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Saturday, 1 October 2011

2011 ARPA FILM FESTIVAL (October 22-24/ Hollywood California)

Today is the First Day of October.  Here in Glendale it is still summer. Last week I attended the ARPA FILM FESTIVAL in Hollywood.  Here is my impression of the festival.

I enjoy the gratification that comes from watching movies at film festivals.  They open up new windows and allow us to see new perspectives. This proved true again last week (Sep. 22-24) at the 14th annual Arpa International Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.  Each year I attend the festival and try to watch as many films as possible.  And each year, there are at least one or two standout films.

Last year, as a retrospective, Arpa screened the newly restored version of "Namus," a film produced in 1926 by the iconic filmmaker Hamo Beknazarian.  "Namus" is an adaptation from a play with the same title written by the Armenian playwright Alexander Shirvanzadeh.  I remember hearing about "Namus" and "Pepo" while growing up - two films by the same filmmaker, but I had never had an opportunity to see the films.  Thanks to Arpa film festival I finally had the opportunity to watch the film which left an indelible mark on me just as it had dazzled my mother when she first saw it 80 years ago as a young girl in Tabriz.  I was marveled by the cinematography techniques used during those early years of filmmaking and I enjoyed watching the lifestyle of the era. I loved the scene that showed a couple getting married at night in a church followed by a procession from the church to the restaurant by lit torches. And of course the dancing scenes in the restaurant just melted my heart.

Besides "Namus," the films that I've often enjoyed have been documentaries or short films.  This year, however, there was an exception once again.  Among my favorites was a feature film "Three Veils" written and directed by the Arab American filmmaker, Rolla Selbak.  The film was very well executed and portrayed the inner struggles of three Middle Eastern women living in the U.S.  It won the Best Feature Film Award at the Festival.

Among other films that impacted me last week at the festival were three documentaries, the first one was: The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia.  The title says it all.  This documentary is about two of the most celebrated master tightrope acrobats, that in their heydays were treated like kings, but today they don't even have enough money to put gasoline in their car.  They used archived film strips from the past and followed their lives in more recent years. It was a phenomenal movie. It depicted the sad reality of our homeland.  I watched it with wet eyes.  

Children of War: The title of this documentary also says what the movie is all about. It depicts war-torn Uganda, where boys are abducted from their homes and their schools and are forced to become soldiers and fight. The documentary follows a group of former child soldiers that have escaped and have returned to their homes, only to fight with the demons of their memories.  It is a powerful movie.  Following the film screening I asked Bryan Single, the producer and the director, about the years and money he had put into this extraordinary documentary.  Single, in his late 30's, had dedicated 6 years to bring this movie to life. I was in awe, inspired by the whole process of making the film, and how a young man could put so much heart into a project with a minimal source of income. The film won the Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award at the Festival.

The last of my favorites was "MARION STODDART: THE WORK OF 1000," a documentary about an American woman, Marion Stoddart, who in 1965 headed a group from her hometown to clean up the Nashua river in Massachusetts. It is a tale of an extraordinary woman who dedicated her life by transforming herself from a housewife into a staunch advocate for the environment. The movie chronicles her work, her life and her family by using archived interviews with government officials, combining the point of view of her children and her husband into one perspective. It was another extraordinary and inspirational film. It won the Arpa/AT&T Award for Environmental Conservation and Stewardship.

I salute the organizers of Arpa International Film Festival who strive to enhance our community's cultural values and bridge gaps between different cultures.  Year after year, they give us the opportunity to witness new horizons and point of views. We need to support this important endeavor. 

1 comment:

  1. I went there this year. I saw two movies, the Bolis and the Piano. Both of them were amazing and up to date at the same time. The Piano was a bitter sweet movie about the true life in Armenia, the joys and simple pleasures people live with. I am thinking of writing about these movies in my blog:)