German-born Turkish director Fatih Akin's "The Cut", shown on
Sunday, is a harrowing fictionalized look at the destruction of
the Armenian community in Ottoman Turkey during World War One
which historians and Armenians say was genocide.
Turkey denies this and says the widely cited death toll of 1.5
million people is inflated.
Akin acknowledged at a news conference that he'd received hate
mail about the film and even a death threat on Twitter, but said
"please don't make too much out of that".
"The film that Fatih made is the film that the Armenians have
been waiting for. Everybody always says,'When are we making a
film, a film about the Armenian genocide?'," Simon Abkarian, one
of the actors in the film, said at a press conference.
"It took time. The first generation had to survive, the second
generation had to live and the third generation had to react and
claim what we had to claim, which is the recognition of the
genocide, most of it. And I think that one film is never enough
to tell such a story, we have to make more."
Other festival films include a documentary , "The Look of
Silence", about massacres in Indonesia in the mid-1960s where
death squads killed as many as 1.5 million people in purges
following a failed communist coup.
"Loin des Hommes" (Far from Men) is set at the beginning of the
Algerian war against French colonial rule in the 1950s and stars
Viggo Mortensen as a former major in the French army who is
teaching in a school in a remote part of the Atlas Mountains.
He is forced into a life-or-death desert trek with an Arab
villager, played by Reda Kateb, that makes them overcome
cultural distrust and learn to rely on one another.
Mortensen said he thought it was the most powerful, and even
subversive, film about the Algerian conflict since Gillo
Pontecorvo's famous "The Battle of Algiers" of 1966.
"There's nothing nowadays more subversive than loving and
showing compassion and meeting in the middle," Mortensen said.
"It seems so difficult for people to do, more and more, so I
think it's very subversive in that sense."
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The Iranian film "Ghesseha" (Tales) looks at hardships of life in
Tehran that its director, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, said in part are the
result of harsh international sanctions.
LAST IN TRILOGY
"The Cut" is the last in what the director calls his "Love, Death
and the Devil" trilogy and focuses on the plight of Armenians who
are uprooted from their villages and sent on death marches into the
desert, conscripted into forced labor gangs or killed outright.
The main figure is Nazaret Manoogian, played by Tahar Rahim, an
Armenian blacksmith who is separated from his wife and young twin
daughters in the middle of the night by Turkish soldiers, who take
him to a work camp, after which his town is cleared of Armenians.
He survives the forced labor in the desert and avoids having his
throat slit when his would-be executioner takes pity and only
pretends to kill him.
After Turkey's defeat in the war, he begins a quest that takes him
to Cuba and America in search of his missing daughters who have fled
there, after their mother and the rest of their family were killed.
Nazaret ends up in North Dakota working on a railroad construction
crew and is brutally beaten with a shovel when he intervenes to stop
one of the workers raping a native American woman. Her plight
recalls the rape of an Armenian woman by Turks that Nazaret saw in
Turkey but could do nothing to stop.
"I had to create an empathy, an empathy for the hero, an empathy for
the story," Akin said.
"One trick I used was I took the genocide on the native Americans
and used it just as a snap of an idea, you know, so that even people
who deny the fact of the genocide to the Armenians can identify
themselves with the hero in that moment, to reflect about it later."
(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Rosalind Russell)
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