Harutyun Khachatryan was born in Georgia in 1955 where he completed his film studies. He worked as director and directing assistant and is now head of the documentary department of the Hayfilm/Armenfilm Studios. Previous films include Voices from our Neighbourhood (1981, short), Chronicles of an Event (1985, short), A Visit With the Commander (1986), Three Rounds in Yengibarian’s Life (1986, short), Kond (1987, short), White Town (1989, short), The Wind of Emptiness (1990), Return to the Promised Land (1992), Verchin gayan / The Last Station (1994), Documentarist (2003), Poeti veradrdze/Return of the poet (2005).
Shohreh Jandaghian – Could you please tell us how filmmaking started in Armenia?
Harutyun Khachatryan – The first film shootings on the territory of Armenia took place in 1908 and were realized by the Caucasian cameramen of Pathe. They filmed the funeral of catholicos Matheos. The head office of the organization was in Tbilisi. It was approximately that period, when the first cinemas were open in Yerevan, Gyumri and Kars.
The first documentary was shot in 1924, entitled “Soviet Armenia”.
The first feature film – “Namous” was filmed in 1925.
Anyway, we can say that Armenian film industry was set up in April 1923, when “Hay Kino” (Armenian cinema) studio was established according to the decision of state.
Shohreh – The name “Sergei Parajanov” means a lot to the film history. What does this name mean to Armenian cinema?
Harutyun – Parajanov has shot only two films in Armenia. One documentary – “Hakob Hovnatanyan”, 8 min and a feature film “The colour of the Pomegranate”. He started also shooting of another feature called “Confession”, but maestro died having filmed only 200 metres of film. Through, Parajanov’s role in the culture of Armenia and history of Armenian cinema is much more than just the value of his films. He not only created a new language for Armenian soviet cinema, enlarging the meaning of the cinema, but also created some kind of unique and indescribable atmosphere around him – wherever he was – in Ukraine, Georgia or Armenia, through which he presented the lost values of their own.
As to the special experience, we have a special award at GOLDEN APRICOT IFF, which is called “Lifetime Achievement award” after S. Parajanov and has the form of the “Thaler” he created by his nail when he was imprisoned.
Shohreh – You have been working over 25 years in the film industry in both period before and after the fall of Soviet Union. What was the atmosphere for an Armenian filmmaker at USSR-era?
Harutyun – There were difficulties in both periods. If during the USSR there was a problem of freedom in choosing a subject, now we have totally the freedom we need, but on the other hand we do not have any support from the state. It is getting more difficult to get funding for films. After the collapse of Soviet Union many private small studios were created, but many of them were not able to survive due to financial difficulties.
Shohreh – How about today, what is the current situation for filmmaking in Armenia?
Harutyun – We have a problem of film market. Not that many cinemas functioning and the number of cinema goers are not large. So in this situation, cinema has more importance in sense of cultural policy and we should focus on author cinema rather than cinema aimed for mass distribution.
Shohreh – How did you become interesting in film and filmmaking at all?
Harutyun – I used to work as a projectionist in Georgia. This was my first contact with big cinema and I simply fell in love with it. Besides, it was the easiest and for me the most attractive way of self-expression. I don’t have talent to draw or to sing, and speak to quickly for people to understand me, so my cinema expresses my thoughts and emotions.
Shohreh – You have made about 10 documentary and fiction films. Which type of filmmaking do you prefer most?
Harutyun – I prefer pure cinema language no matter it is documentary or fiction. I don’t like dialogue-based films, and I let the picture tell the story itself.
Shohreh – Do you consider yourself as an independent filmmaker?
Harutyun – Yes, I am. For me independent filmmaking can be defined as “avoiding following the mass taste and demand, starting the films from the very beginning – the idea, and bringing it up to the end and not depending from financiers”.
Shohreh – What are your favourite movies and which one has impressed you the most?
Harutyun – All the films by Dziga Vertov, Robert Flaherty, and of course Artavazd Peleshian.
Shohreh – You are also director of Yerevan International Film Festival Golden Apricot. How the initial idea came about?
Harutyun – From jealousy : ))) being a very cinematographic country Armenia just had to have a good international film festival!
Shohreh – What are you working on now?
Harutyun – Currently I am busy with the completion of my new feature film project and of course working on the fourth edition of Golden Apricot IFF.
Shohreh – Finally, what advice would you give to today’s young filmmakers?
Harutyun – I don’t think I can give any advice. I just can help and support them in case they choose cinema and their lifestyle.