Ravishingly shot in silvery black and white, helmer Harutyun Khachatryan's almost entirely dialogue-free "Documentarist" sits at the most avant-garde end of the docu spectrum. Footage depicts the ups but mostly downs of life in today's Armenia, including beggars, births, refugees and a harrowing cull of stray dogs.

Ravishingly shot in silvery black and white, helmer Harutyun Khachatryan’s almost entirely dialogue-free “Documentarist” sits at the most avant-garde end of the docu spectrum. Footage depicts the ups but mostly downs of life in today’s Armenia, including beggars, births, refugees and a harrowing cull of stray dogs. Theatrical prospects look extremely limited, but pic could provide strong line-up meat for docu and human-rights film fests.

Film offers a selective portrait of its country of origin, looking inwardly at its own making as much as at citizens it depicts. Khachatryan frequently appears within the film, his young crew in tow, as he records stonecutters, beggars banqueting and a young refugee boy the director bullies into crying on camera, among others. The dog slaughter is ironically edited in close to a contemptuous speech from a prison director about prisoners, suggesting the state’s callous attitude toward the dispossessed. Visually, pic is reminiscent of the campaigning photographs of war and suffering by Sebastio Selgado and the down-and-out milieu of Russian helmer Artour Aristakisian (“Palms”, “Place on Earth”). The subtly layered sound design enhances the general aura of menace and despair.

Documentarist

Armenia

Production

An Armenfilm Studio production. (International sales: Hayfilm, Yerevan.) Produced by Gevourg Gevorgyan. Directed by Harutyun Khachatryan. Screenplay by Khachatryan, Mikayel Stamboltsyan, Valeri Gasparyan.

Crew

Camera (B&W), Varags Ter-Rakoryan, Lenon Petsoryan; editor, Sophia Gabrielyan; music, A. Terteryan, M. Musorgsky; art director, Vardan Sedrakyan; sound designer, Yurt Harunvenian. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (competing), July 9, 2003. Running time: 60 MIN.

With

Suren Babayan.
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