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Armenian cinema, cinéma+cine, cinematique adventures, Civil war, cultural ghettos, European Histories, feminine discoveries, genocide, the "middle east" portrayed in cinema

Messages are hidden everywhere in Joan And The Voices

Armenia is like a pomegranate. Concealed with a tiny opening at the top. Inside, the many seeds of antiquity. Safely suspended in it’s red flesh, a curiously unstructured structured fruit, a random formation of 613 seeds — a pomegranate is it’s own small land of poetic secrets, like Armenia.

JOAN AND THE VOICES. Official film poster courtesy of Armine Anda, Hoshkee Film Armenia // Copyright 2011it’s red flesh, a curiously unstructured structured fruit, a random formation of 613 seeds — a pomegranate is it’s own small land of poetic secrets, like Armenia.

JOAN AND THE VOICES, the feature debut by director Mikayel Vatinyan, should really be entitled Armenia and Her Voices, a pseudo-silent film. The film wrestles with rhythms and sounds, voices and the grind of an Armenia in the rubble, after the Nagorno-Karabakh territorial war with Azerbaijan in the 1990s. It represents a deep unknowable dark, in the caves and recesses of our minds — memories haunt us eternally. In JOAN AND THE VOICES we are reminded that there is sound and song in all we do. There are messages everywhere.

The film pays close attention to the sound of coal being sifted, grain hitting machinery while it’s grinded, young folk dancers stepping in time, teenage boys playing the kemanche*, children reciting poetry and lines from the Trial of Joan of Arc, birds chirping in the forest, flitting from branch to branch, the sound of digging up treasures beneath the crisp fallen leaves — a hauntingly elegant picture. But with all these sounds — nearly no actual speech or dialogue. There are no created or fantasized characters — Armenia has plenty of real ones — farmers, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, children, students, teachers, artists, and everyday people that encapsulate the viewer. You don’t need to hear the context of each person’s history, joys, jokes, wealth, losses and struggles. You already hear it in their eyes and movement, as the leading actress and co-writer / producer of the film, Armine Anda who plays Joan (Jannan in Armenian), goes about factories, schools, coalmines, villages and towns collecting information and statistics of the people who live there. She is Armenia. But most of all, she is Joan of Arc. Wielding a power, greater than she may be aware of, that she uses to rebuild her broken land after the blood shed and chaos. Even in her confusion, her only fear is that of “betrayal.”

The images are sometimes disorienting and there is not much need for subtitles. Filmed amidst glorious ancient places within Armenia, including Artsakh, Goris and the edge of Ararat, among many other random places along the way. The deafening silence of history creaks through as a recurring image of a man (Mikayel Vatinyan) struggles to get up again, after lying wounded and weak in a bunker or cave, of sorts. Sometimes he hears the sound of heavy boots running in the gravel and rocks, and even the assasination of a man, right after he screams. The wounded man pants for breath, crushes ice blocks to quench his thirst. He’s half nude and caked in layers of mud and dirt, disguising his identity. He never looks up and we never know if he does stand. There are times it is as if he remembers his mother or grandmother soothing his aching body and carefully placing him in a warm bed. He returns to the present, as he drifts asleep covered in the dirt of misery, and cloaks himself with what is left of his jacket and clothing. He is Armenia.

JOAN AND THE VOICES. Postcard image courtesy of Armine Anda, Hoshkee Film Armenia // Copyright 2011

In several stops along her journey, Joan (Jannan) leaves behind remnants of herself: a mirror, for reflection; rosary beads, for meditation. She’s nomadic and constantly going someplace else, but she is never disaffected. She hears Armenia beating within her, like a dhol, the Armenian drum. Fearlessly she battles a fight, the most vicious of all — the one within — of her place in the vestiges of a temporarily incapicitated land.

About asliomur

Aslı Omur is a prolific writer. She is a freelance journalist for hire and a free agent. She writes about: film, people, books and authors, art and artists, music and musicians, cultures, travels, sexuality, cuisines, small businesses and their owners, finance, science & technology, genocide, war time, personalities, stereotypes, urban living, minimalism, simple lifestyles and life off the grid, among many other topics. She is also a published poet and photographer. Her life is one big curation & curiosità. Her article subjects, clients, friends & intimates call her a thorough reporter, coolspotter, trendstarter, creative thinker, sleuth & always a student.

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