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South Caucasus

nationality human: yeghegnadzor: not bad for a start

Festival in Yeghegnadzor

"bridge over the wadi" film discussion, september 27

Festival in Yeghegnadzor Festival in Yeghegnadzor
👤 Person from the audience: I think that in comparison with the children and families which were shown in the film, the difference in our Armenian families is that we don’t discuss international relations. And the hatred toward any nationality in the upbringing is no longer present, because we don’t have any wars or the necessity of such an upbringing.

👤 I don’t agree with that opinion. Even as children in our class we often used to say that if anything happens let it happen with the Turks, because they are the worst nation in the world. I guarantee you that kind of physiological point of view is within all of us. I am certain that everyone present here to day have been brought up in that ideology, but the difference is that Armenians don’t go around killing Turks no matter how much they hate them. As for the presence of that intercultural school, it’s welcome of course.

👤 Of course it was a big test, especially for the teachers. They have to control personal feelings and ambitions and be as objective as possible, not to force their personal opinions on to the kids. As for experimenting that experience, due to our relations with Azerbaijan being worse then with Turkey, it is possible to try it with Turkey but with Azerbaijan it’s impossible as of now.

👤 I had many questions in my childhood and I never received any answers to them, even now that I am an adult I still don’t receive the answers to my questions. It can be said to a degree that there is a sphere within which we adults are like kids, because we still haven’t found answers to our childhood questions. I want to say that first of all answers need to be found for adults. We are talking about tolerance, about how we need to be more tolerant, about breaking free of stereotypes, but physiologically we are not prepared for that. Due to our certain reactions to certain events we are far from the laws of tolerance; our reactions come from the instinct of self-perseverance. I think that the adults need help of titanic proportions, because right now the children are individually free of any complexes.

👤 No. It would be correct to teach that from early childhood.

👤 But the children are already prepared. If you only observe the adults or the parents in the very same film closer, it’s clear to see that if the adults wont CHANGE, then the upbringing can not be CHANGED.

👤 That school can be founded for everyone - for example the politicians.

👤 I think that in accordance with their growth these children will live through a big stress, the more they understand and realize what the reality holds, the more contradictions their souls will face. I think they will find it impossible to live, and, that school will be dangerous for their spiritual health. They will not be able to decline from their own nationality, from themselves; therefore they will have to give into enmity. Possibly there are ways of striking peace, but children cannot achieve that peace.

👤 Of course it’s wonderful to observe children it’s simply beautiful. And we used to live in peace with Azerbaijanis just like in that school, we were together in happiness and in remorse, but then the war began and they left to their country and picked up arms, so did we and started killing each other. We began to kill each other. The national interest always holds more of an importance.

👤 I am one of those who left his home. It really is difficult. I thought that I lived through it, erased it out of my memory, but now I realize, that no – I haven’t forgotten. I consider myself to be of peaceful nature – but I didn’t forget it did not erase out of my memory. Perhaps we need to communicate more.

👤 I think that we need to present the real story and these films should be shown in our neighboring Turkey.

Host: There is something close to our reality and our relations with our neighboring countries shown in the film. I’d like to ask a question, if the same day happens to be a holiday for ones and a memorial day for others, where is that line of mutual understanding?

👤 History doesn’t have two versions it must be accepted, and evaluated from a common human point of view. No one looks at the holocaust as a story with two sides. Why not accept the fact of our genocide? It’s not because we are not right, it’s because separate countries aren’t prepared to accept it yet.

👤 I look at it from an optimistic point of view. Everyone must be equal and you can’t force some feeling onto someone.

👤 It was a very emotional film. Every family considered themselves and their people to be better then the other. One of the boys said that he wasn’t going to join either side, I believe if everyone thought that way then there wouldn’t be any wars.

👤 Everyone knows that they don’t give out pilaf at war.

👤 I like the lines from the book: there wont be any war if everyone of us would hears each other out, understand each other and forgive each other. And to forgive does not mean to forget; it just means not to react to evil with evil. That is the most difficult but the only solution.

👤 This film refreshed a lot of things. When I go to Yerevan and show my children Mount Ararat behind which was the great Armenia that we lost. I don’t speak much, because we really need to think, as I always say. That’s why I agree with the fact that adults also need to change in order to bring everything to a common denominator. The fate of every nation always depended from a bunch of adventurers… I don’t know what else to say. But the results are felt by every nation, and they leave their mark on every nation.

From the interviews after viewing

👤 The important thing is that this festival was for the youth. Globalization has the ability to change all human fates.

👤 Not bad for the beginning, of course we were all passive, but festivals like this one aren’t held everyday.

👤 I liked the childish point of view in the festival. Only child like thinking is able to successfully harmonize patriotism and peacefulness, unfortunately it doesn’t exist in an adult life in which people fight wars. In an adult life – it’s a dark spot.

👤 I don’t know why but for some reason I like Azerbaijanis less then the Turks… even though we received more wounds that won’t heal from the Turks.

👤 We can’t tell children that their friendly relations will result in friendship between their nations, because that’s the orientation of the government interests. The idea of the festival itself is interesting, but it's a very small step.

👤 Such things happen only in big cities, and now it's nice that a festival came to Yeghegnadzor.

"encounter point" film discussion, september 28

Festival in Yeghegnadzor
👤 This film caused the heaviest psychological pressure on everybody. II recall an episode where a young man says – I cannot forgive the killer of my brother but I can forgive the people, the peaceful population. And really it is not the fault of simple people that Southern Caucasus has so many conflicts.

👤 These films make us think about who we are. Had we thrown rocks and how did we gather them again. I am prepared for peace – that idea is present in the film, it happens in real life as well, but there is no transfer to «We are prepared for peace» – no. Our story is similar to the Middle Eastern story, «War is evil» and neither side possesses it on the level of ideology.

Host: What do you think, who can be called a war hero, the sniper or the mother who lost her son who is moving towards making peace?

👤 The showing of the films itself – is a disciplinary and an educational process. They force us to get nervous and put ourselves into the situation of those people and think about how we would react. That can result in changes in the way of thinking.

👤 The fact that families with losses are moving towards making peace …

👤 We didn’t even lay a finger on the Azerbaijanis we acted like Christians.

👤 I don’t agree about us not doing anything, and that’s why the responsibility to making steps toward peace lies on our shoulders. He who really wants peace can find a field for action. Everything seems very easy in films, but do we have the ability to do something ourselves?

👤 A film is only an episode a production and idea. We are sitting and talking – this can become a film as well – but that’s an idea and not an action.

Host: But the people in the films were real, and their stories were real, and all their words and actions were real, and there is a real action here in this case in comparison with our audience.

👤 I agree: to think of taking steps towards peace when your child was killed – is already action.

Host: Also the following question is raised in the film: What would I do if I saw the person who killed my close one?

👤 But you’ve got to keep in mind that they aren’t the real killers, the real killers are a small bunch of people who control everything. I bought a house from an Azerbaijani woman myself, and transferred her the money on the border back then, and during that process neither one of us lost face. There were mixed and separate villages. I saw it with my own eyes how an Armenian woman was crying while gathering her neighbor’s apricots. There is no such thing as someone else’s pain. I simply believe that the day will come when peace will be in everyone’s consciences. It just occurred to me that it’s difficult to come to a mutual understanding on the level of one nation, mutual understanding can be achieved on the basis of common fate.

👤 Once I saw on Azerbaijani television what our soldiers did, I saw war through their eyes and understood that we weren’t the only ones who suffered. I understood that only after viewing what I saw on television.

👤 We don’t have the kind of a forum as they do in the film. I want to see and hear the Azerbaijanis. When I watch these films I constantly think about the Azerbaijanis, while the reality about us seems to get away and disappear.

Host: I am happy that you brought your attention to that question as well, about the absence of information. Based on this film and based on what we are observing, while being in conflict with our neighbors, we can safely talk about the absence of the mass media in the processes directed toward achieving peace. Along with that I was also surprised by the optimism of the people in the films. What gives them the strength to believe in themselves, to believe that their actions can make some sort of a difference? What do you think about that?

👤 I understood that they had a fear, which they overcame. Perhaps that’s what helps them continue.

👤 Our conflict is more or less newer, that’s probably why we are still at the stage of «talking», and not the stage of taking certain actions.

👤 Every one must work on themselves and let everything pass through them. And today’s discussions are nothing more then an air quake. We can change something only if we change from within.

👤 I don’t know if the people on our side will be able to do that. Their children who died are considered to be heroes and when you are moving towards the opponent their heroism is bound to show. It’s a tremendously difficult question.

👤 I think these films could bring us to form a personal position, in regards to what’s happening around us.

From the interviews after the show

👤 «Nationality - Human» means, «I am a valuable». Conflicts wars and losses are dealt with differently in different countries, regions and nationalities. I think our mothers are more sensitive and vulnerable and they don’t compare to the mothers in the film whatsoever. After this festival the desire to make your own films comes up.

👤 Our television stations show action films and soap operas for the youth. I think this festival is needed for educational purposes. It is desirable to see more of this type of education not only within the duration of a few days in a year, but also on television for common access.

"punjabi cab" and "three сomrades" film discussion,
september 29

Festival in Yeghegnadzor Festival in Yeghegnadzor Festival in Yeghegnadzor
👤 Person from the audience: Unfortunately this film did not have the answer to the question as to how to avoid meaningless violence, when a certain group of people makes it their right to demean or even kill others because they look different or they weren’t born as blondes. How do you fight against that?

👤 Other cultures must be respected. We Armenians also treat the Persians and the Indians badly. Of course for us killing would be blowing things out of proportions. We just need to know more about each other.

👤 We know that Armenians also get killed in Russia. And we don’t know the laws that regulate the behavior for a guest. I am I person as it is, but do I behave human like when I am a guest somewhere? When someone gets killed, it may be analyzed and be found out as a result that the one who was killed acted somehow wrongly or inhumane. This means, first of all what we must do is, make it so that our compatriots would not leave the country, and even if they do, so that they remember that they are leaving to find the means to support their families and when you are supporting a family you must behave modestly. It doesn’t make a difference that Russia is a friendly country, or Georgia is a friendly country, the behavior must be modest everywhere. We can even travel to Turkey. It is understandable that we have certain national feelings, but they cannot be used when you are traveling as a tourist or going on a business trip. Business trips have their own rules. You must stay loyal to the feeling – I am human. Everything is in the hands of a human himself these days.

Host: Thank you for the interesting interpretation of the topic, but our question was presented in a different way. We were talking about people getting killed due to their nationality or the religion they practice. Of course ethics play an important role in relations. In the United States they get killed because they wear turbans, in Russia because they have a Caucasian features. That’s what we are discussing right now.

👤 It is wrong to say that “the blacks” get killed on purpose; even in our little Armenia we have a problem with foreigners. So it is only natural.

👤 For example we see how an Armenian got killed in Voronezh, but it’s still unexplained as to why…

👤 The existence of skinheads is not due to cultural exchange. We confuse different layers, which cannot be brought to a common denominator. The possession of skinheads in Russia… they must be separated into a nazi zone. Culture and ethics are within a different criterion.

👤 There is disrespect of culture at the base of any type of Nazism. Meaning in reality these two things are tied.

Host: Very well, let’s return to the film and attempt to express which one of the episodes left the biggest impression on you, what was the most memorable?

Mhitar Gishyan: Okay let’s return to the film, it’s a lot easier for me to do, because I have already seen all the films several times. If the main character of the film is human he should have donated blood. You must be supportive of your own humane principals by disregarding the treatment you receive. That’s why my opinion is that there is something false in the person around whom the film was made, for him peaceful co-existence are just words.

👤 I agree with that. And there is more. He says he loves America and wants America to love him. Those are also just words. How can he be the pretender to common love and how can he speak on behalf of everyone, for example on the behalf of all who are adherent to his faith?

Host: But from another point, every citizen wants for his or her government, or country they live in, to value him or her, a person wants to feel his or her meaningfulness, independent of weather they lived there a long time or they have just arrived in that country. We all feel that urge. I think it’s only natural.

👤 I think in order to solve the problems of rejection and Nazism, the very being of a human must change, there are no laws, which can be of any help here. A person must independently realize that it is wrong to kill.

👤 Even though I watched all the films attentively, I would just like to say this about the festival and thank the jury on such a successful choice of films. The festival was very useful for me personally. I learned a lot of new things, and by the way I also learned a lot of English words because of the subtitles.

Host: Let’s continue the same flow of the conversation. What were the new things you found out for yourself from the films? For example, you definitely heard about Chechnia, did your opinion change after the film, especially in regards to the stereotypes about the Chechnians.

👤 It is impossible to come to a conclusion from one film.

👤 There are no people who wouldn’t blame the Russians for what happened in Chechnia. I think it’s clear even without the film.

👤 But if we were shown another film we could have blame the Chechnians. In any case, films in general help to make us ponder about how primitive our imagination may be about some things, and these types of films allow us to have doubts about that which we considered to be the absolute truth yesterday. I only now realize that my opinions specifically about Chechnians were not entirely correct.

👤 For example we heard that Chechnians are proud nation. But what nation doesn’t have pride? And it’s not the Russians and Chechnians that are fighting here or the Americans and the Sikhs fighting there, it’s the laws of the geopolitics, which force people to go against each other.

👤 I think these films don’t prove anything; they only show how simple people are suffering. Independent of nationality, the strong have always wanted to prove their righteousness, throughout history.

👤 I for example understood that the Chechnians were less to blame then the Russians even without the film. Because, Russia is a more powerful country, and can make scapegoats out of them, by even blaming its own mistakes on them. Small nations cannot pose as a threat to bigger countries. Simply due to the instinct of self-perseverance they cannot go insane and attack Russia all at the same time.

👤 That’s right. For example a little boy that passes by me will never think to insult or provoke someone stronger then him – because of course he knows that it’s meaningless.

👤 I, for example don’t understand. It works out that before, during the discussions, for example yesterday and today we were trying to clear Georgia, and now within the same situation we are accusing Russia and are coming to a conclusion, that Chechnians are victims. Why do we evaluate differently when the situation is the same?

👤 I think the question was formed incorrectly. There is no similarity here.

👤 What’s the difference?

👤 Chechnia fought for independence. And in Ossetia it’s a fight between two super powers - Russia and USA.

👤 We don’t have the right to accuse or clear anyone. There are politics, and no one is guilty. There are only political interests.

👤 I have a question. In august there was a threat that there would be a war between Georgia and Russia. Russia is an ally, and Georgia is a friend and neighbor. We were talking about friendship and enmity between nations here. What if the war between Russia and Georgia started, whose side would we be on? Then, we would have to make a choice at that time.

👤 We would have to preserve neutrality.

👤 That’s impossible! With neutrality we would loose our friendship with Georgia and our alliance with Russia.

Georgi Vanyan: A very good question was raised, and I will continue to follow the discussion with great interest. But I’d like to express my opinion in concern to the previous question, about the parallels between Chechnia and the recent events in Ossetia. For me personally as I judge from my personal experience, from what I know, Ossetia and Abkhazia are being Chechenized. After their recognition Ossetia and Abkhazia are gradually turning into Chechnia. They are turning into space which is absolutely unattainable from the outside and is closed from within. That’s my personal opinion. Now I will listen with great interest about your opinion on the question of the choice, which we would be faced with.

👤 We don’t have a choice here. Georgia is going into NATO. Armenia is in CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) .. And if a war is declared, then Armenia, in compliance with the agreement must be a Russian ally. Armenia cannot breach that agreement, even though Georgia is a very close country, and we are not indifferent to the fate of the Georgians. That’s why we must do everything to remain as neutral as possible.

Georgi Vanyan: I still don’t understand, eventually what were you trying to say…

👤 Of course it’s good that politics are being discussed; there is communication in the process, exchange of opinions. But to what level can we be of sound mind. For example we have proof of the events that took place on March 1, videos, documents, but we addressed the international expert analysis anyway. It’s very good that we are all gathered here today. But how well informed are we to declare anything. How competent is this audience? How correct are these opinions? And what are the criteria of our discussion, what boundaries can we reach in this discussion? Here is the film “Punjabi Pub”. I am prepared to respect any religious person. Here are the very same shaved heads… Skinheads. How do you fight against them? That’s of course clear. We need to answer them with same animosity. But for that we need to be strong, in order to be respected. If there are skinheads then we are the ones who are guilty. We must work on ourselves. Where do worldwide questions fit in here? How well informed are we about Russia or Georgia to make conclusive judgments? Do we have the right to discuss this?

Georgi Vanyan: As I understood, you are attempting to do everything in order to close the question about the Armenian - Georgian relations.

👤 That’s no so; I simply want to know why we are discussing this?

Host: Why are we discussing this? Because the films of the festival automatically makes the analogies and the audience chooses for them selves, the subjects that are close to the problems which were raised in the films.

👤 I think that big countries are not everlasting when it comes to their interests as well as their claims. As for the Georgians we have lived and will continue to live side by side. Our cultural capitol was in Tiflis, in Georgia, and our culture was created there. No one has asked me weather I want to join NATO or CSTO. Did we have a referendum? Who took my opinion into consideration? Personally during a war I will be on the Georgian side. It has been said here that we need to solve our own problems instead of worldwide problems. But that is also our internal problem. They voted in Georgia in favor of NATO. And what did I vote for, who asked me for my opinion?

👤 I would like to return to the films because right now we are risking to deepen too much into the topic. About today’s first film I want to say the following, first of all the film was very long, Those 90 minutes could have been fit in 20 minutes. Second, this film “Three Comrades” was an imitation of neutrality. Because Putin who in reality represents Russia’s very being, is accused in It, I think it’s a propagandist film.

👤 I wanted to answer the question about what would happen if war broke out again, but it seems that it doesn’t make a difference anymore…

Host: No, why? Let’s continue the topic.

👤 I would like to say that if we put aside politics I myself as a human would support Georgia, disregarding the fact that I have relatives in Russia, I don’t like the Russian superpower politics, I would join Georgia.

👤 I am sitting and listening to conversations about peace and tolerance. I did not want to speak… But after all where were we on March 1? All of us – such good and tolerant people… Whose side were we on, while keeping our neutrality? And what are we going to do afterwards when we all leave and go to our homes…

Nane Bagratuni, co-organizer: Such a festival is being held for the first time in Yeghegnadzore. It was made up and realized not as a simple NGO activity, where the people are already very active and are used to talking and debating. It was to be an event where people would just gather to discuss another topic. The majority who came to the festival is the youth and among them there are many who came to a public event for the first time. I attempted to attract as many new people as possible, and I am glad that they got interested and came.

At the same time a lot of those who didn’t come are those who for some reason or other disliked this festival in advance. Too bad they didn’t come. It would have been good to hear their opinion… It would have been good if the opponents of the festival would have at least figured out its meaning. In any way I consider the festival establish itself. It presented questions, focus the attention of the viewers and discussions’ participants to the duality and contradiction. The showing of the films, the usage of visual art and its reaction, from my point of view, is one of the most effective means today, not only for the exchange of information, but also of feelings and emotions. And the most important part is that the festival infected us with ideas.

Recorded by Luiza Poghosyan
South Caucasian Documentary Film Festival of Peace and Human Rights in Armenia implementing by Caucasus Center of Peace-Making Initiatives with support of Eurasia partnership foundation - Armenia and the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

So-organizer and host of festival in Eghegnadzor: Nane Bagratuni in collaboration with "Yavuryan-Studio"