By Aramazt Kalayjian
Despite being filmed two years prior to the 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Garegin Papoyan’s film about Artsakh’s airport is still relevant and a must-see for anyone interested to see Artsakh’s unrecognized status. His approach to telling the story of this pristinely renovated yet non-operational airport is hypnotizing.
Through this documentary, we see the airport represents a microcosm of the in-between nature of the Republic of Artsakh as a part of Armenia and as a nation as a whole. Artashes Matevosyan’s cinematography beautifully captures the sinuously still nature of the functioning yet non-operational airport. The truth is, Artsakh’s only airport has been renovated completely as if new, rendered operational for 8 years with over 50 employees and yet it remains without a single commercial flight.
In “Bon Voyage,” we see the staff of a sleepy airport in the vicinity of a small city goes through its daily routine. Weather is checked in the control room, the secretary makes coffee for the director, the workers come in for an obligatory medical check-up while the cleaners ensure that the marble floors are spotlessly clean. Something is not quite right however…The airplanes and the passengers are nowhere to be seen.
Through wry observational scenes, “Bon Voyage” describes the absurd ironies of a not-so-ordinary post-Soviet community stuck in the political impasse generated by a frozen military conflict, which has since erupted into full-blown warfare. Fully equipped for accommodating small civilian flights, the recently rebuilt Stepanakert Airport in Artsakh does not operate due to the permanent threat of missile strikes, which is exacerbated now due to Azerbaijani-control of much of the area surrounding the airport.
Unwilling to risk any lives, the airport, nevertheless, remains “open.” The dreary ritual of keeping the standby facility operational turns the workers into a closely-knit family unit, where each individual lives out their personal dreams while continuing to hope for the basic freedom to cross borders and receive guests. Since the pandemic effectively had shut down many festivals and theaters throughout the year, and the war in Artsakh has delayed many creative projects in lieu of more emergent needs, “Bon Voyage” is now being pre-released on the Vimeo Video-on-Demand platform by Open Studio. Pre-orders are available for a December 15 release date.