BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
YEREVAN—When I walked into an office overlooking Baghramyan Street in the Armenian capital, the filmmaker Jivan Avetisyan was surrounded by his staff and interns hard at work putting the finishing touches on a crowdfunding campaign that launched on March 17 for his upcoming film “Gate to Heaven.”
Avetisyan had just returned from Greece, where his award-winning film “The Last Inhabitant” had premiered in Athens and Thessaloniki, the latest stop on an international tour that included a screening at the coveted Venice Film Festival in September and winning the “Best Picture” award at the Scandinavian International Film Festival in October. In December, HBO announced that it will make the film available to its subscribers in Eastern Europe, thus showcasing Artsakh’s Khachmach village located in the Askeran region, where the film’s action takes place, to a wide audience.
Avetisyan told me that with the wide—and warm—reception he has received with “The Last Inhabitant” and earlier with his first feature-length film, “Tevanik,” he wanted the community at large to become part of his new film, “Gate to Heaven,” which once again takes place in Artsakh, this time with the April 2016 War serving as its backdrop.
The Indiegogo campaign will cover a fraction of the estimated $400,000 budget for “Gate to Heaven. Avetisyan, however, believes that those participating in the campaign will become invested in its success and will shepherd the film to greater heights.
Avetisyan’s films bring the Karabakh conflict and the Artsakh Liberation Movement to life through the eyes of the individual characters that populate the unique storylines. “Tevanik” was told from the perspective of the children who were caught in the throes of war, while “The Last Inhabitant” looks at the struggles of a man waiting for the return of his daughter as the war is forcing its inhabitants to flee to safety. His films have garnered a wide following in Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora and have mobilized many, including Serj Tankian who composed the score for “The Last Inhabitant.”
“This is my small way of telling the story of our people in Artsakh and bringing the realities of where I’ve grown up to the international stage,” said Avetisyan whose family fled Gyumri after the devastating 1988 earthquake and settled in Artsakh where the filmmaker found himself enveloped by the war and where he served as a soldier in the Artsakh Armed Forces from 1999 to 2001.
“Gate to Heaven” centers on Robert Stenvall, a European journalist, who returns to Artsakh in 2016 to cover the war, which resumed after a shaky 22-year-ceasefire. During his time in Artsakh, Stenvall meets Sophia Martirosyan a young Opera singer and daughter of a missing photojournalist Edgar Martirosyan whom Robert left behind in captivity in the village during the fall of Talish in 1992. The film will feature Tatiana Spivakova, Sos Janibejyan, and Naira Zakaryan in lead roles and is expected to begin production in August.
“‘Gate to Heaven’ tells the truth about God’s mighty power and how each and every one of us is led to our unique doors,” Avetisyan said in a press statement. “And once that very door opens, we become tolerant or evil, kind or brutal, a liar, a thief or the ones that let in the truth with all its colors.”
As of this writing almost $12,000 of the targeted goal of $53,000 has been raised through the Iniedgogo campaign.