Armenian director Harutyun Khachatryan arrived dressed all in black to introduce his 11th film Border. Born in 1955, he is a major player in the Eastern European film world with important contacts in the west, e.g., The Netherlands. He has been making films for 27 years and all of them show the reality of life in Armenia. In 2004 he was instrumental in founding the Armenian film festival in the capitol city, Yerevan. This July 12 prizes (including the Golden Apricot for best film) were awarded in six categories.
He said that, although Border comes across as a documentary, it was shot according to a pre-determined script based on historical events. When the Soviet Union collapsed at the beginning of the 1990s, old feuds between Armenia and Azerbaijan resurfaced. After the deaths of 30,000 people and a million refugees seeking new homes, there was a ceasefire in 1994. The border issue is still not satisfactorily resolved.
Viewers described the film as “the one with the cow.” Actually, it was a water buffalo captured by farmers. Dogs and livestock snapped at it and refused to accept the poor animal’s existence. Once, it escaped to freedom, but was soon brought back to its miserable life, fearful, confused, and homeless. This water buffalo could be a symbol of the people struggling at the border to Azerbaijan where Mr. Khachatryan filmed for one year with amateur actors. The sound track has no text. The advantage of having a film without text is that it is universally understandable to everyone. Whether that makes it interesting is another opinion.
I introduced Harutyun Khachatryan at the first showing of Border. The Filmfest committee had arranged for Natalia, a lovely young Russian translator, to accompany him. She expertly translated into Russian, English and German. Afterwards, he invited us for a drink at the Pony Bar next to the cinema. By then our group had grown to include German documentary filmmaker Susan Chales de Beaulieu, the Turkish director of Pandora’s Box: Yesim Ustaoglu, and three young female fans who spoke Armenian. Hopefully, Mr. Khachatryan will return to Hamburg soon and we will be better educated to appreciate him and his work as he rightfully deserves.