On Sunday, July 16, 2017, the 14th annual Golden Apricot International Film Festival concluded in Yerevan, Armenia. Since its inception, Golden Apricot has programmed a colorful and diverse collection of contemporary and classic films from Armenian and world cinema, screening cutting edge international and local films from up and coming filmmakers and world-class auteurs. The festival also does a commendable job of organizing retrospectives of world film masters and co-production workshops that provide creative and networking platforms to regional filmmakers to present their projects to professional representatives from funds in Europe for development and completion.
The festival kicked off with the blessing of the apricots, followed by the unveiling of the honorary stars of directors Frunze Dovlatyan, Yuri Yerznkyan and cinematographer Sergei Israyelyan, three veteran filmmakers from the Golden Age of Armenian cinema during the Soviet era. After the unveiling of the honorary stars, the festival guests and moviegoers viewed "Khaspush" (1928) by Hamo Bek-Nazarian, the father of Armenian cinema.
Throughout the week, several screenings, press conferences and co-production meetings took place, including the presentation of the Armenian Panorama section and the start of the Armenian-Turkish Cinema Platform (ATCP) that continues to provide a networking platform for Armenian and Turkish filmmakers to pitch, develop and produce their film projects. A tribute to the late Polish film master Andrej Wajda was also organized during the festival. For two days, the Creative Europe forum provided filmmakers with a platform to present their projects to representatives from various film organizations in Europe. Master Classes with some of the festival's guests were held at the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies and different venues across the city. Included in the rest of the week's festivities and screenings was a lovely dinner boat ride in Lake Sevan with over a hundred guests in attendance and the screening of the classic French film, "Le Cercle Rouge," by master filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville. Veteran music composer Tigran Mansurian was presented with the "Let There Be Light" Award.
On the eve just before the festival began, an unfortunate scandal was caused when the Union of Cinematographers that provided their screening room to the Golden Apricot Film Festival as a screening venue, decided to not screen two films out of the 37 that were selected by the festival from the "Armenians: Internal and External Views" program. The Union singled out two of the thirty-seven films that dealt with LGBT and transgender themes. They urged the festival to pull only these two films so that the other 35 could be screened. The festival refused to pull the two films and demanded that all 37 films be screened.
Either all the films would be screened equally, or none at all. The Union again refused so the festival pulled all 37 films. Given this last minute ambush, the festival was unfortunately not able to successfully find another screening venue to accommodate all 37 films. This morally reprehensible ambush by the screening venue resulted in the cancelation of the 37 films that deserved to be seen freely in a festival that has screened several controversial films throughout its fourteen years of existence and showcases works of artistic diversity openly. In the days to come, it was brought to our attention that the cancelled films were screened in various places in the city, independent of the festival. Hopefully in the years to come, the festival will take proper precaution to avoid such future ambushes and can pay tribute to the 37 films that were canceled.
During the awards ceremony on the closing night of the festival, the Golden Apricot Prize in the International Feature Competition was presented to Sanal Kumasi Sasidharan from India for his film, "Sexy Durga." The Silver Apricot Prize was presented to Alfonso Uchoa and Joao Dumas from Brazil for “Arabia.” The Jury Special Mention was presented to Vanessa Grisebach for "Western" (Germany/Bulgaria/Austria).
In the International Documentary Competition, the Golden Apricot was presented to "Ghost Hunting" by Raed Andoni (Palestine/France/Switzerland/ Qatar).
The Silver Apricot was presented to Serdar Onal for "Mother Derdo and the Walnut Tree" (Turkey/Armenia), and the Special Mention went to "Village People" by Tztevan Dragnev (Bulgaria).
In the Armenian Panorama National Competition, the Golden Apricot went to "Donald Cried" by Kris Avedisian from the USA. The Special Mention for Acting went to Samvel Dadevosyan for "The Line" directed by Mher Mkrtchyan (Armenia).
In the Documentary section, the Golden Apricot went to "Those From the Shore" by Tamara Stepanyan (France/Armenia/Lebanon). The Special Mention went to "Origines" by Ashot Mkrtchyan from Armenia. The FIPRESCI Jury Prize went to "A Man of Integrity" by Mohammad Rasoulof (IRAN)