58th LFF Day 3 Afternoon

The Cut Multi-national JOURNEY section


This is a film in two parts, but two parts which belong entirely together. In the first part we see one man’s journey towards survival through the comfort of strangers; the second part is this man’s search for his surviving family against all the odds.

Brilliantly filmed and acted, we start our journey in the last days of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. It is a tale told often – neighbours live in peace and amity for hundreds of years, a corner-stone slips and they turn around and kill mercilessly. So it was for the Armenians in 1915-16. The young men were conscripted into the Turkish army, driven into the desert and worked to death, then the few who survived were marched into the hinterland and massacred. The women, children and the elderly were marched into oblivion, many starved and thousands died on the road; the genocide was complete and frightful, more than one and a half million people died. The resulting Armenian diaspora spread to Greece, America and Cuba. Many young girls were sold to Bedouin tribesmen in an effort to save them.

Through a small miracle, our hero Nazaret Manoonigan, survives the massacre and lives to walk out of the desert with the help of various people, some Christian but mostly Muslim, people of deep faith and goodness who hide him, succour him and assist him. The wound intended to kill him has rendered him mute. Tahir Rahim plays the father, since for most of the film he has no voice this is an interpretation of immense power, showing through his expression alone the melancholy, the anger and the determination. This is an epic film, with aspects that touch upon the works of great directors like David Lean and John Ford, where landscape and distance are as much part of the characterisation as the acting; the harsh light and dry, arid desert owes much to Lawrence of Arabia, and the later scenes in Cuba and America owe something to the Westerns of John Ford. There is a strong supporting cast and the dirge-like music, which is largely Armenian in tone, is hauntingly beautiful underscoring the emotion without emoting itself. If that makes any sense.

The Director, Fatih Akin was at pains to point out that this is not a “genocide” film. It contains the barest outline of the Armenian genocide but, he said, to make a genocide film you would need to make a documentary that spanned a history of more than 700 years.

This film has UK distribution and I urge you to go to see it when you can.


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Filed under Culture, Film Review, Modern History, Select Cinema, Travel, Uncategorized

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