HOLLYWOOD — The 21st Arpa International Film Festival (Arpa IFF), one of Hollywood’s longest running film festivals, showcased 47 films from 17 countries at Hollywood’s historic Egyptian Theatre from November 2 to 4. This year’s festival once more highlighted a diverse range of films that explored themes such as genocide, war, feminism, family dynamics, environmentalism, music, art, adoption, intersectional identities, and LGBTQ issues.
Opening night on Friday, November 2 kicked off with a special reception and screening of “Monday Nights at Seven” (USA, 2016), a love story about a single father who is struggling unsuccessfully to let go of his past. The film stars Edward James Olmos, Marty Sader, past Arpa IFF award recipient Mary Apick and mixed martial arts legend Anderson Silva. A special ceremony honoring Edward James Olmos with a Lifetime Achievement Award followed the screening of the film. The Award was presented by Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated actress Kathleen Quinlan (“Apollo 13,” “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden”). Olmos, currently starring in the television series “Mayans M.C.,” has played iconic roles both in film and television, receiving Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for “Stand and Deliver” (1988).
Saturday evening’s centerpiece program featured two films – Anahid Abad’s “Yeva” (Armenia, 2017), Armenia’s foreign-language submission last year for the Academy Awards, as well as “Diverted Eden,” (USA, 2018) written and directed by Prince Baghdasarian. “Yeva”, which won Arpa’s Best Feature Film, is an intimate drama about a woman suspected of murder who flees to an Armenian village with her young daughter in tow. Yeva has chosen to return to the place she briefly worked as a doctor during the Nagorno-Karabakh War, hoping she won’t be recognized. With mines still dotting the hillsides, the conflict remains part of the fabric of this society and people still remember “Crazy Yeva” of the front-line hospital, though they don’t immediately connect her to the stranger in their midst. As she integrates into the rhythm of village life, Yeva’s memories of the war come flooding back, and a past tied directly to her current predicament.
“Diverted Eden,” winner of the Audience Award at this year’s Sedona International Film Festival, is the story of a war hero who takes matters into his own hands after his young daughter is kidnapped, as detectives unravel the mystery surrounding the unusual crime. Director Bagdasarian’s debut feature “Abstraction” (2013) starring Ken Davitian and Korrina Rico won the Audience Award at Arpa IFF that same year.
Sunday’s Spotlight Film, “In Vino” (USA, 2017) by director Leonardo Foti, won Arpa’s Best Screenplay. The film, starring Sean Young, Edward Asner, and Marina Benedict, is about a wealthy couple, who invite their closest friends and family members to dinner. Before dinner is served the husband raises the glass for a toast to his family and falls face forward on his plate dead. The wife confesses that she had poisoned him and she had poisoned everyone in the room to get the money. The guests have one choice: Kill one person among them and take the blame for both murders to get the antidote or… die in one hour. What follows is a hysterical exchange between the over-stressed members of the group who, in an attempt to establish who should die and who should be the killer, reveal all the skeletons in the closet they have been hiding from each-other for years.
A special closing night awards show wrapped up the three-day festival with three special honorees and a total of six winning films. Best Short Animation Film went to “Echo” (Serbia, 2018) by Borisa Simovic, about a 5-year-old boy who spends a day with his father, whom he only occasionally sees, in nature, with the game of calling Echo. After a great emotional charge that the play and the presence of his father create in him, he returns to his mother’s house, where there is no place for such outbursts of “irrational” attitude towards the world. Best Short Film went to “Taniel” (UK, 2018) by Garo Berberian. The London-based filmmaker accepted the award in person for his film on Armenian poet Taniel Varoujan, who lost his life at the age of 31 during the Armenian Genocide.