Armenian President Welcomes Film Directors to Golden Apricot Festival

YEREVAN (Armenpress/Armenianow.com)–Armenian president Robert Kocharian thanked directors who are in Armenia participating in the second Golden Apricot film festival. "The organization of such festivals is very important for us," said Kocharian explaining that it not only provides the opportunity to restore Armenian film tradition–but to also understand the art of contemporary filmmaking.

The festival opened in Yerevan on July 12 under the theme "Armenia–a Crossroads of Civilizations and Cultures."

As the apricot harvest–the organizers promise that this year’s festival–which runs until July 17–will be even richer and sweeter than the first one.

It has already marked its second year with a symbolic change of logo–the plump fruit of the inaugural festival has become apricot jam spread on a slice of bread.

"The apricot ripened in one year and turned into jam–whether in terms of the organization–content and experience of the festival; it has become wiser and more concentrated in terms of being at a really international level," says Harutyun Khachatryan–director of the festival.

This year the films will compete in two categories–international and all-Armenian. The international section will have two categories for feature films and documentaries made after July 1–2003. The Armenian Panorama category covers fiction–documentary–and animation films by Armenian cinematographers.

During the July days of the festival–the capital will burn with hot films; 140 have been selected from the 300 submitted this year–with 45 countries represented–three times the number in 2004. Entran’s from New Zealand–Chile–and Nicaragua are among those selected.

"The creation of a film festival last year seemed madness–since at least $2.5 million is needed to hold such an event. Nevertheless–we created a ridiculous budget of $100,000–found people who believed us and–as you can see–the dream became reality," says Khachatryan.

The film juries under the Armenian-Canadian director Atom Egoyan include the Dutch film director Jos Stelling–British film critic and producer Simon Field–who headed the Rotterdam film festival jury for several years–and Deborah Young–a leading American film journalist.

The Golden Apricot will host master classes from director Roman Balayan–actor Oleg Yankovski–Moscow Film Festival Director Nikita Mikhalkov–Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi–and the Iranian director hailed as a master of world cinematography Abbas Kiarostami–whose film won the Palme d’Or in Cannes last year.

"It’s amazing that they have all expressed a willingness to participate–but it is a fact that after last year’s festival the name of Armenia was spread abroad. They loved the blessing of the apricot–maybe also the apricot vodka and our warm reception," jokes Khachatryan.

The organizers of this large-scale festival kept their budget secret this year. Last year–the state allocated $100,000 but this year’s festival received less government aid and the organizers rested their hopes on sponsors.

"I am just back from the Moscow International Festival that had $3.1 million from the state budget–$900,000 from the Moscow city government and twice more from sponsors. I will not mention the sums allotted to the Golden Apricot–for it may seem very funny by comparison," says Susanna Harutyunyan–the art director of the festival. "Besides–this is only our second year and the Moscow film festival dates back 27 years."

The festival offers several programs outside the competition–such as days of Iranian and Russian films. A special show of Armenian films devoted to the anniversaries of Henrik Malyan–Aghasi Aivazyan–Mher Mkrtchyan–Khoren Abrahamyan–and Hrant Matevosyan will be held under the title "Tribute of Respect."

There will be new works from Armenfilm–"Mariam" directed by Edgar Baghdasaryan will open the festival–and Atom Egoyan’s wife Arsine Khanjyan will present Ruba Nadda’s film "Sabah"–in which she has a leading role.

The organizers of the Golden Apricot have made "golden" promises to create a truly festive atmosphere. Charles Aznavour Square will host numerous souvenir and video film kiosks for film lovers–there will be open-air jazz concerts–and of course interesting films in the cool cinema halls.

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