Sunday’s opening of the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival (GAIFF) was overshadowed by controversy surrounding the last minute decision to cancel a film showcase, with critics accusing the organisers of censoring films featuring LGBT themes.
According to a report by Asbarez, filmmakers due to have their pictures screened in the non-competition Armenians: Internal And External Views showcase were informed on Friday that the entire 40-film screening series had been cancelled, with the reasoning behind this very ambiguous.
Armenia’s Cinematographers’ Union claimed that the showcase was cancelled due to a period of mourning following the recent death of its former director, Rouben Gevorgyants, on 23 June. This stands in contradiction with an earlier statement by the organisation, calling for the removal of two films centring on LGBT themes, at which point the group threatened to cancel the whole programme.
Following the announcement, a large number of activists and members of the public expressed their belief that the decision to cancel the showcase in its entirety was due to the continued inclusion of the two films in the programme. Gagik Ghazerah’s documentary Listen to Me: Untold Stories Beyond Hatred (2016) and Pouria Heidary Oureh’s fiction film Apricot Groves (2016) both feature LGBT characters.
Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, perhaps best known for directing the 1997 feature The Sweet Hereafter, took to Facebook to condemn the Cinematographers’ Union’s decision. He expressed incomprehension regarding the group’s reasoning, asserting that the best way to honour the late Mr Gevorgyants would surely have been to continue with the showcase, in this way drawing greater audiences to the medium of film.
“We urge the festival to present this programme of thought-provoking work which reflects the true diversity of voices present in Armenia today and the diaspora alike,” read the social media post.