Tents, national hospitality, songs and music, films proper to the area and discussions by the fire. The festival also had turned to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, presenting "Memorial of truth" in Tsitsernakaberd, a special project which included film screening and discussion, meeting with Father John Guaita, Katia Malatesta and the director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-institute, Hayk Demoyan. The year 2008 was marked with an important event in the professional life of the Italian expert. She headed ''Religion Today'', similar to our festival, which is devoted to the dialogue between religion and cinema and their relations in the modern world.


-Mrs Katerina, I would like to know how the education of an artist helped you in the position of heading the film festival. 

-It has helped in many things. Organizing the festival, we primarily focus on the artistic quality of the films. And it is no less important than the idea, the meaning, the philosophy and the message of the film, for instance. When studying at the university, we mostly took plastic arts, though many lectures, especially at high courses, were given to the cinema, theater, literature, music, dancing.So both spatial and time arts, as well as technological arts have not gone past my education. After graduating from the university, I had accumulated a huge vault of knowledge in various fields of arts and culture and, particularly, cinema, that is to say, cinematographic art.

-The festival "Religion Today" is devoted to the relation between cinema and religion in the modern world. How do you assess those interrelations in current conditions?

-Cinema is the most powerful way of expression that allows to overcome the narrow bounds of the national and turn into a universal value. In addition to it, as Steven Spielberg says, "cinema is a language that the whole world speaks". Bright pictures, expressiveness and plasticity, a language understood by everybody even without translation, if we are dealing with a true art. Cinema has two important aesthetic functions in this field. It teaches people, shapes them and creates a field of communication, it unites. I think the film language can be considered the most international part, understood by everyone.

Regarding the interrelation between cinema and religion, it is a very large and interesting connection, rare, unique in something. Religion is a very old conception. It is very stable and conservative, while cinema is the youngest of all the arts, which is always changing and transforming.Combining these two factors, we can say that such kind of film festivals first and foremost are bold challenges in the modern world. Besides, cinema is a way to present religion, that is to say the spiritual beginning, and not only Christianity, but also a wide variety of faiths, their similarities and differences, the significant changes they make in society and people's mind.During all the years of the existence of the festival, we've always got two kinds of films: first, direct films about religion, second, films presenting the connection of religion with different institutions: politics, society, culture. Today such kinds of films are just a necessity. I think these films can inspire people with tolerance, peace and harmony. Not that these films are directed not only to people who believe and attend church, but also to all the willing and interested people.

-Who has created or creates the standards of such films from classic directors or from our contemporaries?

-It’s enough to recall Carl Theodor Dreyer, Robert Bresson, Krzysztof Zanussi and many other classics who raised the fundamental issues of human existence, spiritual beginning and moral values in their films. Bergman felt spiritual-moral crisis in many things. As for me, Spaniard Luis Buñuel, a person with a clear moral codex, is an undisputed authority in this field. To the question, given by Carlos Fuentes during their last meeting, "Luis, what have you learned living for 83 years?", Buñuel said in response: "I would give my life for the person, who is looking for the truth, but I would kill the one who would believe he had found it".For me, these are great words of a great thinker and a philosopher.

. I would also mention Krzysztof Kieślowski, the author of the series of the wonderful film "Decalogue", each of which sheds light on one of the Ten Commandments of God on modern background, especially the series "A short film about Love" which is devoted to the Commandment "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". That film is just a miracle, a real discovery. Let’s not forget Wim Wenders, a great German film director, one of the leaders of “new wave” of the German cinema, who devoted his film to the three angles of cinema, whom he called directors with divine appearance: François, Andrei and Yasujirō, that is to say, Truffaut, Tarkovsky and Ozu.

Today, I think Korean director Kim Ki-duk is an undisputed leader in this field, who, how I know, will be the host of the "Golden Apricot" 11th Yerevan International Film Festival. So I advise the readers not to miss the retrospective of his spiritual and high artistic and aesthetic films. Not that the last three years with one decade in world cinema are the triumphant march years of Asian cinema, wise East.

-You mentioned the "Golden Apricot". The films, presented in the competitive program of this year’s festival are mostly devoted to world spiritual and moral crisis. What are the roles of such festivals, especially today, in modern conditions?

-Yes, today, there is a spiritual and moral crisis. People, simple human relations, qualities and naive feelings disappear. Everything is pragmatic.

People are talking about the fall of civilization more and more. Computers and modern technologies have become our new God. The invented, planned world of "Matrix" has become quite realistic, expelling and replacing the things that are habitual and real. But we must find a way out of this situation. I myself notice that in Italy people, especially the young ones, need real life, full human relations and contact out of World Wide Web. I think that such cultural activities contribute to the revitalization of the reality in all senses. The man is alone in the modern world like the hero of Luc Besson’s cult film "Léon". He is lost in the big city and there is no the one who would understand and accept him, who would share all the joys and sorrows of existence. And, by the way, these problems are not new. In the 60s of the last century Antonioni was speaking about the death of society and feelings, the isolation of people and the inability of communication with each other even on the ground of luxurious houses and material prosperity.

-It is already a week you have been on a visit to Armenia. Do you like our "Fresco"? What are the prospects of it?

- I liked the "Fresco" film festival much. It reminded me of my native Italy. When we were all gathered around Swan Lake, it was so interesting! Simple people not knowing each other have gathered in one place to share film screening and to pass a collective session of cleaning themselves by the help of art. Then they were willingly sharing their impressions and thoughts with each other, the organizers and experts. By the way, I think that the Armenians are very wise people. I have learned a lot from you. Those discussions have made people united, brought together in our difficult days of changes. And that is already a great achievement. And the religious person is quite a relative conception because, the man, for instance, may not go to church but can carry permanent spiritual and moral values wiser than the person who attends God’s Church every Sunday from force of a habit. And that action has turned into a mechanical ceremony that is meaningless and does not contribute to anything.Austrian director Ulrich Seidl's scandalous, shocking "Paradise" trilogy speaks about this. I believe that all people, without an exception, are in a need of spiritual food.

- And what are your impressions of Armenia, of its people? What have you managed to see? What will you take with you?

-I have managed to communicate with wonderful people, real professionals, experts in their work. That contact has enriched me and will always remain with me as a kind memory of people with open spirit and inner warmth that they give to anyone who associate with them. And they are all very close which is not less important. I have managed to be in Odzun and Aghtala. I was just shocked by the historical and cultural architectural antiquities of great significance, their scale and stability in time and space. Also magnificent frescoes with subtle colors, especially the blue ones, and here I realized where the name "Fresco" comes from, but those frescoes were damaged over time, in consequence of adverse conditions or enemy attacks. So there are the same white spots, cracks and wounds in the souls of people and they need to be filled, restored, cured through spiritual, moral and eternal values. And, of course, they will change people to the good side, will make them stop in this rapid stream of life and think for a while, look at their inner world and at the inner world of their close people. They will force people to appreciate their own lives, as Emir Kusturica says "to stand on the true way leading to life, people, colors and light". I would like everybody to believe this greatest idea and help how they can do. In this case the festival will really take place.

Maria Tokmajyan

Betanet Company
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