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Liana Sayadyan

Respect the Film-Goers: Let’s Improve Next Year’s Golden Apricot Film Festival

The 9th annual Golden Apricot Film Festival in Yerevan came to a close yesterday amidst the pomp and circumstance that such events seem to automatically spawn.

While I wasn’t at the closing ceremony, I can just picture the throngs of average citizens milling about, alongside the ranks of the nation’s cultural elite, trying to push their way into the Moscow Cinema.

Red carpets, boisterous bouts of applause, and the speeches of praise and thanks for yet another job well done...

I sure the organizers of the festival are pleased with the show they put on. But before the organizing committee gets to work on next’s year’s festival, I would like to ask them – Just who is the festival for? 

If the answer is the rank and film aficionado, the spectator,  then the committee would be advised to take the views of the festival goers into consideration and to show them just a bit of respect.

I saw four films at the festival this year in French, English and Italian.

Not one was properly translated. Here, I’m not referring to the technical glitches associated with the subtitles. That’s the least of the problem even though they could be avoided by hiring a competent text editor.

What really irritated me was to see translations that had no connection at all to the original language script. This is directly disrespecting the audience. It’s akin to saying – Hey, the audience doesn’t know any better so why go to the trouble of presenting an accurate translation.

The July 10 screening Alexander Sokurov’s “The Sun” was a disaster. You’d think the voice of the young girl doing the translating was reading from a Google translate page. Most in the audience left out of disgust. The rest stayed in their seats, interested to see how far the translator’s imagination would reach.

At one point in the film, the simple original words “The Americans have arrived” were translated as “You must leave America”.

Translation flubs also graced “Paradise: Love” and “Death in Venice”. Even Michael Haneke’s “Love”, the festival’s closing film was improperly translated.

Such faults were pardonable in the early days of the festival when financing was tight and the organizers were a group of enthusiastic film buffs with little experience in putting on such an event. But this was the 9th festival which is sponsored by the Armenian government and companies like VivaCell. It’s high time to expect some professionalism and accountability.

Those film lovers who came to Moscow Cinema on July 14, the last day of the festival, left feeling abused and cheated.

I and scores like me rushed to the Moscow Cinema to see Michael Haneke’s “Love” at 6pm. We had all purchased tickets earlier in the week since we knew they’d sell out quickly.

When we got to the doors of the Blue Auditorium, we were met by Golden Apricot staffers announcing that the 6pm showing was reserved for festival guests and those with invitations. The rest of us peons who actually purchased tickets would have to wait till 8:30pm to see the film.

We all felt like second-class citizens – angry and dejected. Some had left elderly parents at home, others had travelled from outside of Yerevan to make it...I had to postpone another important meeting in order not to miss the closing film.

Why didn’t the festival organizers, with 32 media outlets at their beck and call, announce the time change IN TIME?

I mean the organizers themselves stated that the change was decided a whole three days before the July 14 screening. Couldn’t chief sponsor VivaCell, with its 21st century technology, have sent out messages about the screening change?

But it seems that the Golden Apricot organizers are still thinking along medieval lines. The best they could do was to affix a time advisory on the inside of the entrance door to Moscow Cinema. Did the organizers ever stop to think that ticket holders just might not accidentally “stop by” the cinema and read the advisory? Of course not.

Where did these people acquire their public relations savvy? And then they have the gall to say, “We apologize for any inconvenience....” You know what you can do with your apologies...

I’m not writing all this spurred on by an inner rage to criticize the festival. Heavens no...I want to see the shortcomings fixed in the name of the festival’s international image and in improving its reception here at home by myself and other film lovers.

Here’s looking forward to an improved and well-organized 10th film festival next year.

Signed by a loyal Golden Apricot film-goer.

P.S. A brief note to cinema operators, especially those who run Nayiri Theater...Please, during these blistering summer days, don’t scrimp on the air conditioning inside. It makes for a very uncomfortable viewing experience.

Photo: Lusine Sargsyan