FILM ON ARMENIAN GENOCIDE WILL BE CHALLENGING: SHEKHAR KAPUR (INTERVIE
Posted 02 November 2012 - 02:07 PM
Indo-Asian News Service
Northern Voices Online
By Rajat Ghai
New Delhi, Nov. 1 -- The man who gave us the sensitive "Masoom", the
hilariously thrilling "Mr. India", the gripping "Bandit Queen" and the
grand period drama "Elizabeth" has not lost any of his creative zeal.
The latest topic to catch Shekhar Kapur's fancy is the Armenian
genocide, and he knows it's going to be challenging.
The film deals with the systematic extermination of minority Armenians
in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) by the Ottoman Empire during and
after the Great War (1915-1923). (The Armenians had been settled in
Anatolia for generations after their tiny country in the Caucusus
region northeast of Turkey was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1514)
The event, termed genocide by Armenians the world over, caused the
deaths of 1 to 1.5 million ethnic Armenians in Anatolia.
Kapur had recently tweeted that he was going to Yerevan, Armenia's
capital, to collect material on the event. The idea, he said, came
to him from a script sent by the man who wrote "Motorcyle Diaries".
"It is a part of world history though a very shameful one," Kapur
told IANS during a candid conversation here.
"The idea came to me based on a script sent to me by the screenwriter
of 'Motorcycle Diaries' (Puerto Rican Jose Rivera). I fell in love
with the script. It is a challenging project though. It will require
lots of money, lots of passion and organisation. But there are a lot
of passionate people behind this project. So it will hopefully see
the light of day," he said.
However, filming of the movie will not start before another year,
says Kapur, who is yet to begin work on his long-pending movie on
water wars, "Paani".
The Armenian genocide is a particularly touchy topic in the political
state that succeeded the Ottoman Sultanate in 1923, Mustafa Kemal
Ataturk's Republic of Turkey.
So taboo is the topic for both - the Turkish government and ordinary
Turks, that a Nobel laureate like Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted and
found himself on the hit list of a far-right Turkish group for openly
stating that Turkey had committed genocide against the Armenians.
Does Kapur fear inviting similar censure?
"I invited the wrath of upper castes, the government and the censor
board with 'Bandit Queen'. But I did not back down. I believe in
fighting for what I believe in," he said with a wry smile.
"Moreover," he added, "there has been a shift in Turkish society.
Nobody from that period is alive today. The new generation believes
that their nation is great and has to move on. They say, 'Why can't
we accept what happened'?"
Controversy is not new to Kapur. He had drawn flak from British
tabloids in 2002, when he directed his own version of A.E.W. Mason's
novel "The Four Feathers", starring the late Heath Ledger. The novel is
centred on the Mahdist War in Sudan, sparked by the death of Charles
Gordon (Gordon Pasha). Kapur was accused of being 'anti-British'
when the film released.
"I was not anti-British. I was anti-colonisation. That is why I made
the film. I made my own version because the novel and the previous
film versions were heavily pro-colonial. It was colonial arrogance
that led the British to intervene in Sudan. It was this that I wanted
to show," clarified Kapur.
The 66-year-old is the only Indian to have made a successful Hollywood
film. "Elizabeth" (1998) won Cate Blanchett the Bafta and the Golden
Globe for best actress though she lost out on the Oscar. The film,
however, received an Oscar for best makeup. The sequel "Elizabeth:
The Golden Age" (2007) was also well received.
With the two period dramas behind him, is there anything special
about history that attracts him?
"A society that does not learn from its past is condemned to repeat
its mistakes. As a filmmaker, history for me is like sci-fi. I can
create an entire world of my own," said Kapur.
Posted 18 January 2013 - 11:37 AM
A memorial stone reads in Turkish and Armenian "Hrant Dink was killed here Jan. 19, 2007 at 3:05" on the spot where Turkish-Armenian journalist Dink was killed, outside the Agos newspaper building during a commemoration to mark his fifth death anniversary in Istanbul Jan. 19, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Murad Sezer)
Read more: http://www.al-monito...l#ixzz2ILk4zLBj
By: Ezgi Basaran. Translated from Radikal (Turkey).
Sona Tatoyan is a US-born Armenian actress and producer. She is preparing to make a movie based on Micheline Ahromyan Marcom’s book Three Apples Fell From Heaven. The script was written by her husband, Jose Rivera, who wrote the script for "Che Guevera" and the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." The film will be directed by Indian director Shekhar Kapur, whose film “Elizabeth” was nominated for an Oscar. The shoot will start at the end of this year.
About This Article
Sona Tatoyan, an Armenian-American film producer, speaks to Ezgi Basaran about her upcoming film about the Armenian genocide, as well as her evolving views on Turkey. Publisher: Radikal (Turkey)
SCHINDLER’S LIST OF ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
Author: Ezgi Basaran
posted on : January 14, 2013
Translated on: January 17 2013
Translated by: Ceren Kenar
Categories : Turkey
We wanted to share Sona's story and the reasons why she wanted to make such a movie during the sixth anniversary of the assassination of Hrant Dink, an Anatolian journalist.
Radikal: Your family is originally from Aleppo, but you were born and raised in the US, right?
Tatoyan: Yes, that's why my life was always in between. I used to spend my summer holidays in a village near Aleppo, with my mother's family. My mother's aunt was very sensitive about the history of the Armenians. She was keen on keeping the memories of the genocide alive and raising awareness on this issue. I have listened to many stories from her.
Radikal: Was she a genocide survivor?
Tatoyan: Her mother and father, who are my grandmother and grandfather, lived in Antep during that time. They survived by escaping to Aleppo.
I was a very curious child, and I always got the most direct answers from my aunt. My biggest question has always been this: We are Armenians, so why do we live in Aleppo and why are we surrounded by Arabs? She tried to give some answers. Yet, eventually, the summers would end and I had to go back to Indiana. The first day at school, I used to check out the history books to look for some information on the stories that were told to me by aunt. It turns out I couldn't find a single word on this issue. Therefore, I started to grow suspicious.
Radikal: So you became suspicious as to whether your aunt was telling the truth?
Tatoyan: No, I became suspicious of the validity of the way Americans interpret history. I could see physical evidence of what my family had gone through. Half of my family was living in Syria — this alone was enough for me to believe in the authenticity of their stories. One day they had to leave their homes in Antep and sought refuge in Aleppo. My grandfather and mother did not speak the Armenian language, this was further proof for me. My father’s family was from Urfa. They escaped and survived. They left Turkey after they were informed by their Turkish friends that some horrible things might happen.
Radikal: While you were hearing these stories, how did you change?
Tatoyan: For a long time, I had issues with my Armenian identity. Because I was actually an American. I used to spend almost the entire year in the US, but spent summers in Aleppo.
We were not allowed to wear short-shorts there. We didn't feel comfortable, so I used to hate spending my summers in Aleppo. But my mom's biggest desire during the winters in the US was to spend her summer holidays in Aleppo. Therefore we had to go to Aleppo, but I was an American there. I was rebellious in Aleppo. When I got back to the States, to school, I was an Armenian, with my thick eyebrows, hairy arms and weird name. That's why I hated being an Armenian; every child wants to feel like they belong somewhere. I belonged nowhere.
Radikal: Did your mother and father talk about the 1915 incidents?
Tatoyan: It was not taboo, but they wouldn't broach the subject unless I ask them to talk about it. After a certain point I became obsessed with the issue. They always told me what they knew to be the truth.
However, they were also fond of Turkey and Turkish culture. I had to listen to classical Turkish music when my mom was driving me to school. I hated that music because it gave me headaches! My mom still watches Turkish TV shows. There were some weird moments in my life. While hearing the Turkish pop music played at home, I read books on the Armenian genocide.
Radikal: How did your mom, as someone who was fond of Turkey, talk about the genocide?
Tatoyan: Very openly. Sometimes she said “yes, they did horrible things to us” and joined me in my frustration. Then she started to praise the Anatolian people, food and land. I guess what I learned from my mom is not to blame people for the crimes committed by the state in which they live.
Regarding my feeling that I didn’t belong, I came across similar sentiments among African-Americans in the US. Through Maya Angelou, a professor of mine when I was at college, I learned what African-Americans had experienced in the US. Once I went to a bookstore to buy a book suggested by her and came across a book of Peter Balakyan, an Armenian-American. After I read his book I was incensed with nationalist sentiment.
Radikal: What was it like?
Tatoyan: I was obsessed with questions like, how could they do this to us? How can they deny what they did to us; why won’t they even apologize for what they did? I was not only furious with Turkey, but also with the US, which due to many strategic reasons overlooked Turkey’s policy of denial. Later, I went to Armenia for the first time in my life to shoot a movie. I can't explain how foreign I felt there. The music, the architecture, the cuisine — everything was so different. It had nothing to do with Anatolia.
Again I was a stranger. This time, I was a stranger as an Armenian in a country called Armenia. However, while I was there I found Micheline Ahromyan Marcom’s book Three Apples Fell From Heaven. It is a book that narrates the Armenian genocide with an impressive plot and fascinating style. The book is about a child who is about to die, dreaming about the kind of a life he could had if he had been rescued by a Turkish or Kurdish family. I immediately met with the author.
Radikal: You are producing a movie based on this book, right?
Tatoyan: Yes. After I read the book, I asked my husband Jose Rivera to read it. Jose was also very much impressed. He wrote the script, which we then sent to India to our director friend Shekar Kapur. Meanwhile, we embarked on a spiritual and physical journey with Michelin, the author of the book.
Radikal: What kind of a journey was this?
Tatoyan: We went to Deir el-Zour and Ras al-Ain together. There I saw the bones of my ancestors. I say this literally. We were crushing skulls and tossing bones. The remnants of the genocide are still there waiting to be recovered. At that point I decided to go to Turkey and visit Harput, where the book started.
Radikal: And you were still filled with rage?
Tatoyan: Yes, I was unspeakably furious. Urfa, Antep and Elazig reminded me of scenes from a horror movie. Anyways, we rented a car with Michelin and my husband and traveled to Van, Dogubeyazit and Elazig. Over the course of our visit, that rage turned into something else, into a mixed feeling.
Radikal: What kind of a feeling?
Tatoyan: One evening we were having tea with our Kurdish friends that we met in Dogubeyazit. One of them asked me, “Why did you leave us? I wish you hadn't left.” I didn't know what to say. At that moment I realized I belonged to that land, how familiar the Turkish language and cuisine were to me.
When we were in Harput, I experienced another incident that I cannot possibly forget. We went into an antiques shop and the owner pointed to me and asked my translator friend if I was from Anatolia. When I asked why he said this, he told me “because you have Anatolia in your eyes.” I told him that I am Armenian. He responded, “Anatolia is the name of a family. What we went through was the tearing apart of a family, yet this doesn't change the fact that we are still a family.” My rage against Turkey started to fade away. At the same time, I started to develop anger toward my own community.
Tatoyan: Because the Armenian diaspora refrains from going on this spiritual journey. They insist on not opening their hearts. They choose the easy way and find consolation in constant victimhood. To be honest, I can't blame them for this attitude, because it is a very rough journey.
The most important thing for the Armenian diaspora is to make peace with Anatolia and Turks. They should forget the genocide. This doesn't mean they should accept the denial policy of Turkey. However, this is what should be done by the Armenians primarily to show respect to their own culture and history. However, for the diaspora, this issue is all about giving or gaining political concessions. I am angry at this attitude.
Radikal: How would you feel if the Turkish state were to recognize the genocide and offer an apology?
Tatoyan: Relief — however, if the Turkish state continues to refuse, I don't know. As an Armenian I don't need Turkey to recognize the genocide. That is what I am trying to explain to the Armenian diaspora. They insist on pushing the Turkish state to say those words. With this attitude, they actually empower the Turkish state. Because what they actually imply is this: “Unless you recognize what happened was a genocide, we as Armenians can't recover.” The psychology of the Armenian nationalists is based on victimhood and pain, that is true. However, the state of mind of the Turkish nationalists is upsetting, too.
Tatoyan: For decades they have maintained delusions to avoid facing reality. Don't you think this is pathological and tiresome? For how long you can keep this attitude? I think I am caught between a rock and a hard place. I am denounced by the Armenian diaspora for making such a movie. They say my attempts to reconcile with Turks are embarrassing. I am sure I will be denounced by Turks as well, since I am making a movie explaining the reality of genocide. But this is exactly why I think this movie is extremely important. It will be the "Schindler's List" of the Armenian genocide. It will show the bad and good. There will be monstrous people, as well as good-hearted ones who risked their lives to save their neighbors. This is a story of Turks, Armenians and Kurds during the World War I. This is the story of Anatolia.
Radikal: What kind of a movie will it be?
Tatoyan: Micheline Ahromyan Marcom, the author of Three Apples Fell From Heaven, wrote her novel after being inspired by the real-life story of her grandmother. Her great-grandmother was saved by a Turkish friend of her father. During these incidents, there were also Armenians who stabbed the backs of other Armenians. They will also be depicted in the movie. As a matter of fact, this movie is more than what happened to Armenians; it is about the limits of human nature. Hopefully that gives you a little bit of an idea about the movie.
Read more: http://www.al-monito...l#ixzz2ILkKcVaw
Posted 27 January 2013 - 11:05 AM
Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Contributor
‘Three Apples’ Producer Discusses Film’s Production
From l to r: Edgard Tenembaum, Cigdem Mater, Micheline Marcom Aharonian, Sona Tatoyan, Jose Rivera, Shekhar Kapur, and Vahe Yacoubian
Since the producers of the upcoming feature “Three Apples Fell From Heaven,” a drama set against the backdrop of the Armenian Genocide, gathered last October at Tumo Center for Creative Technologies in Yerevan the media have been reporting on the planned production of the film about the Armenian Genocide.
The event was organized to introduce award-winning director Shekhar Kapur who was in the country to scout locations for the film and to welcome the production team to Armenia where they hope to do some of the filming.
Three Apples Fell From Heaven
“This is a challenging project that reveals a shameful chapter in world history,” said Kapur whose movies, including “Elizabeth” and “The Golden Age,” have earned nine Academy Award nominations. “I am not one to back down from a challenge and I believe the world is ready to join me in finally examining this tragedy and its far-reaching consequences. My films aspire to put human faces on history and I think that’s what make them relevant. That’s what I hope to do in depicting the Armenian Genocide.”
“Three Apples Fell from Heaven” is based on Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s award-winning novel of heroism and heartbreak set against the savage backdrop of the Armenian Genocide.
Producer/actress Sona Tatoyan, whose husband, Oscar®-nominated screenwriter José Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries), has adapted Marcom’s novel for the screen recently sat down with Asbarez to discuss the film.
Asbarez: How would you describe the film and the message it puts forward?
Sona Tatoyan: Simply said, Three Apples Fell From Heaven is a film about the Armenian genocide. A historically accurate portrayal of this great tragedy, presented in a culturally, linguistically, geographically and demographically authentic setting.
Asbarez: What does the film represent to you, personally?
S.T.: It is the story of the great-grandparents of most Armenians of my generation that must be told. A story beautifully told in the novel by Micheline Aharonian Marcom, which I read eleven years ago and fell deeply in love with. A script poetically written by Jose Rivera, which brought what I visualized in the novel into the architecture of a feature length epic screenplay, portrays the pain and suffering with immense magnitude. A period in history the world must know and remember. It’s an honor for me to be part of it. I’m humbled to be walking this path.
Asbarez: Recently, a Turkish newspaper published an interview with you, quoting you as saying that Armenians should forget the genocide. Can you please clarify this quote?
S.T.: There is nothing to clarify. I have not made such a statement. How could I have? How could I have said anything like that in an interview about a film on the Armenian genocide I am helping create? The genocide is part of our cultural identity and one cannot walk away from it. It’s made me who I am.
Asbarez: What is then your reaction to this interview, which you just confirmed is distorted?
S.T.: I realize that during the production of the film, there will be constant attempts to distract us to take our attention away from our goal of producing a great historical epic film on the Armenian genocide. The best way to counter such attempts is to stay focused on the film and produce it for the world to see. The film will speak for itself.
Asbarez: You have also talked in the past about the recognition of the Armenian genocide. Can you elaborate the point about reconciliation and moving forward?
S.T.: The Armenian genocide is a fact. It does not require validation by anyone. It cannot be disputed. At the same time, moving forward and healing requires recognition by the world and especially Turkish government.
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