Turkish Film Festival in Armenia Prohibited Because of a Gay Man?
Turkish Film Festival “23.5,” which took place in Yerevan in March, was unable to be held in the Armenian city of Vanadzor, the capital of Lori marz (province). The films were to have screened in Vanadzor at the Charles Aznavour Culture House on Dec. 10 and then at the puppet theatre on Dec. 11. After contracts for venue rentals were secured, organizers began to distribute invitations on Nov. 29.
On Dec.8, the director of the puppet theatre, S. Melikyan, told Vanadzor festival coordinator Hamlet Gyulzadyan that the film screening won’t take place in the theatre, advising him to go to the mayor’s office to receive details as to why.
Deputy Mayor Norik Sardaryan said though organizers are engaged in humanitarian activities, the festival won’t take place in Vanadzor — at all.
Turkish Film Festival Director Georgy Vanyan requested a written explanation of city hall’s decision and the one-sided termination of the lease agreements. Sardaryan responded by saying the festival won’t take place in Vanadzor because he wishes it so. He then advised organizers to send a letter and wait for a response.
The puppet theatre director confirmed the fact of terminating the lease agreement. Organizers were able to acquire a lease agreement which was still in effect from Culture House Director Artyom Gulinyan; however, one hour before the festival was to begin on Dec. 10, Gulinyan said he cannot open the doors of the screening room.
At the same time, festival goers began to gather in front of the Culture House, where staff were instructed not to allow anyone upstairs, near the screening room. Vanyan was able to negotiate with staff to allow festival goers to wait at the Culture House cafe until the issue gets resolved. At the same time, two employees of the city prosecutor’s office went upstairs.
At 3 pm, more festival goers arrived, and there was no more room in the cafe. They began to gather in the lobby. After waiting for about 20 minutes, when all attempts to fulfill the obligations of the lease agreement and screen the films had been exhausted, Vanyan declared that, unfortunately, the festival won’t be taking place.
In any case, the festival director made a few opening remarks, turned on his laptop and began to show the films. Naturally, many of the approximately 100 festival goers that had gathered couldn’t watch the films on the small screen and they left, asking Vanyan to kindly provide them with the films later.
The most stubborn spectators remained in the cafe, mainly students from Vanadzor Academy of Performing Arts (directing department). After everyone had left, these 7 students watched the 10 films on Vanyan’s laptop.
Later, Vanadzor Deputy Mayor Sardaryan said no one asked him for permission to prohibit or not prohibit the festival. According to him, he was only asked for his opinion and he had said, such a festival is not appropriate. He added, if the directors of the city’s establishments heeded his opinion, then he welcomed their decision.
“My opinion is that the puppet theatre is not a venue for screening political films,” he said.
Sardaryan further said that he did not instruct anyone not to allow the film screenings and he didn’t receive any “orders from above.” Vanyan had come to see him, according to the deputy mayor, with a man who is gay, and he “doesn’t even say hi to such people.”
“Such people have gathered and want to show something or another, how can that be allowed,” said Sardaryan.
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