CANNES–France (Reuters)–The director of a controversial film about the Armenian diaspora that has angered Ankara said on Monday it was not meant to demonise present-day Turks.
Atom Egoyan’s film "Ararat," which screened Monday at the Cannes film festival–is a moving tale of how diaspora Armenia’s in North America deal with the fallout from their descendants and how they struggle to come to terms with their identity.
"This is not a film that is trying in any way to demonise a present-day Turk," Egoyan told a post-screening press conference. "In fact it’s the opposite.
"What I am trying to do is ask the viewer to consider what it means to pass judgment on somebody who is alive today for things that were done for good or for evil by people who are no longer around."
The film had already stirred fierce reactions before its screening at the world’s most famous film festival with reports that the Turkish government was threatening to ban the movie.
Relations between Ankara and Paris soured last year when French lawmakers passed a law stating that the Ottoman Turks had committed genocide against Armenia’s.
Turkey has fought hard to block scores of international attempts to raise the issue. Armenia–with the support of its influential diaspora of about seven million worldwide–has pressed for international recognition of the killing.
But Egoyan said the film was not intended as a political diatribe and as both Armenian and Turkish journalists peppered him with questions–he refused to be drawn into discussion about the present-day situation.
"I wanted to make this film universal so that anyone can watch it," said the Armenian-Canadian. "Creativity is a means of being able to transcend trauma."
Several stories are intertwined in "Ararat," described as a film within a film–from a film director–played by renowned French actor-singer Charles Aznavour–to his young assistant–played by David Alpay in an assured acting debut.
Aznavour–who himself is of Armenian origin–hoped the film would transcend borders and find an international audience. "It offers the chance for once to have a film that can travel the whole world," he said. "I have been asked what is the difference between the Armenian and the French (in me). I always said I was 100 percent French and 100 percent Armenian.
"You mustn’t show hate on either one side or the other. You must try to understand," he Aznavour.