During the annual Columbia University Film Festival thethesis film “Red Apples” of Armenian student Ophelia Harutyunyan won the “Best Film” and “Best Producing” awards. Ophelia Harutyunyan, the student of the Film Faculty of the same university, is the producer and scriptwriter of the short feature film which was directed by George Sikharulidze.Prior to this Ophelia, together with her American classmate, shot the 12-minute-length film “The Frame”. Kinoashkhar has talked to Ophelia about her education, the filmmaking process, her awards and new projects.
“The film title Red Apples is associated with the famous Armenian tradition of the red apple. What is the connection between that two apples?”
“The film script is based on a real story. Years ago I came across a very sad story that left a deep impression on me. It dealt with the red apple tradition well known in Armenia, and because of it a young girl ended up in a difficult situation. That story greatly touched me. So I had that theme in my mind but still didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. I was sure that one day I would turn to that material but I didn’t know how. And later when I entered the university we were assigned to write a film script. At that very time I started writing that story. But I was afraid that the theme would not be understood by the Americans. In short I left it unfinished and put it aside. Four years later I decided to choose that very story as the material of my thesis film. But as I was studying at the department of Film Producing and Scriptwriting I could not participate as the film director. So I chose George, a Georgian boy who was my classmate. He said that same tradition exists in their country as well. We got along with each other very quickly and started working. I became the film scriptwriter and producer and he started directing it.”
“How long did the filmmaking process take?”
“It took me 7 months to write the script. Before the shootings I visited Armenia and began the preparatory works of the film, namely I organized some meetings and chose the film making areas. In fact the preparatory stage and the actual shooting rounds (the actual shooting process lasted for 5 days) took one month. The shootings were carried out in different parts of Yerevan. A group of Georgians were working with us. Our cinematographer and the second director were also Georgians. The rest of the film crew were from Armenia. We worked very well together communicating through all the languages we mastered, namely Armenian, Russian, Georgian and English.”
“Finally is the film ending hopeful, or…?”
“In fact the film is not about the red apple, rather its story is based on it. The film is about human relations and destinies showing how the external interventions can alter people’s lives: the couple that was very intimate 12 hours before the marriage suddenly became strangers. The real life events our film is based on show only one episode from this couple’s life together. They didn’t break up, continued to live together and had children. The film tells how their life went on after that event and how they managed to overcome that sad incident. The film stars Vahagn Martirosyan and Hrachuhi Amiryan. Varduhi Rushanyan, Gurgen Antonyan and Karine Janjughazyan have also played in the film.”
“The film has already managed to win two important awards. What can you say about it?”
“Yes, I won the awards within the framework of the annual film festival of our university. The jury was made of the representatives of our faculty and film industry. In general they watch all the films then recruit the best five ones. And later they choose the best film out of that five ones. “Red Apples” won the “The Best Film” award, and I was announced as “The Best Producer”. I had incredible emotions, I could not believe that my film would be so much comprehensible for the Americans. Currently I am already dealing with presenting the film to other film festivals. And I should state that there is already great interest towards the film.”
“Lawyer’s profession is your first one. You have graduated from Yerevan State University. Why did you decide to change your profession?”
“Moreover, I have even managed to defend my master’s thesis specialised in European law in my first profession in Sweden. When I returned Armenia I ended up working in the cinema sphere. I have worked with director Aram Shahbazyan, in the Golden Apricot, then I started working at CivilNet as a production manager. Cinema and TV became very interesting to me. I realized that if I wanted to continue working in the cinema sphere I should get a serious education. I decided to continue my education abroad and entered Producing and Scriptwriting Department of the Columbia University.”
“I know that you have started working at a very famous filmmaking company after graduating from the university.”
“Yes, I have started working at Alex Gibney’s film studio. He is an amazing documentarian. I am involved in his team. This is really a very wonderful opportunity to acquire a good experience.”
“Currently I am doing the producing of two films: the first one is American Armenian Alik Barsoumian’s short film “Antuni” which is being shot in Armenia. The second film is the full-length feature film “Undiscovered Lands” which is being shot in the USA. Director Vardan Hakobyan’s team is working on the film being shot in Armenia.
I think it will turn out to be a very impressive film. It is very important for me to learn and to create bonds. It is quite necessary in the cinema sphere. The more acquaintances, the more perspectives. It will greatly help me to work in Armenia as well. I want to come to Armenia very much but perhaps I will not manage to do it this summer due to my work.”
“What can you say about the contemporary Armenian cinema?”
“The contemporary Armenian cinema has a great potential. Our Armenian specialists are very talented. The thing is the opportunities that are provided to them are limited. Today light comedies with bad acting and bad scripts are mainly being shot in Armenia. The authors of that films claim that the society demands such films. I am not against such films. In the USA many such comedies are also available. But works of art are also made here.
Perhaps they should start with film education. A script is crucial for a movie. There is a saying here stating that if you give a good script to a director the film will turn out to be either good or bad, but in case of a bad script the film will certainly be a bad one. There are many new and interesting stories in Armenia. But it is necessary to manage to present them in the right way. Today such a tendency has emerged in Georgia, the whole world is concentrated on the young directors of that country. The thing is our authorities don’t realize the potential of art and cinema. They spend so much money on the country’s image but the shortest and most effective way to present your country abroad is through its culture. We should become a part of the world cinema. It will be very profitable for us.”
P.S.Ophelia Harutyunyan has managed to become the producer of the films “My First Kiss and The People Involved”, “Eight Counts” and “Come in” in this short period of time.