Thu Apr 6th, 2006 at 06:25:17 PM EST
The question of the Armenian genocide in relation to Freedom of speech in Turkey was extensively discussed in Eurotrib already. As a result we all know about Orhan Pamuk and his case and the European Parliament's decision to recognize as genocide the extermination of around 1.5 million civilian Armenians in Turkey (the Ottoman Empire at the time) in 1915.|
My contribution to this nearly exhausted topic will be just to bring to your attention Ararat. Ararat is a 2002 Canadian drama - Atom Egoyan's most ambitious film to date. The director skillfully recreates the scene of systematic slaughter of more than 1 million Armenian citizens of Turkey by their own government. (Moreover, words alone are not enough sometimes to make you grasp the real importance of certain facts and events. Engaging our other senses can be useful as well). I know Turkish nationalists consider the movie propaganda. But while showing the stories of so many characters, Egoyan allows the obvious topic of the movie - the genocide - to actually become a background to more abstract issues: the way history defines individuals and communities, the destructive effect of denial and the distortions created when history is turned into narrative fiction.
So, questioning the nature of truth, includes also questioning the Armenian claims, which makes the movie more realistic. And yet, no one, least of all Egoyan, puts the emphasis on historical accuracy in "Ararat." But "Ararat" is less about history than about the necessity of dialogue and debate, and also about the devastating effects of an ardent argument.
Now, some info about the main characters in Ararat. Raffi (David Alpay), a young Canadian of Armenian ancestry, is the closest we come to a guide, but he's one of many characters. Confused by unresolved issues about his father, an Armenian terrorist killed during a terrorist attack, he finds an identity and a purpose in the untold story of his cultural history. The most memorable and turning conversation between Raffi and the Armenian director in the movie is: Young man, do you know what still causes so much pain? It's not the people we lost, or the land. It's to know that we could be so hated. Who are these people, who could hate us so much? How can they still deny their hatred? And so hate us... hate us even more?
The other unique character is Raffi's art historian mother. She walls her own past behind impenetrable iciness, thus denying closure to her son and step-daughter in the deaths of their respective fathers.
One of the most memorable lines in the movie is Hitler's cynical excuse spoken at the dawn of the Holocaust. Migeru also cited the excuse in his comment on the Where is the outrage? So, Hitler used to say: "who remembers the Armenians?" to assuage worries that the "final solution" would not go unpunished. This is where the heart of ,,Ararat" lies. And here comes the question what will be the negative consequences for Turkey if it does not recognize the genocide as such. Well, the discontent of the EU political community is obvious. In addition, Turkey's denial of the Armenian genocide affects most of all Turkey itself and its people; because when atrocities are passed by without recognition and punishment then turbulence tends to emerge. And such turbulence on the other hand is a premise for similar atrocities to occur again.