CAIRO — The Ismailia-Armenian community is one of the few that has succeeded in preserving its rich culture, coupled with integration into Egyptian society. This time, an Armenian creative work was shown on Egyptian soil, with the participation of the 16-minute film “My Black Heart,” by Armenian director Garush Ghazaryan, in the Ismailia International Film Festival (IIFF) that concluded recently.
The film is about a 50-year-old resident of Yerevan called Poghos. He faces many financial problems and has been waiting for a certain occasion to get from the government a Niva car, which he wants to sell in order to pay his bills. Nevertheless, everything later dramatically changes.
It is the first time that “My Black Heart” is shown as part of a film festival in Egypt and it is the Armenian director’s first time in the country as well. Garush commented: “It was very enjoyable. The festival organized a very good and an interesting trip through Egypt. We visited the National Museum of Egypt, after which we went to the Giza Pyramids, then the Sphinx, and with all of that, it was a great pleasure to spend eight days on the shores of the Suez Canal.”
He is also the second director of the feature film “Zulali” produced in 2021 in Armenia and selected to be screened at the Port Said International Film Festival in Egypt in June.
“For me Egypt is a very interesting country and I have heard about it and its ancient history since forever. So out of curiosity, I searched and found about the IIFF and became interested in participating in the event, I liked its story very much and without thinking for a second, I sent my film to the festival. When I found out that ‘My Black Heart’ was selected, I was sincerely very happy. I didn’t believe it for a moment and then eventually I started to believe it,” he adds.
Circumstances surrounding starting the 16-minute work were not easy. The shooting was supposed to take place in 2020, but the Armenian-Azerbaijani war started, due to which filming was postponed to 2021. During that time, as Armenia was in the difficult post-war period, there were serious financial problems. Ghazaryan had to solve those difficulties before he was able to complete the shoot for “My Black Heart.”
On the other hand, he said that he was lucky with the people working on the film, and he believes that the most important thing in filmmaking is to have a good team. He declared: “You can be a genius, the absolute best even; however, if you do not have a good and a strong team, the film will not be of a good quality. We communicated very well together, solving issues and it resulted in a collaborative interesting work. The cameraman is one of my best friends.
We can talk freely with each other. We resolve issues quickly. We work and get ideas well and easily together. We have already collaborated on three short films. Of course, I must mention our producer Sofya Hovhannisyan – hopefully my future wife. ‘My Black Heart’ was our second project together and I realized on the first day of filming that I couldn’t do anything without her. I feel very grateful to have had such a creative team and I am proud to have their names appear in the credits.”
In addition to the IIFF, the 24-year-old director has taken part in various film festivals around the world. The first one was in 2019 in Moldova. He said, “I remember it very vividly. It was with my first short film called ‘The One’.”
His next film was “Black Home White Home,” which appeared in nine international festivals. Its story is a little similar to that of “My Black Heart.”
The third one is called “Cycle,” which is an Armenian-Uzbek production. The shooting took place in 2021 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. There was a program within the framework of the Tashkent International Film Festival (TIFF), “Cinema in 5 Days.” The cameraman Vahe Terteryan and Ghazaryan went to Uzbekistan to shoot this film which was also included in the TIFF competition. [DO YOU MEAN there is a second film they had in this festival? Called “Cinema in 5 Days”?]
Ghazaryan was born in Lanjazat, but lives in Yerevan. “For me, it is the best place in the world and wherever I go, I always miss it. Yerevan is a wonderful whirlpool of creativity, dreams and great people,” he said.
He studied and graduated from the Yerevan State Institute of Theater and Cinema, majoring in feature film directing. Currently, this is his second year working on his master’s degree there. He said: “The Yerevan State Institute of Theater and Cinema is a very essential place in my life. This is where I first got to know the film industry, thanks to good teachers. Since the very first day, I have loved going to the Institute. I even sometimes go there on the weekends just to breathe the air around there. So far, I am very happy with my education. I am thinking about continuing my studies abroad, but still unsure about it.”
He specialized in filmmaking and he sees that for any director, short films are the best way to start, in order to gain experience and practical knowledge before taking on feature films. He declared: “Regardless, I do like short films very much. The time constraint makes it very interesting as it has to be to the point.”
As a film director and a production supervisor, he has been working at Order Film Production in Yerevan for three years. He directed four full-length documentaries, four short films, as well as several commercials. “I am very happy with the film industry in general, not only with that of the short films, which has started to develop in Armenia,” he adds.
He has a favorite film director. He said: “I am eager to single out my favorite film director, Serbian Emir Kusturica. I like all his films and I don’t want to pick out any of these, because each one is better than the other. Let me briefly explain why I admire him. I value highly such silent and subtle humor in his films.
There are interesting layers in his works: humor, joy, sadness and life, which develop in different yet parallel lines. You can watch his film ‘Life is a Miracle’ and you will understand what I am talking about. It represents war and depicts how people, with their persistence, live happily during these circumstances.”
As far as Armenian musicians, composer Tigran Mansuryan is his favorite. When was asked why, Garush commented: “All old Armenian films are full of his creations. The sounds in his compositions are so harmonious, so aesthetic so much that even if you hear the same articulation ten times a day, your body will tremble 100 times. The world-famous composer is a very smart and cultured person whose way of thinking is interesting. Each of his notes breathes and soars in the air.”
Music for Ghazaryan is such of a great importance that, he said, “a person without music is like a fish without water. Music gives us the opportunity to think, to experience, to dream. It is inseparable especially from the life of a creative person.”
Moreover, he utilizes music in his work and thinks that it mainly helps the film and fills in the gaps of the director. Yet, he observed, “for me, it is difficult to choose music. Even before the filming of ‘My Black Heart,’ I tried for months to find music that would be similar to what I had imagined, but it was very difficult. All your ideas and solutions change after finding them.”
As to whether short films can be a tool in the preservation of the Armenian language and heritage and promotion of Armenian culture worldwide, the Armenian director opines “surely they are. In this regard, there is no difference between a short and a long film. What I can present in ten minutes can also be depicted in one hour. You can even share your culture and heritage in a short film of two or three minutes.”
When asked about inscribing elements of the Armenian heritage on UNESCO’s Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Ghazaryan replied: “It is definitely a very good opportunity for Armenia to show our culture more profoundly. We have interesting treasures and creators who have remained in the shadows due to some problems. I think this attracts the world’s attention to the richness of the country, allowing people to study our culture in depth.”