TORONTO–Renowned Director Atom Egoyan’s "Ararat," which explores the ongoing impact of the Turkish government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide–was honored as the best Canadian feature film of 2002 at the "Genie" awards ceremony.
In addition to best film–"Ararat" won awards in four additional categories–best actress–Arsinee Khanjian; best supporting actor Elias Koteas; best original score–Michael Danna–and; best costume design–Beth Pasternak.
Accepting the best picture award in Egoyan’s absence–Ararat producer Robert Lantos explained that–"Four years ago–I challenged Atom to make a film about the tragic story of his people–the Armenia’s. And I said if he did–I would stand by him." Egoyan was unable to be present at the award ceremony because he is serving on the jury at the Berlin Film Festival.
"It’s 3 a.m. in Berlin and when I get through with all this I’m going to phone him and wake him up," a jubilant Lantos said after the ceremonies.
Best actress winner Arsinee Khanjian–who hosted the "Genie" Awards–commented on her victory–noting–"With my work on ‘Ararat,’ I wanted to honor the spirit of my ancestors." She then thanked her husband–Egoyan– "without whom I might have become a politician," she laughed–before finishing her speech in Armenian.
"It’s nerve-wracking–it’s an out-of-body experience," best supporting actor winner Elias Koteas–clutching his statuette–told The Toronto Sun backstage. When he received it–he told the televised audience: "I was hoping they wouldn’t call my name–actually."
Then he explained to a press conference that working again with Atom Egoyan was a dream: "It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s a blessing."
Having made its world-premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May of 2002–"Ararat" is described as Egoyan’s most powerful film to date–weaving the tale of the estranged members of a contemporary Armenian family faced both with Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and with their own complicated lives. The film initially opened in Los Angeles and New York theaters on November 15th and continues to be seen in cities across North America.
As part of their efforts to generate nation-wide awareness of the film–the ANCA’s regional offices and local chapters organized a grassroots campaign to encourage Armenian Americans to "Take a Friend to Ararat." In a recent interview with Canada’s "Horizon Weekly" correspondent Aris Babikian–Director Atom Egoyan stressed the importance of these grassroots efforts to the success of the film–noting "I can’t underestimate the crucial role that the Armenian community played at that point through the "Take a Friend to Ararat" program and through the Action Alert notices… That opening weekend [in Los Angeles and New York] was historic. We had a higher per-screen-average than ‘Harry Potter.’ That is remarkable. I think the campaign was able to facilitate wider distribution and continued to manifest the passion [Miramax Co-Chairman] Harvey [Weinstein] felt."
ARARAT in Turkey?
ISTANBUL (Noyan Tapan)–Noyan Tapan has reported that Sabahattin Cetin of the Turkish Film Industry has purchased the rights to show the film ‘Ararat’ in Turkey. A Turkish film critic wrote in the Sabah newspaper–however–that it is unclear whether Ararat will be shown in Turkey. Cetin has announced that he stands ready to promote the film in Turkey–but that certain scenes–specifically the rape of an Armenian mother by a Turkish officer–must be removed. In response–Egoyan said although he would not agree to an edited version on one hand–he nevertheless wants the film to be viewed by Turkish audiences. Cetin has also asked the Istanbul film festival organizers to consider showing the film during its April film festival–but has not received a response. The paper also noted that there is concern about the fallout of showing Ararat in Turkey–edited or not.