By Sargis Khandanyan
Maya and Nare travel together for forty minutes; in step with time but in different directions. They have appeared on different sides of the same story. It’s the same home in Sebastia (now the town of Sivas in Turkey), that unites the two women. But they are in different sides of this home.
In November 2016, it was revealed that this film, that had made it past the preliminary stage of the Oscars and selected as one of the top ten short documentary films, is about the Armenian Genocide. Nare Mkrtchyan is the director of The Other Side of Home. It was produced by Academy Award winner Rob Fried.
|The Other Side of Home (trailer)|
On the Other Side of the Dividing Line
After hearing stories about her grandfather’s murdered family and the family of her grandmother, saved by Turkish neighbors, director Nare Mkrtchyan, a Yerevan native living in California, found herself on one side of home.
“When I gaze at Ararat, it signifies home for me. When a Turk looks at Ararat, that mountain also signifies home. So how is it that two people, located on opposite sides of the dividing line, find themselves on the other side of their home?” Nare asks.
It is during a search for an answer to this question that Nare meets Maya, a Turkish woman. After coming of age, Maya rifles through the family chest of secrets and discovers that her grandmother Nuriye is Armenian. Why was this fact kept a secret? Why didn’t anyone talk about it? School textbooks fail to provide an answer, nor does Maya’s conversations with her mother.
“It was important for me to find a person having both darkness and light within. A person who could show that when we peel away the layers of identity, we are all the same underneath. Thus, in reality, who are we killing? Ourselves? This was the reason that I looked for a Turk announcing to have Armenian blood. I wanted that this person to embody conflict. To find someone courageous enough to speak in front of the camera.”
|Maya (film still)|
Later, when Maya reads about the Armenian Genocide, she understands why her grandmother, who survived somehow, changes her name and religion.
“I am not trying, yet again, to prove the facts; that this is genocide. There is no need to prove that the story of my forefathers is not a fabrication. What interests me is how the genocide, one hundred years later, impacts the two sides. How the genocide continues, tormenting both sides,” says Nare.
The Pain of Denial
Maya, the film’s protagonist, decides to pay her respects to her grandmother’s memory and visit the Tzitzernakaberd Memorial Complex on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. She stands before the camera but has trouble uttering the word “genocide”.
“Her denial was a clear expression of fear. I found myself in a dead-end and had to find a solution. I traveled a long road of anguish. I resolved to display the pain of denial in this film. I believe that Maya truly embodies this conflict. On the one hand, she suffers, and on the other, she denies,” notes Nare.
Nare Mkrtchyan (in center), producer Rob Fried (from right), executive producer Iliana Guevara (from left)
On the Road to the Oscars
This film, with stunning pictures of Istanbul and Yerevan and the accompaniment of magical music, is the first in the 89-year history of the Oscars to raise the issue of the Armenian Genocide. And it’s so close to winning one of the coveted awards.
“The fact that this is the first film to have finally attracted the attention of the Oscars is very important for me. It provides an opportunity to present the history of the Genocide to a wide audience.”
On January 24, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the Oscar nominations for Best Documentary (Short Subject) Film. The winner will be announced on February 26, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.