Ararat (2002)

 

 

Director:  Atom Egoyan.

Starring:  David Alpay (Raffi), Charles Aznavour (Edward Saroyan), Eric Bogosian (Rouben), Brent Carver (Philip), Marie-Jose Croze (Celia), Bruce Greenwood (Martin Harcourt, actor playing Clarence Ussher), Arsine Khanjian (Ani), Elias Koteas (Ali, actor playing Jevdet Bey), Christopher Plummer (David), Simon Abkarian (Arshile Gorky), Raoul Bhaneja (The Photographer), Lousnak Abdalian (Shushan Gorky), Garen Boyajian (Young Gorky).

This is the story of a man of Armenian descent who searches for the true story of the Turkish campaign of genocide against the Armenians. 

 

Good movie, teaching us about a forgotten genocide.  There are four stories going on in this movie.

The first is about the genocide itself. 

The second is about the Armenian painter Arshile Gorky and his 1934 painting in his New York City studio entitled "The Artist and His Mother" that represents the story of the genocide. 

The third is about the Armenian -American Raffi and his struggle with the memories of his father and step-father and his own relationship with the other members of his family.  His mother, Ani, s an art-history professor specializing in the paintings of Arshile Gorky. Raffi and his step-sister Celia are in love with each other.  Raffi's problem is that Celia blames his mother for the suicide of her father and this makes family relations very difficult. Raffi is also bothered by the death of his father, who attempted to assassinate a Turkish diplomat 15 years earlier. 

The fourth story deals with the family of David, the customs inspector at the airport, who interrogates Raffi, arriving back from a trip to Turkey, about what he is carrying in the sealed film cans.  David's son, Philip, is a guard at the art museum where Celia is a docent giving art talks.   David's other son, Ali (who is half Turkish), plays the part of the Turkish leader Jevdet Bey. 

These stories are interweaved and interconnected throughout the movie. 

Some of the points made about the genocide in the movie were:

In 1912 Arshile Gorky's mother had a photographer take a picture of her with her son.  This photo would later be used in Gorky's famous painting.

There was a rebellion in the village of Van in eastern, Anatolia, Turkey.  Gorky and his mother lived in Van.

By April 1915 the Turks have completely surrounded the Armenian quarter.  The Turks attacked Van and destroyed it. (Gorky's mother had died of starvation in his arms.)

Dr. Clarence Ussher, who ran a mission and hospital in Van, was a witness to the genocide and published his journal from that time in 1917.

The Turks killed all the survivors of the struggle for Van during a forced march of the population from Van.

The entire Armenian population of eastern Turkey was eliminated. 

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

Armenia, is a landlocked mountainous country in the Southern Caucasus, bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran to the south.

It is believed that Armenia was the place where Noah of the flood and his descendants first settled.

 

1904   -- birth of the Armenian painter Vostanik Manoog Adoyan (better known as Arshile Gorky) in the village of Khorkom near Van, Turkey.  He became an abstract expressionist Armenian-American painter.

1908  -- at age 4, Gorky's father emigrated to America to avoid the draft, leaving his son behind.

1909-18 Sultan Mehmed V of the Ottoman Empire.

1909  --  the Ottoman Empire came under the control of the Young Turks.

The old Sultan Hamid was deposed and his timid younger brother Mehmed V was installed as a figurehead.

A few Armenians were elected to the newly restored Ottoman Parliament. 

1914 (summer) --  Donald Bloxham writes that Armenian settlements were plundered by Ottoman forces.

1914 (July)  --  an organization, the lttihad ve Terraki, was created to deal (harshly) with the Armenians.  The organization came to be led by the Central Committee Members Doctor Nazim, Behaeddin Sakir, Atif Riza, and former Director of Public Security Aziz Bey.  (The foot soldiers of the organization came to be released prisoners, who were used to escort the Armenian deportees.)

1914 (October)   --  Turkey enters WWI.  The Ottoman government required that all adult males serve in the army or pay a special fee in order to be excluded from service. Most of  the Armenian recruits were eventually executed or forced into hard labor.

1914 (late December)  --  Johannes Lepsius reports excesses against the Armenian population.

1915 (early)  --  1915 the Turkish army was utterly defeated by the Russian army at the Battle of Sarikamis. 

1915 (March 2)  --  as the Russians approached Lake Van, the Ottomans executed five Armenian leaders.

1915 (April 20)  --  in Van the Armenians revolted against the Turks and in favor of the Russians.

1915 (April 24)  --  the Young Turk government arrested over two thousand Armenian intellectuals and it is believed that most of theme were executed.

1915 (May 25)  --  the Minister of Interior Talat Pasha ordered the forced evacuation of possibly over a million Armenians from across most of  Anatolia to what is today Syria.

1915 (late May)  --  the Russians captured Van.

1915 (August)  --   the Russian army left and the Turks returned to Van. 

1915 (September)  --  the Russians forced the Turks out of Van for the second time.  The end result of all this warfare was that Van was left empty and in ruins.

1915  --  Gorky fled Van during the Turkish genocide.  His mother died of starvation in his arms during the genocide.

Turkish war minister Enver Pasha blamed the defeat at Sarikamis on the Armenians and he ordered all the Armenians into hard labor.  Many were executed.  Many of them died along the way.  (It has been reported that the Turks let their soldiers and outsiders rape and kill the Armenians.)

1916 (early)  --  after the Turks had ordered the evacuation of many Armenians living in Anatolia, Syria and Mesopotamia, the Armenians in Edessa (modern Sanliurfa) revolted and took control of the city. The Turks attacked the city.  German General Baron von der Goltz, commanding the closest Ottoman army, negotiated a deal with the Armenians that if they would surrender and disarm, they would not be deported.  The Armenians agreed, but the Turks refused to accept the agreement and deported the Armenians.

In all, a total of about a million Armenians were moved. 

About 25 concentration camps were set up to deal with the Armenians.  In these camps, there were mass killings by such methods as burning, poisoning and drowning. 

1919  --  at a military tribunal, many of those responsible for the genocide were sentenced to death in absentia, among them Talat, Enver, Cemal, and Dr. Nazim.

1920  --  16-year old Gorky was reunited with his father in America.  They never became close.

1922  --  Gorky studied at the New School of Design in Boston, Massachusetts.  Later he bacme a part-time instructor there.

early 1920s  --  Gorky was influenced by impressionism. 

1927  --  Gorky met Ethel Kremer Schwabacker and they became long-life friends.

1927  --  Landscape in the Manner of Cezanne.

1927-1928  --  Landscape, Staten Island.

late 1920s  -- while living in New York, his work was mostly post-impressionist. 

1930-1934  --  a series of complex works entitled Nighttime, Enigma, Nostalgia.

1935  --  at age 31 Gorky married.

Gorky had problems a plenty.  His studio barn burned down; he had a colostomy as part of the treatment for cancer; and in a car wreck he broke his neck and his painting arm was temporarily paralyzed.

c. 1942  --   his seven marriage ended; his wife took the children with her. He suffered from depression. 

1948  --  Gorky hanged himself in Sherman, Fairfield County, Connecticut at the age of 44.  He is buried in North Cemetery in Sherman.

 

 

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