Responding to Hetq’s questions is filmmaker Patrick Malakian.
Mr. Malakian, is it hard to be [French-Armenian filmmaker] Henri Verneuil’s son?
It depends. In the Armenian community it isn’t. I know people are looking at me as his son but the way they are looking at me is so friendly, so like I’m part of their family, that it is very nice.
In the movie industry, it is more difficult as people are necesserily comparing. It is easy to compare… even if what I do is completely different. But it is in the nature of mankind today to go on the easy side.
Anyway, I feel good in my mind and it doesn’t bother me.
I am who I am, and I think that I have my own personality on top of being Henri Verneuil’s son.
What did the film 588 Rue Paradis (which you and your father worked on together) change in your life?
I didn’t learn anything much about my personal history in the process of making this film. I knew my past as it was never something my father and my grandmother hid from my sister or I.
What was it like working with your father?
It was something very hard. I was very proud he asked me to work with him. We had an understanding that in my professional life he would never help me, and that’s what he did. So when he asked me, I knew it was because he thought I would be the right person to do the job, not because I was his son.
Then the work began. To call him Henri instead of Dad, was my first difficulty! The second difficulty came as the subject of the movie overcame his feelings and professionalism. He was famous for his professionalism on a set, and how he was prepared everyday. On this movie, it was a little bit different. I think he was much too close to the story to be detached. Therefore, it was difficult for a lot of people to work. Obviously, as his first assistant director, my job was to prepare and think about everything for all the departments. It was a long shooting, 6 months, and anything that goes wrong has repercussions on a lot of departments. But we managed to finish on time, with the result you saw. Overall, he got everything he wanted, and that’s the most important thing when you create some art. The rest, feelings, hard work, joys, deceptions are secondary.
How do you preserve Armenian traditions and customs? Are they difficult to maintain abroad?
As the president of AGBU’s Marseille branch, I do a lot of things. Our meals always include some Armenian food at one point or another. We dance to Armenian music; we promote Armenian artists; we learn Armenian; we organize trips to Armenia…
So no, I don’t think it is hard to maintain traditions. All you need is the will to do it.
What kind of Armenian character traits or values have you inherited?
Family, generosity, traditions.
Are you Armenian or French ?
I’m French with an Armenian heart.
Why haven’t you learned Armenian until now?
I am learning to speak Armenian, so as to be totally integrated [in Armenian society]. My father didn’t want my sister or I to learn Armenian.
What kind of projects do you plan to implement in Armenia?
We are trying to develop the artistic skills of children in Armenian schools, as well as developing agricultural projects in small villages.
During your last visit, you met with schoolchildren. What was the purpose of that visit?
Children are very important to me. I love them as I don’t think I’m a lot older than they are! On top of that, I think they are living proof that we still exist and no one will ever be able to get rid of us. What we teach them today is what we’ll be tomorrow. So it is important to know them.
I was very pleased to visit those two schools. It gave me great energy and hope for our country.
What changes did you notice after your last visit to Armenia?
This trip was special as I decided to come on my own. I wanted to be here for April 24 and I wanted to live in a home and not at the hotel. I wanted to talk to “real” people, children, old, young everybody to start to learn about the country. It is always important to hear both sides. Dialogue and intelligence, I think, are the only proper ways to try to reunite those two sides.
The interview was conducted by Kima Khachatryan