Wednesday, 18 April 2007

“… casualties of peace”

In a rare move, BBC continues to showcase Armenia related films
as a part of highly respected series of ‘Storyville’ film/documentaries

Recently, they did broadcast UK premiere of Screamers (BBC4, 29 March 2007), a powerful film which looks at genocide through the prism of System of A Down, a band campaigning for recognition of Armenian Genocide by US, UK… and, ultimately, Turkey.

This time was a turn for A Story of People in War and Peace (BBC4, 17 April 2007) - first film made by Vardan Hovhannisyan, a filmmaker who was involved in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict as a war correspondent. He tracked down soldiers he filmed twelve years ago to see how they have lived since ceasefire.

At times, it was difficult to understand narrator’s accent (director Vardan Hovhannisyan himself), subtitles were not always flawless, but it did not distract from very moving experience.

Nick Fraser (BBC Storyville Series, Editor) called it “Vardan's terrific film”:
His film footage is remarkable: it could come from the World War I. But then maybe the essence of war - being bored, killing people, becoming passionately attached to those people with whom you fight - never really changes.

Intimate conversations with then soldiers exposed present day ‘broken men’: breakdown families, mental breakdowns, poverty, sense of hopelessness and broken dreams...

"The only thought then was to finish the war. But now one has more troubled soul"

“I dreamt of success, but it has not happened”

As Vardan Hovhannisyan would say: "I am beginning to discover not casualties of war, but casualties of peace". And this was in a striking contrast with their sense of pride for liberating their homeland and sense of brotherhood through the footage of them battling heroically on their heyday.

TimeOut London considered it "Pick of the day":
A harrowing but ultimately heartening documentary about Karabagh War which, in 1989, signalled the first cracks in the edifice we used to call Soviet Union. Vardan Hovannisyan was a journalist who filmed the conflict from the Armenian side and this follows a very simple structure. He juxtaposes his original footage of the soldiers with a contemporary journey he takes to track down as many of them as he can. This reminds us how gory the business of killing people actually is. There are affecting shots of grizzled fighters carrying the broken bodies of their dead comrades back from the front. Then there are the walking wounded who manage to limp or crawl back by themselves. It's equally poignant watching the emotional struggle faced by men who have lost their mates: the grief must be tempered, otherwise it's difficult to carry on, and in any case, big boys don't cry. Their present day plight is equally moving: they are mostly broken men, but with one shining exception which Hovhannisyan saves till the end to leave you with some hope.

The last reference was to the ending of the film, with scenes of child birth for one of the former soldiers, a guy who after six months imprisonment for possession of cannabis, seem to be on track to sort out his life. He named his newborn child after his dead friend-soldier (“my brother”).

(Source of picture:

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