Aris Movsesyan

Aris Movsesyan: ‘The Smile Connects All the Things I Have Ever Done”

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YEREVAN/BELGRADE – Aris Movsesyan (Movsesijan in Serbian spelling) was born in 1966, in Belgrade, where he received his secondary education. He graduated from the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Belgrade. In postgraduate courses, he has published a number of scientific papers on periodontal medicine and oral medicine.

Aris Movsesyan is quite active in the cultural and political life of Serbia. He was an active participant in the musical “New Wave.” He is engaged in literary work. His short stories have been awarded many times. In 1995 he published a collection of short stories “Characters and Writers.”

He is the screenwriter and assistant director of the film “The World’s Greatest Monster” by Goran Rusinovic (2003). As a screenwriter and director he shot his first feature film “Aporia” in 2006. As an actor he acted in two films “Comrade Black in the National Liberation War” TV series (2013) and “Goat Ears” (2017).

Aris Movsesijan is also active in Serbia for adoption a state resolution for recognizing the Armenian genocide. He has written “1915-1922 in the Ottoman Empire towards the Armenian people. The resolution on the recognition and condemnation of the genocide committed in 2015.”

 

Aris, your biography is quite versatile – from medicine to literature, from film to political activity. What do you label yourself?

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I have always been one of those people, who never complains about not having enough free time. I belong to the generation which had a different definition for an intellectual than it is today. My belief is that a person cannot be entirely fulfilled with one profession. All this does not come from great joy, but from a need for communication and the need to put your thoughts and ideas out there in the world. Imagine it as a pain, something torturing you. Once the cause of the torture is gone from your mind, comes relief and the pain disappears. I have always loved writing and consider it to be the medicine for life. As for film industry, I have entered that world by pure chance. For me it was a great privilege, that I, who am incapable of drawing anything, can bring words and thoughts to life through moving images on screen. And as for politics, I have joined the political scene in my fifties. Living in Serbia, politics was always a great part of my life, so finally I decided to become a part of it. Being an intellectual, I felt a need to actively help.

I assume dentistry is the most profitable of your professions. Do you practice dentistry now?

Yes. I live through it and for it. It is a medicine branch which has gone through the quickest transition in Serbia. Right now is the time to reflect on the state of dentistry in Serbia, in which direction it should further develop, and how to put prettier smiles on the faces of as many people as possible. You know, a smile is exactly what connects all the things I have ever done. A dentist will give you teeth to smile; a writer and a filmmaker will make you smile. Politicians can make your worries go away and therefore produce an environment where you can smile. Humour is something only people possess, so I made it my life’s purpose to put that human characteristic as a priority.

In 2006 you came to Armenia to the Yerevan Golden Apricot International Film Festival with your film “Aporia.” For some people with Armenian roots visiting Armenia is like visiting home, while for the others it was just another country they have visited. How was for you?

That was something very special to me. I would wake up early in the morning and just walk through the town. Yerevan seems to me to be the most beautiful in the morning. On one of my early morning walks, I came across an old lady, sweeping the doorstep of her house with a broom. She was turned with her back to me and for a moment I thought I was looking at my grandmother, who was, even then, already long gone. Everything was so surreal. It might sound corny, but through whole of my stay, I have felt like I have already been there. Everything was so familiar and close to heart. Of course, I realised that my father and I were not the only ones with big noses and thick eyebrows. I regret not speaking Armenian. This came as a consequence of my grandparents speaking Armenian only when they did not want us kids to understand what they were talking about. So naturally it was an amazing feeling to understand each and every one I have met on my walks through Yerevan, even without speaking the same language. I have always said it is no wonder we had Parajanov.

Aris Movsesyan

Is there something Armenian in your writings or films?

I tried writing a script, which I could best describe as paraphrasing Bertolucci’s “Nove Cento.” Twentieth century through three generations of Armenians. The first part of the movie was supposed to be about the genocide, while the second and third part would be about some of the life changing events, inspired by the lives of my grandfather, my father and myself. As a synopsis everything seemed to work. I believed it would be the best thing I will ever do in my entire life, but after writing the first part, after so many strong emotions, it was impossible to write anything else. It just did not make sense. That was the first time I realized how the genocide, along with being pure horror and evil, is a dark shadow following each Armenian to this day. Genocide is not over the day it is physically finished. It is a crime which follows and burdens a whole nation through generations. Maybe, when I retire, I will build up the courage and strength to put all this into words in form of a novel.

Your grandfather Yeznik Movsesyan’s story – how he escaped from Ottoman military service and became a coffee-maker in Pozarevac, is quite interesting. Don’t you think it is a great stuff for a literature and film? Please tell us about him and your Armenian family.

My grandfather is my life’s inspiration. What could possibly be so difficult for me, considering what he went through in his lifetime? This realization gives me strength. Whenever I think something is impossible, I remember that Yeznik, as a small boy, walked all the way from Armenia to Serbia. If he could have such a spark and will to live, then who am I to just give up when life gets hard? One very interesting story is the one of how my grandparents met: My grandmother, Anna Bagdasaryan, lived in Bulgaria. My grandfather was in Serbia. They wrote to each other all the time. Letters and photos are what connected them. I like to say that this was Facebook before Facebook. When they finally met in person, they stayed together till the end of their lives.

You are also involved in politics, being a member of the Nova Party since 2014. What do you think, why the Serbian government has not recognized the Armenian genocide so far, having so similar fate with the Armenians?

Nova Party has been proposing the adoption of the resolution on the recognition and condemnation of the genocide committed in 1915-1922, in 2015 in the Parliament of Serbia for five years. I consider it to be a political act, and will persevere until the resolution is officially acknowledged. The reason why it still did not happen is also political. Serbia is currently a country with a series of problems. It is like a puzzle which has not been assembled correctly. That is why I believe that eventually everything will fall in its rightful place and that the resolution, which I wrote with help of my friends, will finally be adopted. We Armenians are patient people, are we not? Stubborn as well. The lack of official recognition does not mean that the people of Serbia do not understand what happened in Armenia at the beginning of 20th century. It is upon me to make sure that the state acknowledges it official.

What are your current projects? How else can you surprise us?

The political situation in Serbia is very difficult. I have already gone through such periods when art must be put aside until much more pressing matters are handled. Let then the readers in Armenia be the first ones to find out: I have written a novel. I am waiting for things to calm down, so I can put finishing touches on the novel and then finally let it see the light of day. My wish is for it to be translated in Armenian so we can meet again and discuss if there is something Armenian in my way of writing. Of course, with a smile. How else!?

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