The Color of Armenian Soil

Vartanov’s The Color of Land (1969)

In his censored 1969 documentary debut, which resulted in his decades-long blacklist, Mikhail Vartanov presents the ancient and the modern art of Armenia with a silent commentary by the country’s 90 year old master painter Martiros Saryan. Through the old man’s eyes we see biblical landscapes, ruins of temples, fading frescos and the crumbling “khachkar” cross-stones in the countryside, but, through the subtle expressions on his wrinkled face, we also feel his pride in the contemporary architecture of the capital where a new generation of modernist artists are taking Armenian culture into the future. They are: the filmmaker Parajanov (imprisoned in 1973), the sculptor Tchakmaktchian (exiled in 1974), and the painter Minas (assassinated in 1975).

The Color of Armenian Land features the now world famous behind-the-scenes sequences of Sergei Parajanov at work on his landmark film Sayat Nova/The Color of Pomegranates.

The score of The Color of Armenian Land was composed by Tigran Mansurian, who later also scored Parajanov’s Sayat Nova and several of Vartanov’s other films, such as Autumn Pastoral (1971). It was the portrayal of the nonconformist artists Sergei Parajanov and Minas Avetisyan that caused The Color of Armenian Land to be shelved while Vartanov was blacklisted. When his artistic freedom was restored 20 years later, he responded with Minas: A Requiem (1989) and Paradjanov: The Last Spring (1990), completing a trilogy.

Some of the sequences of The Color of Armenian Land reappeared in Paradjanov: The Last Spring, but an important part was stolen from the archives – only 1 frame recently surfaced.

The below frame is from the sequence that was not part of the final censored cut of the Color of Armenian Land — when Vartanov wanted to include this footage into Parajanov: The Last Spring he couldn’t find it in the archives. In 1998 a calendar was printed in Armenia where this frame was used and credited to a “staff photographer” while in reality someone cut the original negative of Mikhail Vartanov’s film and enlarged its 35mm frame. In 2014, Vartanov’s image of Parajanov was selected for the offical catalogue by Festival de Cannes.

Parajanov by Vartanov

The Color of the Armenian Land (the first installment of the documentary trilogy with Minas: A Requiem and Parajanov: The Last Spring) had it’s first public screening at one of the world’s largest and prestigious cinematic events, the Busan International Film Festival, 43 years after it was made.

6 years later, in 2018 — or 49 years after it was created  — Vartanov’s The Color of Armenian Land was released by Criterion on Blu-ray with Parajanov’s restored Color of Pomegranates.

This represents the very first commercial/home video release for Vartanov whose films have never been previously issued on VHS/DVD or any other format.

Criterion Collection 2018 Bluray and DVD release of the restored Color of Pomegranates includes Mikhail Vartanov’s rare first film The Color of Armenian Land which you can purchase by clicking the image below.


Sergei Parajanov
Martiros Saryan
Minas Avetisian
Arto Tchakmakchian
Robert Elibekian
Hovsep Karalyan
Yervand Gojabashyan
Martin Petrosian


Mikhail Vartanov (Writer/Dir/DP)
Tigran Mansuryan (Composer)
Komitas (Composer)
Karen Kurdiyan (Sound)

Հայկական հողի գույնը

Цвет армянской земли (фильм)

Parajanov-Vartanov Institute


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