Asbarez – The closing night film at the Lake Van International Film Festival, the psychological thriller 1915 received a resounding ovation from the Kurdish and Turkish audience in attendance—and earned the Special Jury Prize at a ceremony in downtown Van on December 11, 2015. The film, co-directed by Garin Hovannisian and Alec Mouhibian, had been at the center of much controversy in the lead-up to the screening, as local anti-Armenian groups condemned the festival and threatened the festival organizer for inviting such a film to what is considered Eastern Turkey.
Executive produced by Armenia’s first foreign minister, Raffi Hovannisian, starring Simon Abkarian and Angela Sarafyan, and featuring an original score by Serj Tankian, the film is a tribute to the legacy of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
Representing the film in Van, Garin Hovannisian took on Turkey’s century of denial and spoke out forcefully about the Armenian Genocide—at the same time recognizing the courage of those intellectuals and organizers who have initiated such a discussion 100 years later. In an interview with Van TV at the Holy Cross Church on Akhtamar Island, Hovannisian said: “This is the spiritual and symbolic heart of the Armenian kingdom. We do not feel like strangers in this land. We feel that we have come home.”
The Kurdish interviewers, in their turn, apologized to the Armenian people on behalf of the Kurdish and Turkish peoples. Even on national television, they did not mince words about “the genocide” and added: “We hope that we can have a common life here. We wish the past did not exist.” Similar sentiments were conveyed all through the week in Van, where a movement to recognize the Armenian connection to this land is well under way.
1915 was produced in partnership with the Armenian Center for National and International Studies and the RVVZ/IDeA Foundation.