Yesterday we were informed that the new film by Armenian filmmaker, director and screenwriter Jivan Avetisyan “Gate to Heaven” was abruptly removed from the officially announced line-up of the 42nd Moscow International Film Festival, where it was scheduled to have its world premiere in the non-competition section.
The film is a co-production between Armenia, Lithuania, Germany, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Italy, Austria, France and USA with an international cast and crew, which is a big and conspicuous experience for Armenian filmmaking. (Before that Avetisyan had many international screenings with his previous films: at Sarajevo Film Festival-Cinelink Market, 20th Shanghai International Film Festival and etc.)
“Gate to Heaven” tells a touching human story about the Artsakh war and its consequences. It has a humanistic approach and does not advocate any form of violence, hatred or intolerance.
Armenian film critics and journalists are bewildered that external political manipulation around the recent escalation of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh can affect one of the biggest cultural events of the region. “The Armenian Association of Film Critics and Cinema Journalists” wants to remind international and especially our Russian colleagues, film festival organizers, curators and programmers that film festivals are unique platforms for cultural dialogue and mutual understanding, where political manipulations and pressure have no place.
We have to be united in our respect of the artistic freedom of the filmmakers to tell stories, which represent their point of view. We have to stand unanimously for diversity of views and freedom of expression in filmmaking. No ministry in the world can disprove and refute the decision of a selection committee, which consists of prominent film critics. Our voices have to be more powerful than the voice of pressing and enforcement. As colleagues, we are sorry for “Moscow International Film Festival” selection committee members, film critics, who became victims of political conjuncture, since the ministry of a foreign country, namely Azerbaijan, intervenes in their inner and delicate work.
We truly believe that the international community will raise its voice and convey to the “Moscow International Film Festival” that we are here to emit and emphasize the importance of cultural voices, wherever they come from. in the 21st century there should be no discrimination and restrictions and more so no frivolous deviations from one’s own decisions as a result of external pressure.