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Mаry Mamyan

Award-Winning Armenian Director Makes Films in Moscow Influenced by Childhood in Yerevan

Writer and director Anna Melikyan was born in Baku but raised in Yerevan.

After graduating from school, she moved to Moscow, where she lives to this day. She recalls her years as a student, when she was shooting her first short films, her mentor, Sergei Solovyov, always said, aha, we must watch the next Armenian film.

At the time, Anna was offended by this remark: she thought she was making a Russian film — with Russian actors and in a Russian environment. Now she understands that Solovyov was right because she bears the influence of childhood to this day. And she spent her childhood in Yerevan.

"I consider myself from Yerevan, [though] in my passport it's written Baku. My film is me, and I'm Armenian," she says.    

After moving to Moscow, she didn't return to Yerevan for 15 years. When she does return, it's in her role as director, to present her film Mars (2004) at the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival (GAIFF). This is Anna's first feature-length film, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. Anna remembers that it was strange for her to visit the city of her childhood as a guest or a tourist. Recently, she has been coming to Yerevan more often, but she confesses that she's yet unable to study it in depth. During these visits, she notices positive but superficial changes.

"But I know there exists another part of the city with more hardships," she says. "I see a very strong tie with this city."

On the other hand, the hero in most of Anna's films is Moscow. If Yerevan is more so a city of memories, then Moscow is the reality in which she lives. Since the director wants to show in her films her environment and the people surrounding her, then Moscow "unwillingly" appears in the main role. Nevertheless, she often thinks about shooting a film elsewhere — to create a different image, not monotonous.

Anna Melikyan's second feature-length film, Mermaid (2007), brought her much recognition: it was selected as Russia's official submission to Foreign-Language Film category for the 2009 Academy Awards. It also won the Grand Prix at the 2008 GAIFF, the FIPRESCI Prize in the Panorama program at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival, and the Grand Prix at the 2008 Sofia International Film Festival.

Included in this year's GAIFF's Armenian Panorama program is the director's filmStar, which won awards for best director and best actress at the Sochi Open Russian Film Festival (Kinotavr).

"When I'm filming, I don't want to say anything; it's just that being born inside me is a story that I want to tell," she says. 

Asked by Hetq what for her is the boundary between auteur and commercial films, since it's difficult to classify her films into either category, Melikyan says that, in fact, is a really painful question.

"I'm never here nor there. I'm neither meaningful and abstruse enough for auteur films nor silly and happy enough for commercial films," she says, smiling. "It seems, I'm in the middle, and I don't do that intentionally. I would like to be classified in some category, but I don't think about that when making a film."

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