“The Imprisoned Souls” is a documentary animation film series about the Armenian Genocide based on the stories of the real people. These stories are kept in the Zoryan Institute. The film is being shot by the co-funding of the National Cinema Center of Armenia. “Kinoashkharh” has talked to the film authors Inna Sahakyan and Vardan Hovhannisyan.

hovhannisyan_vardan-filmmaker-bioVardan Hovhannisyan, the director and author of the script:

I have never wanted to make a film about the Genocide, as I cannot change that situation. Maybe it can be considered as a complex, it is hard to say. But rather it was due to the fact that there were not necessary conditions and heroes. There have either been too young at that time or they are very old today and have difficulty in remembering and telling the 100-year-old events. There are not also archival footage. All this is very significant for a documentary film. And I had no desire to shoot another film filled with crying. Any film dedicated to the Genocide must have an impact not only on Armenians but also on foreigners, who know nothing about that story. It must affect the grandchildren of the criminals in order for them to understand what really happened. I had no material in order to make such a film.

But in 1989 when I went to the US for the first time I visited the Zoryan Institute. I saw that they had a gallery where they kept hundreds of records on VHS tapes. I entered that room, opened the cabinet and watched a tape in which some elderly people were telling stories. The tape quality was very poor as it had been recorded by amateurs, but the stories were fantastic. The records were made in order to verify and preserve the stories of these people, as material evidence. It was for the history not for the movies. And the questions addressed to that people had a certain format, as where are you from? how many people lived in your village?, what were the cloths that women wore?, etc.  And sometimes the small fragments of the personal stories were so impressing that I was touched.

That records were made in Zoryan Institute in 70-90s. That people were children during the period of the Genocide, and they were telling that stories at the age of 75-80. And there was an impression that old people were the same little heroes of their stories. That tapes were very interesting but it was impossible to use them at that time. Besides, the Karabakh war had begun and I thought we had more serious issues to solve. In 1991 I visited Zoryan Institute again. I was staying in the guest room and at nights I often went down to the same library and watched the records. The same happened during my visit to the US in 1993s.

A few years ago when I was in the US I again went to that institute. I asked the director Gurgen Sargsyan about the tapes and he said that they had been recorded on DVD discs and were kept in a separate cabinet. When I opened that cabinet I had a strange feeling. The stories of thousands of people had been locked in that cabinet as imprisoned souls. That people had shared their pain, but that pain had been locked in that box. Each of that stories is a big tragedy of which other people should be aware. The Zoryan Institute has done an enormous work by creating that archive and keeping that memories, but…

When I came back I started thinking more often about that archive and realized that it was a crime not to publicize them. Everyone must do his job. The Zoryan Institute has done and continues to do an enormous scientific work, and we should do our work in the films.

The best expression of the film was through the documentary, animation genre. Animation became a means of transmitting the childish colorful memories of that stories. The film begins with the footage of interviews and then continues with the animation that reproduces the memories. We think this language will be understood by everyone. We intend to make about 10 movies. Supposedly that list will also include films dedicated to other genocides. Later we are going to work with various foreign animators, but the painter of the first film is Hayk Sayadyan.

Իննա-Սահակյան-200x300Director Inna Sahakyan:

The first film “Aurora” is dedicated to Aurora Mardiganyan, about whom there are material both in the Zoryan Institute and in the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute. We have thoroughly studied all the material. The Zoryan Institute maintains the 4-hour interview of 84-year-old Aurora. Our film is based on that interview. Her theme is highly discussed today, but the interview contains many interesting episodes that can’t be found in her book. We have tried to include them in the film. The survivors’ stories were numerous: self-sacrifice, struggle, survival stories. We have tried to choose the most interesting ones. How people have displayed superhuman qualities in the most inhumane conditions. We have distinguished the stories leading to the light and the good. Some of the shootings have taken place in Turkey. One of the principles of the film series is to end the stories with the landscapes of today’s Turkey. They are the roods through which our heroes have passed. In the film you move from the abstract places to the modern Turkey, where there are the trees, the destroyed churches but there are no people…

We intend to finish the whole film series till 2022. The animation genre is quite difficult. We also want to work with foreign animators. It is extremely important for us that the film be not only for the Armenian market but also for the international one. The premiere of the first film “Aurora” is scheduled to be hold in December 2015, in Yerevan. After the national premiere the film will also have an international one.

Alisa Gevorgyan