It has been a very fantastic experience sharing “Taniel” with audiences at festivals around the globe. Whether it’s at Screenplay in Shetland, Bermuda Worldwide Film Pageant or at Golden Apricot in Armenia, one question we often get asked is, Why did we select the protagonist for the film, our representation of the Armenian Genocide, to be Taniel Varoujan.
As a filmmaker, I’ve all the time been eager to deal with the subject, especially as my grandparents suffered unimaginable horrors during that interval, an indelible imprint that by no means left them and a state of affairs made much more devastating, once they turned refugees for the third time in their lives in the course of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
I all the time found it troublesome explaining to my pals the actual impression and injury that such a tragedy has on a person and their household. And thus when desirous about methods to strategy making a movie on the subject, I felt that the suffering of Armenians must be expressed by celebrating the human spirit, the gorgeous textural material of the person who typically is misplaced in the information, statistics and the Turkish Government’s bullying about what phrase you need to name the homicide of a race – as if by some means that modifications anything.
My grandparents in Platres in Cyprus through the holidays – 1932
A couple of years ago, I read a captivating e-book entitled “Exile, Trauma and Dying,” by Aram Andonian, a journalist who was arrested alongside lots of of Armenian intellectuals on April 24, 1915. Andonian was one of the few who survived, and he witnessed the prisoners’ journey to Chankiri prison. Varoujan is fleetingly talked about within the e-book, but what was written captivated me concerning the man. I followed up by in search of scarce English translations of his works, a dozen or so poems, some that had even made the lengthy journey from Armenian to French and then English. I apprehensive about clumsy translations and Chinese whispers, whether the which means had been changed, besides, what I read was majestic. Varoujan’s understanding of the great thing about humanity and in addition the fragility of people, villagers, their land and its spirit was magical, so I needed to know more. With the help of our poetry producer Tatevik Ayvazyan, we launched into a journey of research and discovery, always grateful to the preservation and survival of the various unique publications and the fantastic translations by dedicated lovers of literature like Tatul Sonentz-Papazian and Alice Stone Blackwell.
Varoujan was a supremely gifted visionary and inimitable wordsmith. The quantity of labor he left (four revealed collections of poems) could be very a lot alive, sounding trendy and affecting individuals at present as it did over 100 years ago. His vary of poems is stunningly large – he has intimate, candy portraits of village life, painful prophecies of the fate of his nation, sensual tales of want—all of which are united in his love of mankind, beauty and nature.
Varoujan’s Western Armenian is particularly beautiful and vivid, reviving Krapar words, making up his personal and enjoying with the form and form of the language to mould any image and emotion he needed to convey. It was necessary for the movie to have his poems which he insisted on calling songs, voiced in Western Armenian, (a language which is sadly categorised as endangered by UNESCO) as the one option to hold a language alive is using, listening to and cherishing it, like Varoujan did.
When writing “Taniel,” although I used to be funding the undertaking myself, I needed to be formidable and create a film that had scale, that was lovely, shot in black and white within the Movie Noir fashion. As a toddler, I liked watching reruns on BBC of previous Hollywood classics, especially movies by the legendary director Rouben Mamoulian and darkish comedian genius Akim Tamiroff—Armenians who had made it to the very best degree of the business as immigrants in the 1930s which was no mean feat. I used to be captivated and inspired by them then as much as I am now.
I also needed the movie to be highly effective in conveying emotion, for the viewers to really feel and understand the human story, Varoujan’s pain, our ache, a story that represented all Armenians.
Varoujan was a deeply considerate poet, and within the film, we do not see him converse but hear his ideas via his poems and thus the movie’s narrative is usually in poetry. The unique Armenian verses are read by wonderfully gifted Istanbul actor Yegya Akgun, who’s the voice for onscreen star and considered one of Armenia’s greatest theatre actors, Tigran Gaboyan, who embodies the poet silently.
The poems we chose give us a way of each scene, from arrest to prison and we hear Varoujan’s emotions and emotions while his world is pulled aside. Amazingly, most of those poems have been written about his experiences as a younger man witnessing the Hamidian massacres, and it’s clear that once we speak concerning the Armenian Genocide, we should always understand that the method began in 1894.
It was also necessary that the movie is screened to a worldwide viewers. That’s why I needed a British voice in the movie too. We commissioned poetry in English, which was written by Ben Hodgson, telling the story of the movie. These verses are the connective glue between every of the scenes. The subsequent problem was to seek out the English voice that may have the required grit and emotion. In Britain, we’re blessed to have so many great actors; I could not have wished to forged anyone extra good than one of the UK’s most acknowledged thespians—Sean Bean, the star of Recreation of Thrones and Lord of the Rings to be our film’s narrator. Not only does he have fantastic gravitas thoughtfully delivered together with his South Yorkshire accent, however he also understood the pain and great thing about the story and made difficult darkish verses his personal, with understanding, passion and respect.
With the need to discover applicable places a challenge, I first needed to see if it was attainable to movie where Varoujan lived. A good friend of mine organized for me to satisfy with a prime Turkish producer Ali, who’s been concerned in high-profile productions. Whereas I used to be ready for the assembly, my son Aren and I took in the sights. The visit seemed like a pilgrimage. We took a boat journey to the historical Armenian Kinaliada Island after which again on the mainland for the previous Byzantium town and Armenian church buildings.
Left to right: Andre Gumuchdjian, Prof. Peter van Nufelen, Prof. Theo van Lint, Garo Berberian, Tatevik Ayvazyan, Yegya Akgun, Ben Hodgson, Sahag Arslanian at Ghent College
Near Varoujan’s house with Yegya Akgun and Lara Narin
Close to Varoujan’s residence in Constantinople
We needed to seek out Taniel’s previous residence and had been informed it was Yeni Nalbant road, most people have been not sure concerning the location or if the home nonetheless stood. The world is run down now, and naturally there isn’t any plaque or statue to mark the place the place one of the biggest poets within the then Ottoman empire lived. Walking up the steep climb, blinded by the setting sun I felt elated and very unhappy on the similar time. To stand in a road the place Taniel would have walked, talked and laughed was emotional. Watching the stray cats and canine operating around, I questioned if their feral ancestors would have been here too. Varoujan in all probability would have greeted them like royalty together with his fantastic surreal thoughts turning their varieties into panthers and wolves hiding in the shadows or dancing in the solar, a part of the mythical world he inhabited.
Ali the producer opened the door to his lovely residence with an enormous smile, saying ‘welcome to your house,’ referencing the fact that the district he lived in was principally Armenian in 1915. I noticed as I sat there in his office wanting at the grandeur of the past that I was sadly not part of this reality. The script I was holding was about an awesome man, one of the many shining lights put out by the hands of the Ottoman authorities over 100 years ago.
Ali is a person saddened by the horrible state of his personal country and what they’ve executed to others. He was very beneficiant and provided to assist me make the film, however it was clear I couldn’t film outdoors within the open. A production in Turkey that confirmed Armenians arrested on April 24 in 1915? No. I may need to shoot the prison scene from inside my own cell.
So it was off to Armenia and Gyumri, aided by Nare Ter-Gabrielyan, the movie’s producer, who was instrumental within the clean production of the film. The town had superb historical places and, most importantly, many artistic and gifted individuals. Working with the Gyumri Dramatic Theatre was a real pleasure. Not only have been they consummate professionals, however they have been a joy to work with, targeted on the artwork of appearing and the importance of representing one among our greats.
I feel the movie’s strengths are by way of its forged. The depth of their onscreen performances, expressions and feelings come from our shared historical past of the Armenian Genocide. This was not something that wanted to be directed or discussed.
After 5 filming days it was back to the UK and work on the title sequence, foley (sound effects), modifying, and of course one major component in creating mood, the soundtrack.
Clockwise, Jordi Savall, Tigran Hamasyan, Valentina Lisitsa, Michael Nyman, Arik Bambir and Philip Glass
We are extremely fortunate to have a number of the most gifted musicians’ work in the movie. The legendary Philip Glass played by Valentina Lisitsa sets the scene. Jordi Savall provides Constantinople its Western Armenian character. The wonderfully gifted Tigran Hamasyan and music from the album “Luys i Luso” is the driving pressure throughout the movie together with his lovely complicated and emotive cascade of notes and vocals. The sensible Michael Nyman sets Taniel free, and Arik Bambir puts down his rock guitar and delves deeper into the rich history of Armenian people music, reminding us that the human spirit cannot be destroyed by tyrants.
It was unimaginable to win the Greatest Brief film award at one in every of Hollywood’s oldest festivals—ARPA—and obtain Outstanding Course and the Viewers Award on the faraway Bermuda International Film Pageant. Nevertheless some of our most shifting reminiscences are from our current again to again screenings on the Hrant Dink foundation in Istanbul and Ghent College, locations the place Varoujan lived and studied.
His life was taken when he was 31 years previous. Speaking about Varoujan the martyr and Varoujan the icon, the human being behind that picture and perception is usually forgotten. It was necessary for us to revive his phrases of love and tenderness to his spouse, his confidence when speaking about critics, annoyance at his publishers, and his pain and homesickness when he was away. So both in Istanbul and in Ghent, we had the prospect to perform his phrases reside on stage with our actor Yegya Akgun’s clear voice, and it’s inconceivable to explain our feelings once we heard him reading one in every of Varoujan’s most poignant poems, “To the Muse,” on his birthday on the street the place he lived. We questioned if Taniel, as a younger man, would have thought he can be remembered and his words spoken over 100 years later.
Taniel’s journey has been emotional and continuously evolving. Really rewarding is the information that the movie has crossed over from the display to the stage and e-book publications.
Poetry and letter performances (following screenings) really feel like we have been going back to what Varoujan himself liked to do for his viewers and college students. “Taniel” and the poem “Alms” are to be featured in an upcoming publication “Poems From the Fringe of Extinction,” an anthology of 50 poems in endangered languages edited by Chris McCabe of the British National Poetry Library in London. After seeing the movie, McCabe was affected by Varoujan’s phrases and was instrumental to make it a part of the upcoming publication. In any case Varoujan himself believed that…
What can we care life is dying
When the dream is living,
When the dream is immortal.
Ո՛հ, ի՜նչ փոյթ կեանքը մեռնող,
Երբոր երազը կ’ապրի,
Երբոր երազն անմա՜հ է: