Here, the latest film from director Braden King, which is set and was shot in Armenia and stars Ben Foster (The Messenger, Contraband) and Lubna Azabal (Body of Lies, Paradise Now) opened in New York Friday and will screen in Los Angeles on April 27 and in San Francisco on May 11.
Set against the landscape of Armenia, HERE chronicles a brief but intense relationship between an American satellite-mapping engineer (Foster) and an expatriate photographer (Azabal) who impulsively decide to travel across the remote countryside. As their trip comes to an end, the two must decide where to go from HERE. The film was an Official selection of the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals.
Reviewing for the New York Times on Friday, Stephen Holden writes: “There are vistas in Braden King’s metaphysical road movie, ‘Here,’ that are so beautiful you want to step through the screen and disappear into the Armenian landscape where much of it was filmed… The trains of thought stirred up by the film’s contemplation of what is here and what is there — and where you are — are endless and stimulating.”
Will Shepard is an American satellite-mapping engineer contracted to create a new, more accurate survey of the country of Armenia. Within the industry, his solitary work – land-surveying satellite images to check for accuracy and resolve anomalies – is called “ground-truthing”. He’s been doing it on his own, for years, all over the world, but on this trip, his measurements are not adding up.
Will meets Gadarine Najarian at a rural hotel. Tough and intriguing, she’s an expatriate Armenian art photographer on her first trip back in ages, passionately trying to figure out what kind of relationship – if any – she still has with her home country and culture. Fiercely independent, Gadarine is struggling to resolve the life she’s led in Canada and Europe with the Armenian roots that run so deeply, if unconsciously, through her.
There is an almost instant, unconscious bond between these two lone travelers; they impulsively decide to continue together. HERE tells the story of their unique journey and the dramatic personal transformations it leads each of them through.
Will and Gadarine move through Armenia and its remarkable landscape photographing measuring, and experiencing the trip in their own individual ways and, ultimately, through each other’s eyes. Their journey takes them across the length of the country, from the Lori region in the north to the Iranian border in the south, and finally into the diplomatically undefined Nagorno-Karabakh region. It is here that they are forced to confront their intensifying relationship and the difficult questions it raises.
Along the way, Will is continually challenged with erroneous data as his trip descends toward failure, while Gadarine encounters much more personal static: nationality, culture, family, old friends. As she starts to discover a new relationship with her homeland, Will begins to question the solitary life he has chosen.
The two become deeply connected as their sense of themselves – and their worlds – expands. As their trip comes to an end, each must deal with the conclusions to which their journey has led them – and each must decide where to go from HERE.
“On one level, HERE is an attempt to explore the meeting points between prose and poetry, logic and illogic, waking life and the dream – and to look at the ways in which our literal and metaphoric explorations define our personal boundary lines and orient (and disorient) our inner and outer worlds. On another, it’s about uniting the narrative and non-narrative film practices that have so greatly and equally inspired me. On a more literal plane, it’s about mapping a new landscape for the Movies – going out in an effort to bring back new images and tales of unexplored “lands” full of formal and narrative territory we don’t often see (if we get to see it at all),” says King about his experience with Here.
“I am not Armenian, nor do I consider HERE to be solely about Armenia, per se. To make a long story short, the country simply presented itself as the most appropriate landscape and culture in which to set this story. My first visit, in 2004, felt like answers to questions I didn’t even know I was asking. What I found was a unique, cinematically unmapped territory that was home to a culture obsessed with geography, history, poetry, art and film. I couldn’t have made it up if I’d tried, and I became obsessed with how much this unique place had to offer this particular film and the world at large,” added King.
“Armenia was first suggested to me by a fellow filmmaker, Gariné Torossian. She didn’t make a big pitch, but she did subtly suggest that the country might be an intriguing place for me to explore for what was, at that time, a very vague idea about a mapmaker whose measurements weren’t adding up. In doing so, she quietly planted a seed. She watered that seed with a few articles about Armenian history and filmmakers like Paradjanov and Pelechian she sent along later,” explained King.
“However, slowly but surely, I’d find my eye caught by an article on Armenia in the paper or Armenian landscape images I’d come across on the internet. I became fascinated with the country’s film history and creative culture, while at the same time finding it impossible to believe that something like Nagorno-Karabakh, a literally undefined territory (diplomatically, at least), still existed,” said King.
“As I explored further, Armenia – its history, landscape, location, people and culture – became another collaborator, a third co-writer. When I visited for the first time in 2004, it was instantly clear that Armenia was the most precise lens through which to focus in on HERE’s story and themes. Within the first few hours of that very first trip, there was no place else to go,” added King.
Here is now showing at the IFC Center (325 6th Avenue at West 3rd. (212) 924-7771) in New York. It will open at the Laemmle Music Hall (9036 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills) and Laemmle Town Center 5 (17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino) in Los Angeles on Friday, April 27 and at Film Society Cinema (1746 Post Street) in San Francisco on Friday, May 11.