Cinema of Armenia
By overwhelming demand we’ve created a section on Armenian Cinema and will continue to expand it as information on classic Armenian movies and contemporary Armenian films or filmmakers becomes available.
THE GREATEST OF ALL THE ARMENIAN FILMS
A number of Armenian filmmakers and films, made in Armenia and in foreign countries, have secured their place in the history of cinema. Of all the Armenian films, the most important is “Sayat Nova” also known as “The Color of Pomegranates”, about the 18th century Armenian troubadour Harutyun Sayadian or King of Song. It was directed by the genius Sergei Parajanov (Paradjanov) in 1968 and is now regarded as one of the greatest cinema masterpieces of all time. “Sayat Nova” received the praise of such legends as Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrei Tarkovsky andothers and made many Top 10 and Top 100 Greatest Movies lists all over the world including the prestigeous French magazine Cahiers du Cinema.
ARMENIAN FILMS OR FILMMAKERS IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
In Hollywood, innovative Armenian filmmaker Rouben Mamoulian directed such movie icons as Gary Cooper in the “City Streets”(1931), Marlene Dietrich in the “Song of Songs” (1933), Greta Garbo in “Queen Christina” (1933), Rita Hayworth and Anthony Quinn in“Blood and Sand” (1941), Henry Fonda in “Rings on Her Fingers”(1942) and Mickey Rooney in “Summer Holiday” (1948). Rouben Mamoulian was a 2 time winner at the Venice Film Festival in 1932 and 1935, Director’s Guild of America Life Time Achievement Award recipient in 1982 and he has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
ARMENIAN MOVIES MADE IN ARMENIA
In Armenia, the first Armenian film was the documentary “Soviet Armenia” released in 1924 and the first Armenian feature movie – the silent classic “Namus” directed by the founder of Armenian cinema Amo Bek-Nazarov (Hamo Bek-Nazarian) in 1925. It was followed by“Zareh” in 1926, “Shor i Shorshor” in 1927, “Has-Push” in 1928 and “Pepo” in 1936. Armenian film studio ArmenFilm is named after Amo Bek-Nazarov. Other undisputed classics of Armenian cinema (films produced in Armenia) that gained international attention are also Sergei Parajanov’s great short documentary “Hakob Hovnatanian”(1967), Artavazd Peleshian’s classic short documentary “The Seasons” (1975), Mikhail Vartanov’s influential feature documentary“Parajanov: The Last Spring” (1992), Frunze Dovlatian’s Festival de Cannes nominated feature “Hello it’s me” (1966), Albert Mkrtchyan’s Venice Film Festival winning feature “Tango of our childhood”(1985), Gennadi Melkonian’s short comedy “The Mulberry Tree”(1979) and a few others.
ARMENIAN CINEMA IN CANADA
Canadaian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, a 4 time winner at the Cannes Film Festival (Festival de Cannes), a 4 time winner at the Toronto Film Festival, a 2 time Academy Award nominee, a 7 time Canadian Academy Award winner and one of the most remarkable figures of contemporary independent filmmaking has directed such masterworks as “Sweet Hereafter” (1997) starring the great BAFTA and Cannes winner Ian Holm, “Ararat” (2002) – an astonishingly clever film in film [about the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by Turkey] – starring Emmy winner Christopher Plummer and Berlin Film Festival winner Eric Bogosian, and “Where the Truth Lies” (2005) staring Hollywood Walk of Famer Kevin Bacon.
ARMENIAN FILMS OR FILMMAKERS IN RUSSIA
The most forgotten is the Armenian screenwriter Nina Agadzhanova Shutko (Agadjanova, Agajanova) who wrote the screenplay of Sergei Eisenstein’s Soviet masterpiece “Battleship Potemkin” in 1925 – also regarded as one of the greatest movies of the 20th century. The most famous Armenian actor in Russia is Armen Dzhigarkhanyan (Jigarkhanian) who starred in over 160 films including the super hit“Crown of Russian Empire” (1971) by Armenian director Edmond Keosayan. Another famous Armenian director in Russia is Karen Shakhnazarov who directed several belovoed films including the cult movie “Kuryer” (1987) starring Anastasiya Nemolyayeva.
ARMENIAN FILMS OR FILMMAKERS IN THE CONTEMPORARY HOLLYWOOD?
In Hollywood, Steven Zaillian won an Academy Award for the screenplay of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” (1993), then directed John Travolta in “A Civil Action” (1998) and Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Sean Penn and Kate Winslet in “All the King’s Men” (2006). Steven Zaillian wrote the screenplays of“Awakenings” (1990) staring Robert De Niro, “Clear and Present Danger” (1994) starring Harrison Ford, “Hannibal” (2001) starring Anthony Hopkins, “Gangs of New York” directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, and “The Interpreter” (2005) starring Nicole Kidman. There are also many talanted filmmakers of Armenian descent working not only in Hollywood but all over the United States.
ARMENIAN FILMS OR FILMMAKERS IN IRAN
In Iran, an Armenian Ovanes Ohanian directed the first Persian (Iranian) film “Abi da Rabi” (1930), which was a great success but was reportedly burned in the fire. In the 1950 Samuel Khachikian also became an influential filmmaker in Iran and some called him Persian Hitchcock for his film noir movies.
THE MOST IMPORTANT ARMENIAN FILMMAKERS IN FRANCE
French Academy Award recipient Henri Verneuil was nominated for an Oscar for “Le Mouton à cinq pattes” (1954) starring the great Fernandel. Verneuil directed Jean-Paul Belmondo in “Le Casse”(1971) also starring Omar Sharif who played in Verneuil’s National Academy of France-winning picture “Mayrig” (1993) with the Italian beauty Claudia Cardinale.
The French-Armenian composer, singer and actor Charles Aznavour starred, composed and sang in such classics as François Truffaut’s“Shoot the Pianist” (1960), Jean Cocteau’s “The Testament of Orpheus” (1960), Jean-Luc Godard’s “A Woman is a Woman”(1961), Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Dirty Money” (1972) and Alain Resnais’ “On connaît la chanson” (1997). Charles Aznavour has sold over 100 million records and received the French Academy Award (Cesar) for Life Time Achievment.
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSONALITY OF ARMENIAN DESCENT IN SHOWBIZ
Not only the most famous but also the most successful is Cher (Cherilyn Sarkisian). She received her Academy Award (Oscar) for the“Moonstruck” (1987), won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for the “Mask” (1985), won 3 Golden Globe Awards including one for“Silkwood” (1983). She won an Emmy Award for the “Cher: Farewell Tour” (2003) which featured her number 1 hit song “Believe”. For that song Cher had won the Grammy Award in 1999. And with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1998) it will be a very long time before anyone can top her achievments.
MORE ARMENIAN FILMS OR FILMMAKERS
The first Armenian to receive an Oscar was William Saroyan for the screenplay of the “Human Comeday” (1943). William Saroyan may be the only author to receive both an Academy Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Born in the same town as Saroyan (Frezno, California), actor Mike Connors received the Golden Globe Award for “Mannix” in 1970.
Born in Armenia, Hollywood producer Arthur M. Sarkissian released the blockbuster franchise “Rush Hour” (1998 – 2007).
Emmy Award winner Howard G. Kazanjian produced “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) and “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” (1983). Kazanjian was Alfred Hitchcock’s first assisant director on “Family Plot” (1976).
The genius Orson Welles cast the Armenian Akim Tamiroff 4 times. In“Touch of Evil” (1958), “Le Procès” (1962), “Mr. Arkadin”(1955) and “Don Quixote” released in 1992. Akim Tamiroff was a 2 time Academy Award Nominee for “The General Died at Dawn”(1936) with Gary Cooper and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943) with Ingrid Bergman. Tamiroff won the Golden Globe Award for the latter. He also starred in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Alphaville” 1965 and Vittorio De Sica’s “After the Fox” 1966..
[To be continued and expanded]
INDIVIDUALS OF ARMENIAN DESCENT IN CINEMA
Rouben Mamoulian (1898 – 1987)
Nina Agadzhanova Shutko
Akim Tamiroff (1899 – 1972)
Aram Avakian (1926 – 1987)