Film critic Egoyan publicizes Turkey's largely-ignored 1915 genocide of 2/3 of its 1.5 million Armenian citizens, which Turkey still denies. It's difficult to know the truth of historical events, because reports depend on witnesses' points of view and those of all who listen. Egoyan, one of Canada's best film directors, and his actress wife, Khanjian, are Canadians of Armenian descent; their children asked if Turkey ever apologized. This film is the answer. Three aspects are central: A movie is being made about the atrocities; scenes in the film-within-a-film re-create historical events; and characters in the film and larger story are connected.
Art historian Ani (Khanjian)'s lectures on Armenian artist Arshile Gorky, whose mother was a 1915 victim, and Ani's husband was killed trying to assassinate a Turkish official 15 years earlier. Her son from that first marriage, Raffi (Alpay), and stepdaughter from a second, Celia (Croze) are sleeping together. Celia heckles Ani with questions about her dead father, whom she believes Ani drove to suicide.
Raffi is questioned by customs inspector David (Plummer), on his last day at the job, when he tries to carry film cans from Europe through Canadian customs. Raffi says the cans contain important raw footage, but we know from an earlier scene that David's son Philip (Carver) is lovers with actor Ali (Koteas), who plays barbaric General Jevdet Bey. Thus the customs inspector knows the footage isn't important to Raffi's movie. But David's questioning takes hours: The cans could contain heroin. He could open them in a dark room, but that would be too simple, and he wants to understand the young man carrying them so that he might comprehend his own son.
The movie-within-a-movie documents Turkish horrors against Armenians, and shows artist Gorky both as a young boy, shouldering arms against the Turks, and as an adult Gorky painting in exile in New York. Ani lectures about the relative truth of two portraits: a photo of Gorky with his mother, and a painting he based on the same photo. The plot is difficult, but individual scenes offer us much; the Plummer episode is a small, perfect character study, and the re-created atrocities tell an urgent message right from Egoyan's heart, of a story too long ignored. (Note: Adolf Hitler is quoted, "Who remembers the Armenians?" The film offers it as fact, but the quote is enormously controversial.)
David Alpay, Charles Aznavour, Eric Bogosian, Brent Carver, Marie-Josee Croze, Bruce Green
Armenian genocide, 1915
war and peace
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