece of Sky (dir. Henrik Malyan, 1982), Khatabala (dir. Yuri Yerznkyan, 1971), Autumn Sun (dir. Bagrat Hovhannisyan, 1977) as well as a selection of important contemporary films from the 21st century.
We and Our Mountains (dir. Henrik Malyan, 1969)
Father (dir. Henrik Malyan, 1972)
Karine (dir. Arman Manaryan, 1967, courtesy of Kinoklassika)