Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


The history of the Armenian people has become synonymous with a century-old genocide and the refusal of the culpable to come clean about their crimes. But while genocide is not the sum total of Armenian history, what has happened in recent years does little to separate the association we make between "tragedy" and "Armenia."

In this quietly lyrical and breathtakingly beautiful film, veteran cameraman and documentary filmmaker Alexander Gutman paints an impressionistic portrait of contemporary life through characters he clearly cares about. Gutman creates work rooted in the characteristically Russian tradition of nonfiction storytelling via an elegantly poetic palette: precise attention to frame, composition, and pacing with mystifying images that command our gaze—all essential elements by which he captures his subjects and their stories.

In spite of the devastation of their country, which is still reeling from a catastrophic earthquake and post-Soviet Union economic hardship, the film's characters appreciate life, something Gutman exalts through simple scenes—a photographer takes a picture; a mason prepares a tombstone; a gravedigger celebrates his birthday—as well as through the sacramental—from funeral to wedding to baptism, the ritual passage of life goes on across Gutman's canvas, epitomizing the resilience of the human spirit.

— Diane Weyermann

Screening Details

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