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People tell stories. In Toronto, an art historian lectures on Arshile Gorky (1904?-1948), an Armenian painter who lived through the genocide in Turkey in 1915. A director invites the historian to help him include Gorky's story in a film about the genocide and Turkish assault on the town of Van. The historian's family is under stress: her son is in love with his step-sister, who blames the historian for the death of her father. The daughter wants to revisit her father's death and change that story. An aging customs agent tells his son about his long interview with the historian's son, who has returned from Turkey with canisters of film. Parents and children. All the stories connect. Written by
Did you give her my book?
This is too weird for me.
What is weird Raffi?
Smoking pot, or sleeping with you step-sister?
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Closing disclaimers: 1) The historical events in this film have been substantiated by holocaust scholars, national archives, and eyewitness accounts, including that of Clarence Ussher. 2) To this day, Turkey continues to deny the Armenian Genocide of 1915. See more »
Written by Gord Downie (as Gordon Downie) and Atom Egoyan
Performed by Gord Downie (as Gordon Downie)
From the album "Coke Machine Glow"
Courtesy of Wiener Art Records - copyright 2000
Copyright 2000 - Wiener Art (SOCAN)/Egoyan Ego Film Arts (SOCAN) See more »
important but deeply flawed study of an ethnic tragedy
In 1915, right in the midst of World War I when the eyes of the world were focused on other corners of the planet, the Turks slaughtered over a million of their own Armenian citizens in a holocaust that the Turks to this day deny ever happened. Atom Egoyan's complex, though not entirely successful film, `Ararat,' attempts to show just how long a shadow this horrific genocide still casts over the Armenian people today.
Rather than simply make a film set at the time of the genocide, Egoyan has chosen to set his film in the present and have his vast assortment of characters reflect on what this almost century-old event means to them in their present lives (most of them are second generation Armenians and Turks living in Canada). One of those characters is an aged film director who, in honor of his mother who endured the atrocities, has come to Canada to make a film about the event. Thus, all the glimpses we get of the actual genocide are film-within-a-film reenactments. In a bit of irony, Egoyan shows just how difficult it is for any work of art to faithfully capture the `truth' of such an event, for falsehoods inevitably creep into the picture the moment the artist alters even minor facts under the guise of `artistic license.' This is particularly ironic given the fact that `truth' and `facts' are such an important part of the case the Armenians have built against the Turks. The film deals head-on with what is `truth' and how much of history comes down to a matter of personal perception.
Egoyan has provided a veritable labyrinth of characters and events, so much so that it becomes almost impossible to provide anything near a comprehensive summary of either the plot or the people who are caught in its entanglements and complexities. Suffice it to say that the film deals with such weighty themes as the intricacies of mother/child relationships, coming to terms with the ghosts from both the private and collective past, and the part denial plays in assuaging our own sense of guilt and responsibility for unspeakable events in history. This denial then allows us to live our lives in unconcerned complacency.
Egoyan views his film almost as a giant canvas and he keeps throwing characters onto it, often without painting the strokes in clear enough detail for us to understand fully what is going on (an apt analogy, given the fact that one of the characters is an actual painter and he deliberately leaves part of his artwork unfinished). Some of the people we meet are fascinating and complex, while others seem underdeveloped and too enigmatic to make much of a contribution to our comprehension of the material. Occasionally, we get the nagging impression that a number of the minor characters and plot strands are left hanging in a state of unresolved limbo. Moreover, the film occasionally lapses into a pedantic tone, as if the writer felt it more important to provide us with a history lesson than involve us in a drama. What promises to be an enlightening character study frequently becomes a polemic.
Structurally, `Ararat' is very complex, with the director cutting back and forth between characters in the present, one character in the past, and the events of the genocide as depicted in the film being made. Egoyan deserves credit for bringing it all together even if the very artifice of the format ends up distancing the audience from the emotional immediacy of this very grim subject matter. `Ararat' is more of an intellectual exercise than an emotionally involving drama, but it does serve a salutary purpose in raising the public's consciousness about a shameful, tragic moment in history that has for too long gone unrecognized by the general public.
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