Ararat

After making several adaptations of other writers' work, Armenian-Canadian director Atom Egoyan broached an original treatment of a deeply personal subject: the 1915 extermination of well over one million Armenians, an act of genocide the Turkish government still refuses to acknowledge ever occurred. Young Armenian-Canadian Raffi (David Alpay), uncertain...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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After making several adaptations of other writers' work, Armenian-Canadian director Atom Egoyan broached an original treatment of a deeply personal subject: the 1915 extermination of well over one million Armenians, an act of genocide the Turkish government still refuses to acknowledge ever occurred. Young Armenian-Canadian Raffi (David Alpay), uncertain of his legacy, is torn between his volatile girlfriend, Celia (Marie-Josee Croze), and his mother, Ani (Arsinee Khanjian), a respected art history professor. Celia blames Ani for her father's suicide; Ani left him for Raffi's father, an Armenian "freedom fighter" who was later shot while attempting to assassinate a Turkish diplomat. Ani has written a book about Armenian artist Arshile Gorky, and her lectures on "The Artist and His Mother," Gorky's famous memorial to his mother, who was murdered by Turks, have inspired renowned Armenian film director Edward Saroyan (Charles Aznavour) and his screenwriter, Rouben (Eric Bogosian), to write a fictionalized Gorky into their latest production, "Ararat." The film will deal primarily with a courageous Armenian revolt against Turkish troops in the province of Van, close to where Gorky was born. Saroyan, whose own mother was killed by the Turks, wants to hire Ani as a technical consultant. Ani, however, is wary of the inevitable liberties the film will take with a history that's already been distorted and largely ignored, if not outright denied. Framing these plot lines, which Egoyan intercuts with scenes from Saroyan's "Ararat," is yet another encounter, set some time in the future. Returning from a trip to Turkey, Raffi is detained at the Toronto airport by David (Christopher Plummer), a customs official suspicious of the sealed film cans Raffi is carrying. By way of explanation, Raffi tells him the story of his life and the tragic fate of the Armenian people. The device is a clumsy one, but it allows Egoyan to pull this busy narrative sufficiently together to pose an essential question: How do you prove something happened when there's no one left alive to remember it? The answer, the film suggests, is through storytelling and art. Egoyan traveled to the hauntingly empty countryside of Armenia to film 1994's CALENDAR, but this is the first time he's dealt with the destruction of his people. And yet we only experience the horror of the genocide through several layers of artifice — first Saroyan's, then Egoyan's own — a sad acknowledgement that with each story told, we're drawn that much further from the truth.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: R
  • Review: After making several adaptations of other writers' work, Armenian-Canadian director Atom Egoyan broached an original treatment of a deeply personal subject: the 1915 extermination of well over one million Armenians, an act of genocide the Turkish governmen… (more)

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