From the Vault: Programming and Subtitling

The increasing difficulties that our national film culture faces – in particular, a lack of resources and finances – is an obstacle that prevents us from creating films. There are, however, other difficulties that keep us from sharing the films we already have with the rest of the world. In this sense, these problems are self-inflicted.

These difficulties come in the form of a lack of programming in theatres and a lack of subtitles on home media. The most important thing, in terms of having our films seen, is access. The lack of access prevents audiences from seeing films that are part of our culture and restricts our culture in establishing a sense of identity.

The older generation remembers watching Armenian films as they were released. They also grew up watching older films on television, such as Pepo. These films were engrained into their sense of culture. They grew up knowing these characters and stories and anticipated new film releases. The younger generation, however, and the Diaspora, in particular, is less familiar with these films. The lack of access to these films keeps us from seeing these works and learning from them. 

The production of more films will shape our national film culture, but that itself will take time. The other option we have in shaping our film culture is to share the films that we currently have with audiences. If the Alex Theatre, for instance, began programming Armenian films and screened a film a month, audiences would be reintroduced to these films. The older generation would flock to the theater to see films they haven’t seen in years, whereas the young generation will have an opportunity to see films they otherwise never knew existed.

There are a number of revival theatres that program and screen films of all cultures. There are film festivals that focus on programming international films for audiences. The only opportunity, at the present moment, that allows classic Armenian films to shine on the big screen is the Arpa International Film Festival. If we could, however, interest theatres to begin programming Armenian films, this will create a venue for sharing these films.

This, then, brings up the question of, how these films would be screened. This ties into the second problem we face, which comes in the form of our only other way of consuming media; DVDs. These films, many of which are available on DVD, lack an option for subtitles. If theatres begin screening these films, DVDs are one of their few options, unless a print of the film is available. The lack of a subtitle option, however, becomes problematic. This prevents non-Armenians from discovering Armenian cinema; all foreign films available online can be purchased and watched, regardless of language, because almost all are equipped with English subtitles. The few Armenian films we have on DVD lack an option of subtitles. This problem – which is an easy fix – prevents us from sharing our films with the rest of the world.

The resolution of these issues, both of which have simple solutions, will allow our current line of films reach a wider audience. These films have been ignored, but if given a chance, these films will captivate audiences, now more than ever, because of their minimalism. These are measures we can take upon ourselves, because instead of being the source of our own problems, we can take responsibility and make sure the rest of the world sees what we have to offer in terms of cinema.