Shorts: Artavazd Pelechian
Three films by Armenian filmmaker Artavazd Pelechian, to whom IDFA is presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award this year.
We (Artavazd Pelechian, AM 1969) (26 min.)
Wheels turn, a crowd surges back and forth, a caged lion roars. Everything—religion, industry, nature, people—seems to be connected in a cycle of creative and destructive forces. In his signature distance montage, Artavazd Pelechian fuses new images and found footage into a single energetic movement.
Classical music, choral singing, and a touch of rock and roll play more than merely an accompanying role. People suffer, and comfort one another. A hero is welcomed, a girl is silent. This powerful piece of cinema, made fifty years after the Armenian genocide, breathes the energy of the landscape and the history of a people.
Seasons of the Year (Artavazd Pelechian, AM 1975) (29 min.)
Meltwater flowing down the mountainside becomes a wild, churning river. Silhouettes battle desperately against the rushing water so as not to be swallowed up. Vast cloudscapes glide at speed over the Armenian highlands.
In this, his last collaboration with cameraman Mikhail Vartanov, Artavazd Pelechian captures a reclusive peasant community in its unceasing battle with the elements. In spring, they migrate into the mountains with their herds. When summer ends they harvest the hay—creating a dusty avalanche of bales. In winter, it is the shepherds themselves, hanging on to their sheep, who roll down the mountains in the snow. Accompanied by Armenian folk music and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, these highland dwellers perform feats of pure survival.
This is humanity, trapped in a brutal but stunningly beautiful existence. To the melodic rhythms of camerawork, montage, and a lyrical score, Pelechian and Vartanov elevate it into a full-blown symphony—a symphony of being.
Our Century (Artavazd Pelechian, AM 1991) (30 min.)
This staggering sequence of archive images presents the 20th century, which was drawing to a close when it first appeared, as an era shaped and driven by technological achievement. Pelechian intercuts shots of an expectant crowd as a rocket launches and the euphoric reception of the national heroes with scenes of horrific accidents involving manned spacecraft, airplanes, cars, and trains. The result is a mind-boggling anthology of humankind’s rises and falls.
Humanity appears to be in a permanent state of intense pressure in its relentless race to go ever higher, further, and faster—to become more powerful or, when it comes to waging war, more destructive. It’s a power that’s spinning out of control, illustrated by the juxtaposition of explosions on the solar surface serving as a visual metaphor but also placing it all within a cosmic perspective.
Pelechian edited this condensed version of Our Century in 1990 from material he had presented eight years earlier in a 50-minute version.
Documentary lovers, keep November 17 to 28 free in your calendar. The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam presents its 34th edition in cinemas throughout Amsterdam, including several special programs in Eye.
Share your love for film and become a member of the Eye Society.