Wednesday, August 18, 2010

LFF 2010/ Director Close-Up


LFF 2010 : Hinkerort Zorasune

Vatche Boulghourjian is a filmmaker and video artist based in Beirut and New York. Much of his work focuses on questions of identity, and political and social narratives of the Middle East. He has directed, shot, and edited several documentaries, short and experimental films. Hinkerort Zorasune (The Fifth Column) is Boulghourjian’s thesis film at the Graduate Film Program of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.


Congratulations on being selected for screening at this year's Lebanese Film Festival. Why did you submit your film to this particular festival?

My film was invited to participate in this year’s edition of the Lebanese Film Festival, for which I am deeply grateful towards the selection committee. I have attended the Festival as a spectator almost every year since its founding, and have always admired the curatorial vision of its directors. Audiences have had the privilege of viewing the very rich and diverse voices in film emerging from Lebanon during the Festival, which has been inspirational and a testament to the inordinately vibrant cultural production of Lebanon. As a Lebanese filmmaker, having just made a film in Beirut, I am very proud to partake in the Lebanese Film Festival.

How important is your Lebanese/Armenian identity in your cinematographic work, and in this movie in particular?

This is the first film that I have made in which my Lebanese/Armenian identity has been represented so explicitly. My previous films have never involved specifically Lebanese or Armenian subject matter. However, they have almost always involved themes of exile and life in minority communities – which are matters that Lebanese and Armenians are intimately familiar with and continue to face wherever they live in the world. So by channeling these issues through the experiences of cultures other than Lebanese or Armenian I was inadvertently trying to identify circumstances that are universal. This practice led me to produce Fifth Column that, although very specifically focuses on an incident taking place in the Armenian community of Lebanon, is meant to be a human story above all.

The movie is in colloquial Western Armenian. Was it an important factor for you and is this common?

The dialogue in the film is in colloquial Western Armenian, which is spoken in Lebanon. It is very important for me to represent speech that is true to life, whatever the language or the story. So it was extremely important for me that the dialogue in my film be in colloquial Western Armenian, with all of its influences from other languages that are commonly interspersed with its daily usage. Usually this type of representation has been avoided in Armenian drama, and certainly in literature. But I believe that this language, that is used daily in Lebanon, reflects a wealth of history by providing some insight into the exposure of Armenians to other cultures and languages. Specifically, I also believe that what is heard today is the outcome of a uniquely cosmopolitan, Lebanese experience. Far from being avoided, I believe it should be embraced and studied, at least in film.

The little boy in the movie is your nephew. Is it any different to work with family members than regular actors on a set?

The process remains the same for me no matter who I work with on set. I am nice with everyone. Harry Simitian, my nephew, was an unusually mature 12 year-old at the time of filming (now he’s 13). So not only was it easy to work with him, but also outrageously fun because of the sheer energy and humor he would bring to each day of the shoot. He was innately very respectful towards the older, professional actors and immediately created a bond with them. In return, the other actors welcomed him very warmly and worked with him with great care and tenderness. Cast and crew became one family intent on one goal: to make this film, and make it with as much fun as possible.

How was the film received by the critics in Cannes?

Being included in the Cinéfondation Program of the Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection was a tremendous honor not least because it also suggested that the film was able to communicate some of the humanity that I had sought to achieve. After the screening in Cannes, critics and filmmakers from everywhere in the world approached me to express their appreciation of my film, how deeply moved they were by it, and that they understood and identified with the circumstances that I had represented on screen. It was an extraordinary experience, and very emotional. The prize that my film was awarded by the Cannes Film Festival further reassured me that the empathy with which I had made this film was found to be resonant with the jury of this year’s Festival.

What’s next?

I would like to continue exploring themes dealing with the consequences of exile. Looking at definitions of difference and deviance I hope to better understand some of the forces that shape society. Regardless of the place, language, ethnic background, or religion within the stories I seek to tell, the most important element for me in realizing any project is to work with and express unwavering empathy. I aspire to make films that are wide-awake and honest in approach, and very human in spirit.

Interview by Sandra Arslanian.

No comments:

Post a Comment