German Armenian Film Critic Makes Himself at Home in Yerevan


 

By Artsvi Bakchinyan

YEREVAN — Last year, among international jury members of “Golden Apricot” Yerevan International Film Festival, there was an Armenian name — Marc Hairapetian.

A colleague from Berlin, member of International Association of Film Critics and Cinema Journalists (FIPRESCI), about whom Germany’s biggest newspaper, Bild wrote: “Marc Hairapetian is Germany’s best film journalist.” Not bad, of course, to have the best film journalist from Germany to share your ethnic background! In my long-time quest for people of Armenian origin in cinema I had not come across his name. Hairapetian was for the first time in Armenia, and we got a chance to get acquainted.

Hairapetian was born in February 6, 1968, in Frankfurt am Main. His Armenian father, Ardavas Hairapetian, was the founder of the Armenian Society in the city. At the age of 16 Hairapetian founded and became the editor of Spirit — Ein Lächeln Im Sturm (Spirit – A Smile in the Storm) www.spirit-fanzine.com / www.spirit-fanzine.de, the magazine for film, theatre, music, literature and audio drama.

Hairapetian has often been a jury member for German film festivals and has worked for newspapers (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung) and magazines (Der Spiegel, Spiegel Online, Cinema, ME, Movies) in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and US. He has conducted exclusive interviews with personalities such as Elia Kazan, Charles Aznavour, Billy Wilder, Gregory Peck, Sir Peter Ustinov, Christiane Kubrick (widow of Stanley Kubrick), Anne Hathaway, Kim Novak, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Richard Gere, Tom Cruise, Felix Werner (son of Oskar Werner), Atom Egoyan and Henry Kissinger. He did the longest interview with director Fatih Akin about his new film, “The Cut” and the Armenian Genocide and published it exclusive for Spirit – A Smile in the Storm. He is the co-writer of Oskar Werner – Das Filmbuch (Oskar Werner – The Film Book) biography (Vienna 2002).

Since 2011, Hairapetian has been a board member of Kinomuseum Berlin (Cinema Museum Berlin) and his film screenings of 70mm and 35mm prints of film classics are well known in Germany.

There is another sphere that Hairapetian is exploring — acting! Since 1996, he has worked as an actor for television and cinema in about 25 productions. His new film, the erotic thriller, “True Love Ways” (directed by Mathieu Seiler) was shown this year in a special market screening at Film Festival in Cannes and celebrated its world premier at Hofer Filmtage (October 2014).

In November, Spirit celebrated its 30th anniversary. On November 21 there was a big Spirit celebration with two science fiction film screenings (“V for Vendetta” and “Coherence”) introduction by Hairapetian at Cinema Filmrauschpalast Berlin with participation of many VIPs.

Hairapetian said he is proud to have Armenian roots. After visiting Yerevan he wrote following article, published in English in Spirit – Ein Lächeln im Sturm http://www.spirit-ein-laecheln-im-sturm.de/neues/drucken/Golden_Apricot_2013.pdf and www.fipresci.orghttp://www.fipresci.org/festivals/archive/2013/yerevan/mhairapetian.htm

 

Exceeded Expectations

My personal impressions as FIPRESCI jury member of 10th anniversary Golden Apricot – Yerevan International Film Festival

By Marc Hairapetian

Nothing is more sad when you have great expectations and they will be bitter disappointed. In the other case nothing is more magic when your expectations will be exceeded like with my invitation as FIPRESCI jury member of this year 10th anniversary of Golden Apricot – Yerevan International Film Festival. For me it was not “just” an honorable job; it was also the discovery of the home country of my father he was also never visiting. Maybe you will ask: How is this possible? Armenia in his original size was so big like the Federal Republic of Germany now. After the Turkish Genocide on the Armenian people in 1915 – 1918 Armenians were going to the Diaspora to live in other countries all over the word. My father Ardavas (1940–2006) was born in Täbriz/Iran. Later he lived in Teheran. In the swinging sixties he was coming as a student to Germany. He married my mother Mago. As one of the founders of the Armenian Society in Frankfurt am Main he was a close friend of the world famous composer Aram Chatschaturjan. Redundant to say that he teached me a lot of Armenian history and culture — and also to love cinema! It was always our dream to visit the independent Armenian Republic — which has existed since 1991 — and now this dream came true for me.

From the first moment I landed in Yerevan, I felt at home. Everybody was friendly and open — the legendary Armenian hospitality made everything easy for me. As my jury colleague György Kárpáti was writing in his introduction about Golden Apricot, “the Yerevan International Film Festival was brighter then ever.”

I can say honestly and not just with “half Armenian eyes” that this 10th anniversary had a high level standard – so that we can compare it with A class International Film Festivals like Cannes, Venice or Berlin, the city where I live since September 1989. Most of the invited directors, actors, producers, jury members and other guests where staying in the five star Royal Tulip Grand Hotel close to the Main Festival Cinema Moscow. We all lived their like Kings. It was the center and the heart of the Festival with many events, press cocktails, conferences and interviews like I could to with Armenian-French actor and director Serge Avedikian (who brought to Golden Apricot his wonderful new film about genius director “Paradzanov”), Armenian-Canadian director and Festival Honorary Chairman Atom Egoyan (“The Sweet Hereafter”, “Ararat”) or Hungarian director and President of the Main Jury István Szabó (“Mephisto”, “Colonel Redl”).

The quality of the film programm and competition was also superb. There was only one problem in the first days: Sometimes the screenings in the wonderful and stylish Cinema Moscow were a little dark — especially of film classic “Mephisto” (1981) directed by István Szabó. But very quick the Festival could find a solution for it. With my FIPRESCI jury members Anna Erznkyan and György Kárpáti I could see many good films from different countries like Armenia, Russia, Austria or Turkey but as we say in Germany “The best is coming always in the end” – the Iranian Film “The Last Winter” directed by Salem Salavati overwhelmed us in story telling and the artistic use of Digital video. So it was easy for us to make a decision on the award winner.

To talk about my personal impressions this trip to Armenia and Golden Apricot had every day new high lights for me: It was really like in a fairy tale to meet the most famous Armenian of all time, the singer, actor and honorary guest Charles Aznavour, for an exclusive interview in his own (!) Charles Aznavour Museum on a hill where you have an amazing view of Armenian capital Yerevan! With his 89 years Charles is still clear in his mind and a very charming interview partner. I will also never forget the concert in the House Museum of Aram Chatschaturjan: I had tears of joy in my eyes when I listened to the melodies of the ballet music “Spartacus” or “Gayaneh” which were played by a Piano, Violin and Cello Trio. In the end the director and pianist Armine Grigoryan asked me send a picture of Aram Khatchaturian and my father to hang it in the museum! Wonderful where also the excursions to Sardarapat where the Armenian army stopped once the Turkish attack and Echmiadzin where I was talking to the Catholicos, the leader of the Armenian Church. It was one of the most touching moments in my life when the audience was applauding at the Award Ceremony in the Yerevan Opera House in memory of my father Ardavas. My personal speech and of course also the motivation to give the FIPRESCI award to “The Last Winter” were also shown on Armenian TV.

The Film Festival Gala Dinners are not to compare with any Gala Dinner in Germany – and I am invited often in Berlin: Every night we were entering another place of extraordinary beauty: Among the diners were charismatic Golden Apricot Festival General Director Harutyun Khachatryan, Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl, US director Godfrey Reggio, jury colleagues, the pretty girls of Yerevan and me — were dancing all together in Armenian or Georgian style to live music. The Lust for Life is contagious in Armenia even though the country has also some problems like everywhere with politics and there is a discrepancy between rich and poor people. But also the poor people give all to enjoy the guests – and this is maybe the biggest gift you can make to a stranger that feels “at home” in Armenia! Thanks a lot for the invitation, Golden Apricot! Yes kesi shat kesirem, Voske Tsiran! Yes kesi shat kesirem, Hayastan! (I love you, Golden Apricot! I love you, Armenia!).