Syunik Region Gates (Photos from the archive of Braden King)
Source – Yerevan Magazine
The drama of director Breyden King “Here” became the first American film which has been completely shot in Armenia. The picture a leading role in which executed a rising star of Hollywood Ben Foster, was shown on the international film festival «Golden apricot» this summer. And its director, told us about his impressions of Armenia, which was the main route of the characters – from Yerevan to Karabakh.
About ten years ago I outlined a plot. It was the road history about the American cartographer who has appeared in the far-away country and the local girl photographer.
Then I had no concept, will pass where exactly film events. At first I was thinking of North Africa, Kazakhstan – places that have not yet been recorded on the cinematic map. But once I met the director from Canada to Karina Torosyan who advised to me to get acquainted with Armenia, having assured that this country can intrigue me. Soon I caught myself behind reading a newspaper note about Armenia, then — behind viewing of photos of the country on the Internet. I was fascinated by the history of Armenian cinema, culture, geography, and it is absolutely could not believe that actually there is a breakaway territory, as the Nagorno-Karabakh. In general, Armenia really struck me as intriguing.
For the first time I arrived here in the 2004th. At three o’clock in the morning the plane landed at the airport Zvartnots. Here reigned utter chaos – there were manypolice officers all around smoke, I ran from one window to another to get a visa, all made some kind of payment, then waited a long time … One my Armenian friend in the USA told to me that I from the airport quickly sat down in a taxi and at once went to hotel. Fortunately, he also suggested to me, how much will it cost about travel, so when negotiating with the driver, I insisted.
Generally, reached to hotel and fell asleep at some o’clock. And early in the morning left to drink coffee. There was I, apparently, down the street Abovyana when met the street dealer selling maps. Goods – all kinds ofcards in Armenia, USA, the world – was not only filled up the table,and hung the entire wall of the building behind him. At that point I decided that a film of cartography to be filmed in Armenia. Actually, that first meeting with the country struck me. It was like a youthful love, when emotions have arisen can not be explained in any way, but doing everything possible to deepen the relationship.Fortunately, Armenia was the ideal partner: we had a lot ofimprovising and achieved an excellent understanding.
Since then I came to Armenia several times — at first carefully looked for places for shootings, then prepared for them, then we, actually, led them, now here on a film festival «A gold apricot» at last showed the ready film. Therefore I very well see all changes in Yerevan which, by the way, occur very quickly.
Should tell that I am a little sentimental concerning old times. Today I already miss that old city which met seven years ago. On the other hand, I perfectly understand that would be naive to expect that it won’t change over time. Yerevan — the normal capital, quite cosmopolitan.
Thus it very small, and all her inhabitants — as one big family. Each time, leaving here on the street, I casually meet acquaintances! Thanks to it very warm, cozy atmosphere is created. And any feeling of claustrophobia which sometimes arises in other small cities.
There is one place in Yerevan where I by all means look in each arrival — the Opening day. And not always something I buy. Simply I walk, I communicate with people. Atmosphere there the very interesting. By the way about the atmosphere: me always struck, with what pleasure erevanets spend a lot of time in the evenings to cafe. And it is fine, because for them live communication with each other is still very important. This feature is evident at once, when I come from New York where speeds simply record — all somewhere hurry, and sometimes there is no also a second on communication.
The beautiful place is delightful. And, in spite of the fact that in the Soviet years it there was a popular resort, after independence finding its long time was touched not especially. During my first trips in some hotels still there lived refugees. Most of all I was struck by Jermuk’s nature, especially the river proceeding in the middle of the city, and magnificent falls. Unfortunately, the scenes shot at it weren’t included into the final version of the film. But, you see, it is not enough two hours of timing, that both history to tell, and all Armenia to show!
Interestingly, when I first arrived in Jermuk, there was held a major international chess tournament, and it gathered a lot of people. Itproduced a little strange impression, because, apart from Yerevan,Armenia in all cities where I’ve been, it was practically empty.
In the course of travel scenario is changing all the time. I inserted the movie unplanned shots with ordinary people we meet along the way.And in some ways, “Here” – semi-documentary film. Armenia and Armenians actually became my coauthors. For example, there was a great meeting with the workers Jermuk hydropower. We approached him, talking. Ben told them that he lives in San Francisco, workers remembered William Saroyan, who also lived in California, and then asked Ben to play backgammon, and brought a unique instance for game three. And only after we became friends, the scene was filmed.
Back in 2004 I stumbled upon Satani Kamurj (Devil’s Bridge) near the monastery Tatev. Then it was a godsend, because to get close to the bridge it was very difficult. But by the time filming on the way there were signs pointing the way to tour it.
The monastery standing on the rock, is simply fantastic. Perhaps, this one of the most magnificent places where I ever happened in life. That I am struck in architecture of the Armenian mountain temples, and in Tatev first of all, by it that they simply spiritualize all who will appear nearby. The architecture, places where they are constructed — everything operates in such a manner that the person, having appeared in them, tests unknown inspiration. I received the same pleasure at Gandzasar, Noravank, Gegard’s visit. Actually, in the film I tried to display own feelings.
Once early in the morning we should shoot a scene in the village near a monastery. But when we left on shootings Goris, appeared in an impenetrable fog — sat in the car and literally saw nothing. We stopped on the street of one old man and asked, whether often here such happens. He answered that so dense fog sees for the first time in life. We didn’t reach the planned place, but found a remarkable lodge where there lived fine people who allowed us to work in their yard. The hostess, naturally, several times treated us with coffee and fruit, and by the end of film-making day business reached vodka. Such improvisations happened during all work.
On my first visit I was fortunate to meet one of the organizers of the “Golden Apricot” Susanna Harutyunyan, who advised me to turn toher friend the driver Ashot. It was he who took me on a journey.Naturally, the first place we stopped was the choir Virap … Then I told him that we should not treat me like a tourist, I do not need troddenroutes. I was looking for real life, real people, I had to figure out how to live ordinary Armenians in the ordinary Armenian towns and villages. And we decided that Ashot I will carry to his friends, who lived in different parts of Armenia, which he himself had not seen. The film has a scene in a meal beautiful home, where friends live on the story of the protagonist. So, this house is just belonged to friends of Ashot, who lived in Meghri. There we stayed for a couple of days. The place is fantastic, and you can find it only if you know exactly where it is. However, unlike the characters in the film, we did not drink vodka, mulberry home (my only one, very sad experience has shown that this drink should have a particular organism), and excellent wine. No less interesting were the talks with local authorities about the shooting. We were invited to talk to the mayor. They sat in a strict round the room, began to discuss the film. We are told how and where we want to film, assistant mayor asked questions, interested in the details. And suddenly in the midst of the discussion the mayor said: “Enough, let’s go to dinner!” We were invited to a restaurant right on the frontier. There were about 15-16, half – the film crew, a half – the host country. All the men. First, eat well, and then took up the vodka, followed by toast – for Meghri, for Armenia, for a good movie and so on. I think, the mayor already then decided that will agree. Or perhaps after all of us began to dance. It was wildly ridiculous scene: included the Armenian dance music on the full power, the mayor rose the first from a place and invited Ben. Then his assistants who and us forced to show everything joined them, on what we are capable. I will remind that all gathered were men! We also danced nearly an hour. As a result obtained permit to shootings and a lot of new friends. In general, if I suddenly decided to get a lodge in Armenia, I, perhaps, would drop an anchor in Megri.
Karabakh has a completely unique, non-exclusive aura. Words, it is difficult to explain. And I am very aware of particular relevance to the people of this land.
Once you enter in Lachin, you realize that something has changed in the air. It’s all a bit mystical – huge mountains are almost always wet weather and fog.
Over the past few years many changes have occurred in Shushi – the city was gradually transformed, roads repaired. At first it looked a lot more isolated, in contrast to, for example, Stepanakert, which lives an ordinary life of the city. I remember sometimes walking in Shushi in the evening – no one working flashlight, black as pitch.People are very few. And then you walk down the street, and suddenly in darkness stands a rectangle of light – a shop that has not yet closed. Sometimes even in the distance could be heard the howling of wolves. By the way, in Shushi, we found another hero – this mechanic who tries to take on the story the main character more money than it was worth the work. You can not imagine how uncomfortable it was to play this role! “I never would have picked for their work than it’s worth – he said sheepishly. – I am an honest man! “We persuaded him to work – it’s just a movie.
I several times visited Gyumri, however, alas, it didn’t enter into a route of heroes. But people there special, they are very open, vigorous, say that really think. After film display at a local cinema I had very interesting conversation with the audience. When we began to discuss the main character who was played, by the way, by magnificent Palestinian actress Lubna Azabal, I told that wanted to make it unlike the traditional Armenian woman. During this moment one of spectators nonplused me a question: «And from where you know, traditional Armenian women happen with what?» I stopped, though now here I think that for some years spent in the intensive relations with Armenia, I rightfully can declare that the answer to this question I know!
When I worked in Armenia, the local film infrastructure was practically on zero. In total — the equipment, a film, materials, provisions — was imported and taken out through the confused Post-Soviet customs system. Once because of discrepancy of registration plates confiscated cars for shootings. On the Iranian border the Russian military for hours held a half of our team and tried to select chambers and a film. We came across venomous snakes in the field where shot a final scene. I broke two edges in silly failure only some days later after arrival. It was the real adventure, heavy and magnificent!