By Aram Arkun
WATERTOWN – A group of documentary filmmakers from Armenia was present in Boston for several days at the end of November as part of a trip to collect material for a new film on the history of Armenian rugs. Hayk Documentary Film Studio Director Shushanik Mirzakhanyan, with film director Grigor Harutyunyan, cameraman Samvel Babasyan, and cameraman’s assistant Armen Harutyunyan have been visiting museums, private collections, and rug experts in New York, Boston and Washington D. C. for their project.
Hayk Studio is a state studio which is the heir of the Soviet-era ArmenKino. It existed from the 1920s under various names. Today, it works under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia and receives financing through the state. Every year it produces 12 to 13 documentary films on a wide variety of subjects. First it assembles film proposals, and a list is prepared to be reviewed by the Art Council (Gegharvestakan Khorhurd). The final list is given to the Ministry of Culture for its input.
Film topics include historical themes, art, culture (for example, the 500th anniversary of printing in Armenian was commemorated through a film which traced the beginnings of Armenian printing in Europe), and current events, such the Nagorno Karabagh movement, the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the career and fate of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, and the odysseys of the Armenian ships Kilikya and Armenia. Some documentaries deal with Armenian Americans, like a long film on William Saroyan.
The studio negotiates with various television stations in Armenia to show their works, though the stations can only pay small symbolic amounts to the studio for this. Films are also shown in festivals, and often win prizes.