YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Italian authorities banned the presentation of Atom Egoyan’s Ararat scheduled to be shown across the country on April 24 as part of events commemorating the 88th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide committed by the government of Turkey in 1915.
The Armenian embassy in Italy said the ban came unexpectedly as the showing had been announced long before. Many viewers went to theaters that day–but were told that the movie would not be shown. Italian authorities explained the ban by the absence of a censorship license.
Virtually all Italian newspapers and several TV stations responded to the unexpected decision. The response of the media was clear from the headlines. Daily L’Unit titled its story "Black Screen for Armenian Genocide;" La Stampa ran the story "Showing of A Film About Armenian Genocide Banned."
The independent daily La Stampa described the unfolding of events as "a strange story in which nothing is clear." Leftist newspaper L’Unit –after explaining why April 24 is a day to commemorate the Armenian Genocide–stressed that the film should have been shown that day–revealing that the film had also been banned in Turkey. The Rightist Il Giornale concluded–"virtually nothing has been said in our country about the first and atrocious ethnic cleansing of the past century which inspired Adolph Hitler to make his final decision on Jews. It is a pain still felt by Armenia’s–that as the successor of the Ottoman empire–modern Turkey refuses to acknowledge it [the Genocide of Armenia’s]."
Local newspapers also reported that the Turkish embassy in Rome admitted to the Turkish government’s disapproval of the showing of Ararat in Italy–but denied involvement in provoking the film’s ban.
Armenian ambassador to Italy Gagik Baghdasarian told the press–"The authorities’ theory that the film was banned because the distributing Bim company failed to submit the application to obtain the censorship certificate in time–is not convincing."The point is that the company–considered to be one of the leading and most experienced Italian distributors–was supposed to release the film in March and postponed it until April 24 at our request." Baghdasarian stressed that the company had spent a great deal of capital in advertising the film–already previewed by the press in Rome and Turin. "Movie theaters were chosen for its release–so how could it be that a formal application was delayed?" Bim company director Franko Ugolini said that there has never been a case–in the long history of the company –of such an oversight.
Baghdasarian revealed that this is not the first time Italy has banned an event dedicated to the Armenian Genocide–recalling that in 1996 a photo exhibit of German Genocide eyewitness Armin Wegner was shut down after complaints from the Turkish consul in Milan. It later reopened under public pressure. A documentary on the Armenian Genocide–ordered by the state run TV station RAI–and shot by Italian director Carlo Massai has not yet been released.
In 2000–after Italy’s parliament passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide–certain Italian cities which had adopted resolutions condemning the Genocide received great pressure from not only Turkey–who had consulates in those cities–but also the government of Italy.
The Armenian ambassador conveyed his dismay that a democratically advanced country has become the second country–only after Turkey–to ban the film Ararat.