Review: Hagop Goudsouzian's documentaries
Published: Sunday June 24, 2012
Los Angeles - Reviewing Hagop Goudsouzian movies is always a pleasure since he has an eye for detail, for the broad stroke concept, for the visual and sonorous surprises that he underplays to take aim at truth that is always beyond his and your grasp, so that your reach will elongate and your hopes extend to spheres not yet breached.
Hagop goes to Armenia, modest cinematic tools at hand, but with an ambition a full production crew would envy. He lights well, records well, asks pertinent questions and coaxes answers you would not have guessed. You sit, half sure you know what will come next and half sure, if you know him well, that this will not be the case.
The mountains, claxons, gold teeth and haggard hands, fingers on tattered musical instruments shaking, half lies, full worship of an ethereal existence, questions of belonging, beginnings, moorings, allegiances, origins, crises, hope and self-loathing all captured by the simple strokes of an observant lens always on the lookout for the significant and the inordinate.
Hagop can see the same mountain and church as every other documentary camera snout, but his will be more alive, with more moisture on its tip, with braying louder and with more conviction, leading up the steep hills of mystery, till the fog clears, and Armenia comes fully in view, bustle and jostle for existence and legitimacy, uncrushed by crushing history veins, untouched by smearing neighborly venom campaigns. Wit and wisdom marching on, marching in step, skipping and hopping like deer in the highlands.
The musicians and professional dedicated troubadours, preserving traditions a thousand years old, are not just found in Japan with codified forms of theater and music, but also in Armenians. The traditional instruments, the saz, the kanoun, the duduk, the drums and percussion wind storms, the mandolin-like and the violin-like, the quarter notes and non-diatonic scale brooding tunes, all explained as divine inspiration but by those whose perspiration is in every note, is a quaint picture of old world savvy pouring into new venues and socio-economic upheavals that the artists must endure.
What does it mean to be an Armenian? To be an exiled homeward bound documentarian, to be a short symbol of merged languages and cultures, intermingled beneath the covers of cold nights during self-questioning winters of threatened existence, and small children being indoctrinated one way or the other, one syllable of rancor with two drops of sweet promise, gargled in red, blue and orange sherbet served in a demi-tasse.
From Cairo to Montreal or Paris or Yerevan, Armenians meet and soon find each other pleasant to ponder and prod, their way of showing love is not wasp-approved. They stay firm, they question, they hesitate, they resolve, and kebab and dance and drink and praise never split ends nor infinitives but crash in the middle of the bonfire for sparks to illuminate the desert ominous darkness of history and journeys to the future travelling ever so light and forcibly ginger.
Hagop sheds light, sheds photons and acoustic phonons at this spectacle of manners that is uniquely Armenian, which perhaps only an Armenian can capture long enough to savor and soak in.
Do see Armenian Exile, narrated, produced and directed by Hagop Goudsouzian, the first part of a Trilogy (www.ArmenianExileTheMovie.com), a work dating back to 2009. Also see his documentary Armenian Minstrels, produced and directed by him. You can find the latter at www.Sayat-Nova.orgor www.ArmenianMinstrels.com. This being a work released in 2011.
His film, My Son Shall Be Armenian (already critiqued by this reviewer on www.groong.org/tcc) was part 2 of the trilogy on identity, Armenianness, documentary evidence of vibrancy, beneath the rhetoric and crises that make up the headlines of Armenia every day. Hope Hagop finds his soul and gives a boost to his son's in one fell swoop of dogged determinism that is his unique style of movie making, which I endorse.