By Nigol Bezjian
On Friday July 7, 2017, I received an email from the 14th Golden Apricot Film Festival in Yerevan that the screening of my film “Temple of Light” had been canceled.
“Dear Nigol Bezjian,
We want to inform you that Armenians: Internal and External Views non-competition program is completely cancelled. We apologize for any inconveniences”.
There is no reason or explanation for the cancelation. I later learnt through social media that the festival had to withdraw two films with LGBT themes due to the objection of the venue where the festival films in said section were to be screened. I have no clue as to how the issue of the two “objectionable” films evolved into canceling the entire section; a total of 37 films.
The festival was to start on July 9. The program was complete and announced in the media and the catalogues were printed. Naturally, the films had been selected from all the submitted films, decisions had been made of what to include and screen. Such a last-minute decision to cancel an entire festival’s section is an unheard of.
In all my long years of being in cinema, I have never encountered such conduct. I will limit myself to this - this sort of irrational “institutional” behavior is what to expect from organs of failed states and outdated organizations.
Dissecting the absurdity of this decision could fill pages. It points to all that is wrong with electoral, economic and social corruption which leads to the corruption of mind and culture. That blind nationalism clouded with orthodox conservatism is a road to the dark ages and not to a bright future. Censorship of art is cultural suicide.
The 37 filmmakers, who worked so hard, deserve better treatment than a curt email from the festival’s secretary.
If the organizers of the festival truly wished to screen the films they could have found solutions, but that requires the will to accept responsibility, instead of pointing fingers at who might be guilty behind the screen.
The saddest part is the silence of the media and filmmakers in Armenia and the Armenian diaspora, except for the few who voiced their astonishment.
Adding salt to the injury, a friend who is associated with the festival unofficially suggested that I should side with the festival and denounce the trouble makers.
I have no desire to become a pawn in an internal conflict that has resulted in censorship, which I abhor.
Nigol Bezjian is an award-winning filmmaker, he was the co-winner of the Golden Lion award of 2015 Venice Biennale.