Another hero of the series “War documentarians” is cinematographer Arto Khachaturyan.

“I was born in Ganja, which, unfortunately, is a part of Azerbaijan. I was two years old when my family moved to Armenia. It was 1966. That means I am a migrant not a refugee. My dream was to become a cinematographer and I realized my dream. I have received a professional education both in Yerevan and Moscow. In 1981 I started working in “Hayfilm” until it collapsed.”

r001-002“How was the war movement of 1988 in Arto Khachaturyan’s eyes?”

“First of all the movement of 88 was interesting for me as an Armenian man and citizen. Being acquainted with the activists who had initiated the movements I foresaw the logical continuation of that war. They were prudent and competent enough to understand that a land is never presented: it is either bought or occupied. The war was inevitable. I was automatically involved in one of the squads and left for Artsakh.

During the harshest period of 1993 I received an offer to shoot a feature film about Artsakh. It was a kind of strange to shoot a feature film in the battlefield, but the film was shot. Later together with Vrezh Petrosyan I worked on the documentary film “The Break That Lasts Forever”. The film was about the youth squad comprised of children aged 12-15 who had come together from different places: Artsakh, Yerevan and Goris. They were very sincere children, although some were both drinking and smoking. Generally they were more agile and flexible than the adults, and they were fighting selflessly. They just loved their land.”

Arto Khachaturyan is also the cinematographer of the famous film series “Artsakh Diary”. In 1995 after the ceasefire he worked on the full-length documentary film “Artsakh Diary” together with Australian Armenian director Ohanjanyan. The TV program “The Devotees” initiated by Tsvetana Paskaleva is also the result of his work.

“On 28 January we celebrated the 24th anniversary of the Armenian Army. How was the development process of that army when the guerrilla groups continued to fight in Karabakh?”

“The Liberation of Shushi by Armenians is considered the crucial stage of the Karabakh war, but before that several important operations had been brilliantly conducted by our guerrilla groups. However there were people who clearly understood the need for regular army. The Armenian army was formed parallel to the war and in the turmoil of the war.”

“What is your perception of that war as an artist?”

“Don’t forget that we are Armenians. An Armenian cannot asses this war as an observer. You are neither a cameraman nor a journalist there: you are either an Armenian or not. I left for Artsakh as an Armenian. If I participated in Serbia or Vietnam war as a cameraman I might assess the war in a neutral way. Though I should note that war seems to be something romantic in the beginning. No one thinks that they can die: they can only receive injuries. You don’t feel what the war is when the friend next to you dies.

Every inch of Armenian land is a homeland for me. Western Armenia is also a homeland for me. My mother’s side is from Artsakh and my father’s one is from Van. During Van massacres and wars of self-defense only two out of thirteen children of my grandmother’s family survived. These memories are alive in each Armenian though we don’t learn from the lessons of our history. Because of our big and small mistakes the millennia long country somehow survives today. We make a lot of mistakes.”

“In spite of our big and small mistakes we managed to unite and win the Artsakh war”

“The victory was due to the fact that we had generals who understood if we lost Artsakh we would have to turn the last page of our history. Unfortunately, the majority of that generals perished. In ideological perspective I highly appreciate the role of Ashot Navasardyan. He has played a great role in the creation of our army and in the victory of Artsakh war.”

“What are your most impressive memories from the years of Artsakh war?”

“Artsakh is not a memory for me, but a present. I visit Artsakh at least once a month and meet my friends. I don’t accept the divisions of an Armenian and of an Artsakh. I only accept what is called “an Armenian”. It is not important where a person comes from, the important thing is his degree of honesty.”

arto“Let’s also speak about the current situation and the outlook of the Armenian cinema.”

“The situation is not good, as the people in charge don’t do their job in spite of the fact that we have several pointless and incomprehensible institutions. I find it necessary to adopt the law on “Cinema”, because if the law were available there would also be a lawful field. A foreigner wants to cooperate with us and conclude a contract but it isn’t possible because of the lack of that law. And that law must be based on reality. We cannot exactly imitate the Swiss, French or US laws. We don’t live in another planet but we have passed a different road of civilization.

Once the basis of the Armenian cinema was “Hayfilm” that was a family. I have become a part of that family. By destroying “Hayfilm” we once again destroyed our history, in this case the history of the Armenian cinema.

Similarly, the buildings of the city are destroyed today. They say that the buildings are old. But there are thousands of ways to keep the old. Those who destroy them are frustrated people. They have been allowed to self-establish, if they cannot create the good, they have to destroy all the good that exists so that the bad crated by them won’t be visible. Till they establish themselves, we will lose our city.

As a child we were taught that Yerevan is a museum in the open air, but what has been left from that museum today? The environment becomes alien when all memories that make it familiar are erased. There is an impression that no one loves this city. And in general the smile is missing in our city, and not just in the city.

In order to avoid mediocrity Arto Khachaturyan recommends that cameramen follow the principles of classical art and gain an excellent knowledge in painting and photography arts. Reading, reading and again reading. According to Arto Khachaturyan these are the most important preconditions to become a good cameraman.  

Alisa Gevorgyan


They were Documenting the War

Documentary Filmmakers in the Artsakh (Liberation) War: 1991–1994

“They Were Documenting the War” book is dedicated to the Independence of Armenia and the 25th anniversary of the formation of Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia. The book contains 34 interviews (in Armenian and English) publishid under the headinge “War Documentary Filmmakers” on the website’s (Cinema World) in 2012 to 2017. The documentary filmmakers worked on the frontline in 1991-1994 and prepared the chronicles of Artsakh War. The book also contains information on their biography, filmography as well as the selection of their video materials on two CDs.The book was compiled by Ruzanna Bagratunyan and Anahit Harutyunyan.

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