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Last month Simon Abkarian went with YES to the film Festival in Yerevan, Armenia. He has sent this report of his time there.

Yerevan.  It is very hot here.  Hot and dry.  The Armenian capital is in feast.  Youth is blossoming like its trees.  Women are beautiful.  It is the season of apricots.  I cannot help myself laughing inside of me.  I am at the Golden Apricot Film Festival. 160 films from all around the world.  One can physically feel the joyful anxiety. 

I meet Atom Egoyan in the lobby of the Yerevan hotel.  Despite the crowd I manage to reach him.  We hug.  On his face I can read the calm of an English gentleman trying to be polite to everyone.  He is president of the jury.  The opening night at the opera house starts on time.  It is broadcast worldwide.  I am wearing my new suit with stripes, the one I had at the Los Angeles Film Festival.  Sally, where are you? 

The ceremony is very well organised, but what makes it a success, beyond the incredible performances on stage, is the speech that the foreign minister Oskanian delivers.  The words about cinema go to my heart.  I am touched to hear such a brilliant point of view about the absolute necessity of art within the nation.  The very same night, I of course end up drinking with my musician friends.  It is difficult but I manage not to get drunk, not in my striped suit, no.

Two days later YES opens.  I am anxious and suddenly alone….The film is dubbed into Armenian by a woman who is translating the film live.  One voice for every character.  I want to dive into myself and then, when I realise that the screen is too dark - Christopher, where are you? - I dare to go to the projection room.  Breathless, I ask the man ‘This is too dark, why?’.  He points to the projector with his chin and says, ‘That’s its maximum’.  I do not insist and leave it to the Gods.

The crowd comes out, mostly young people.  They have a wicked smile on their faces.  Joan where are you?  Those hungry eyes are so moving.  I don’t want to show my tears while posing for fans.  They are proud to have an Armenian actor performing in English, under the direction of the great artist that Sally is.  I don’t feel special here, for emotion is a national sport in Armenia.

Simon Abkarian

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Simon and Serge Avedikian at the opening of the festival at the National Opera Khanjian

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Simon with Serge Avedikian and Arsinee Khanjian

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Simon with Atom Egoyan and his wife Arsinee Khanjian at the Yerevan Brandy Company reception

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Simon with Atom Egoyan and Ariane Ascaride at the closing ceremony

Text © Sally Potter. All pictures © Adventure Pictures unless otherwise indicated