People tell stories. In Toronto, an art historian lectures on Arshile Gorky (1904 -1948), an Armenian painter who lived through the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. 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. All the stories connect.
Filmmaker Edward Sorayan is making a non-documentary movie recounting the 1915 Armenian genocide by the Turks. This movie will be controversial if only because of the denial by the Turkish government that the genocide even exists. Regardless, Sorayan plans on using what he considers real life events and people as the basis for the movie. One character added late into the screenplay is Armenian painter Arshile Gorky. The filmmakers hire an art historian named Ani, an expert on Gorky's life, as a consultant for the film. Ani is currently having problems in her own family as her stepdaughter Celia accuses her of being the direct cause in the death of Celia's father/Ani's second husband. Celia even resorts to public outbursts to guilt Ani to tell what Celia believes to be the truth about the death. This public disagreement places Ani's son, Raffi, in an awkward position as he is Celia's lover. As filming occurs and the story of the Armenian genocide is told, Raffi travels to the former Armenia - now Turkey - to discover truths about his cultural past and his family's more immediate past. Upon his return from Turkey, Raffi has problems reentering the country, which leads to Raffi recounting much of his time in Turkey and exactly what is in the film reel canisters to the questioning customs agent named David, who has his own indirect connection to the movie.
A film within a film, this is a contemporary story of the making of a historical epic about the Armenian genocide claims between 1915 and 1918. The story line follows how making the film transforms the life of an 18-year-old man hired as a driver on the production. The Armenian genocide claims are not accepted by the Turkish side. Turkey calls Armenians to prove their claims by scientific historical documents.
Interrogated by a customs officer, a young man recounts how his life was changed during the making of a film about the Armenian genocide.
- Brilliant Testimony to Legacy of Art and History
On one level, Ararat is an extremely sophisticated movie about the painful lessons of history and the healing beauty of art. On another level, it is a kind of ghost story about the life and legacy of the great painter Arshile Gorky (Simon Akarian). Haunted himself by the atrocious reported massacre of Armenians in 1915, the spirit of Gorky, as portrayed in Ararat, takes the form of different things for different people following his suicide in 1948. In what we call the real world, Gorky emerged as a leading artist of the twentieth century. Along with such geniuses as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko, his work helped define the art movements known as Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.
For the director character within the movie Ararat, the painter is an inspirational cultural icon whose personal story embodies the larger tragic history of his people. To Ani (Arsinee Khanjian), an art historian, he is the fascinating subject of her latest book. To her stepdaughter Celia (Marie-Josee Croze), he is a painful reminder of her fathers questionable death; and to Raffi (David Alpay) he is an important piece to the puzzle of his own identity. How it all ties together is a testament to Atom Egoyans brilliant artistry as a writer and director.
by Author-Poet Aberjhani, author of The Bridge of Silver Wings and Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance