An Interview with Los Angeles Documentary Film Festival (DOC LA) curator Martiros M. Vartanov of Parajanov-Vartanov Institute
The Los Angeles Documentary Film Festival (DOC LA), presented by the Parajanov-Vartanov Film Institute, will host the world premiere of “American Mirror – Intimations of Immortality,” directed by Arthur Balder, starring Susan Sarandon, Florence Faivre, Tigran Tsitoghdzyan, Ashley Hinshaw and Hillary Rhoda. The event will take place on Sunday, October 21 at 7:15 p.m at the Chaplin Theater, Raleigh Studios, 5300 Melrose Ave, Hollywood, CA 90038.
Other screenings will follow in Hollywood at the Egyptian Theatre organized by the 21st ARPA International Film Festival. The Canadian premiere will take place on November 17th at the gala of the 13th Pomegranate Film Festival. The picture is presented by NYC-based Da Vinci Films and Optimum Diamonds Films. Buy tickets.
“American Mirror – Intimations of Immortality” features Oscar-winning screen icon Susan Sarandon and Armenian painter Tigran Tsitoghdzyan as he limns her portrait during a timeless sitting session, while actress Florence Faivre plays the intriguing role of the ever-present though unattainable artist’s Muse.
With this film the director, Arthur Balder, sets in motion his theory on poetics of cinematic art, by re-creating sense memories of an artist in a non-linear, challenging story-telling scheme. “Intimations of Immortality” is a reference taken from the famous ode by British Romantic poet William Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.”
The film, straddling the frontier between documentary and fiction, reveals how Tigran, a highly dedicated craftsman, tries to bring the ancient spirit of the old masters into a unique post-modern hyperrealism deeply interwoven with NYC’s culture and social landscape. Shot over the period of three years, the film takes us on a rare, thought-provoking, timeless reality-and-fiction setting to reveal how one of the most striking artists in recent art history climbs up the art-world ranks on the winding journey to success and recognition. The presence of legendary art critic Donald Kuspit resonates as the voice of a deus ex machina speaking from a remote, virtual museum in the 19th Century.
From producer David Shara and writer-director Arthur Balder, with an original soundtrack by composer Mark Petrie, American Mirror stars Susan Sarandon, Tigran Tsitoghdzyan, Donald Kuspit and Florence Faivre. With the participation of Ashley Hinshaw Grace, Jules Wainstein, Hilary Rhoda, Morgan Shara, Ryan Ross, Sirey Moran.
Recently, Asbarez’s special correspondent Lori Sinanian sat down with Martiros M. Vartanov of Parajanov-Vartanov Institute who is the curator of the Los Angeles Documentary Film Festival (DOC LA).
Vartanov graduated from UCLA where he made his first film, entitled The Last Film, which was released by Criterion. He has served as a juror and curator at festivals in Busan, Beverly Hills and DOC LA, and worked on the restoration of the masterpiece The Color of Pomegranates selected for Festival de Cannes. Vartanov also presents the annual Parajanov-Vartanov Institute Awards which have honored such luminaries as Martin Scorsese, Emma Thompson and System Of A Down.
Below is the interview.
LORI SINANIAN: Can you tell us about the history of the festival and how it got started?
MARTIROS VARTANOV: People loved the screenings that our Parajanov-Vartanov Institute organized in Hollywood and always asked for more. I have been traveling to film festivals all my life and always felt it was a pity that great films — especially great documentaries — I was seeing around the world never made it to the two big festivals in Los Angeles. So the [Parajanov-Vartanov] institute organized the first DOC LA (Los Angeles Documentary Film Festival) in 2015 and it was an instant success.
L.S.: Do you have a favorite part of the festival program that we should be excited for?
M.V.: The one compliment that we get after every single screening is about how meaningfully we pair our feature length films with the short films that precede them. They say it is like pairing the right meal with the right wine. We are very proud of that.
L.S.: Why should we come to DOC LA? What can we expect to experience?
M.V.: We only program excellent film so if you just walk in without knowing anything about the program you will have a cinematic experience. You will meet bright and fun people, and watch unforgettable films with them in world class cozy theaters — in the same spot in Hollywood where Chaplin and Pickford worked 100 years ago.
DOC LA moviegoers come year after year and watch nearly every single film. People still talk about the first film we opened with in 2015, the film with closed with in 2016, and the the centerpiece film we premiered in 2017. You always remember one breathtaking sunset in particular. Likewise your thoughts often return to some film that moved you and stays with you. It’s such a thrill to discover such films for DOC LA audiences.
This year films with Susan Sarandon, Usher, Werner Herzog, Lance Bass, Jim Jarmusch, Frank Zappa, Gus Van Sant and other gems will premiere at DOC LA.
L.S.: What are some of the must see films at 2018 DOC LA?
M.V.: We’ll open on October 18 with the world premiere of “The Ravenite” with Jim Jarmusch, a documentary by Dennis Mohr and Morgan Schmidt-Feng about mobster John Gotti’s famed club in New York. The opening night will conclude with the LA Premiere of Steve Wystrach’s “Manry at Sea” about a happily married middle aged newspaperman Robert Manry who secretly and alone crossed the Atlantic from US to England in a tiny 13 foot boat in 1965.
“Guilty Until Proven Guilty” featuring Usher, directed by Harry Moses and scored by Grammy-winning composer Terence Blanchard, exposes Louisiana’s criminal justice system through the story of Tim Conerly, a young African-American man who was imprisoned for a crime he says he did not commit. The film will co World Premiere at DOC LA with the LA premiere of an Irina Patkanian’s animated doc “Little Fiel” about Mozambican artist who makes art of decommissioned guns donated by the public in exchange for food.
Oscar-winning screen icon Susan Sarandon and painter Tigran Tsitoghdzyan discuss how the apparently in conflict values of beauty and aging are perceived in our modern society dominated by social media, as he paints her portrait in “American Mirror” by Arthur Balder. The film will world premiere and close DOC LA with the world premiere of David Trevino’s “Soul of Lincoln Heights” about a drive by shooting tragedy that devastated one Latino family in LA and how a 14 year old boy brought back smiles into their lives. The doc is narrated by Emilio Rivera, who will be honored with the 2018 DOC LA Storyteller Award.
Other standouts include “Children of the Snow Land” (Nepal) by Zara Balfour & Marcus Stephenson, “The Guardians” (Canada) by Billie Mintz, “Use Less” (Iceland) by Rakel Gardarsdottir & Augusta Olafsdottir, Gustav Ahlgren’s “Before I Jump” (Sweden), “Pain is Mine” by Farshid Akhlaghi (Australia), “Ballad of a Righteous Merchant” by Herbert Golder, Dane Christensen’s “Faithful”, “Thank you for Supporting the Arts” by Carolann Stoney & W. Alexander Jones, “Cosmic Debris” by Patrick Waldrop, “Attache” by Melissa Pace Overholt, experimental black and white doc “Mitzvot” by Bader AlAwadhi (Kuwait/US), “City of Dreams” by S1ree1, “Gods from Space” by Annalise Pasztor, “The Muay Thai Kid” by Andy Schlachtenhaufen, “The End of Weed” by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan & Joshua Gray, and the genre defying Storytella section with “The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan” by Burt Grinstead, “Diwa” by Aina Dumlao & Bru Muller, “Ingest” by Ankur Malhotra, “Twice Upon a Time” by Vojin Vasovic and “Rockstar” by Tane McClure.