The red carpet was rolled out in a warm Yerevan setting sun to mark the opening scenes of the Golden Apricot Film Festival.
The festival's poster is symbolic of their 20th anniversary, a precarious cross-section of time with the globalizing age of documentary, unscripted, and social media creation centralized on recording "real life".
"Don't quote me on this, but I read somewhere where a filmmaker said, 'Movies are the closest thing to recreating life.' And that idea of memories; it's why we're drawn to narrative films."
Spliced into the Golden Apricot's program, you'll find the short film "Carnivore" from director Michael Aloyan, an introspective film on the percolating Armenian male bravado.
"I think narrative is such an accessible way to put people in your shoes in this visceral experience. Again, it's beautiful."
Aloyan is one of a modest number of Armenian filmmakers focused on solely on "movies", or the industry moniker: "narrative film".
It is undoubtedly one of the hardest creative mediums to tackle. From character development and plot direction in the screenwriting process, to casting and shooting location decisions, all the way to down to the months upon months of editing to capture the celestial emotion of the film. There must be a synergy of decisions to make even a half-decent film. That is, if you can raise the funds for it.
Despite the daunting mountain of filmmaking, Aloyan - amongst other Armenian and non-Armenian filmmakers - are showing their work in Yerevan this week, with Aloyan's "Carnivore" making its World Premiere.
"'Carnivore' is extremely autobiographical. Not like 'this happened to me and I made this movie', but like memories and how you remember them. It's based more, I would say, on experiences and feelings in childhood," reflects Aloyan over a Zoom call following his screening.
The film's backdrop is set at a large family khorovats where we witness the split of two parallel storylines: one that follows tensions of grown all-knowing men as the barbeque drains on, and another story that follows the men's teenage kids as seek to prove their daringness to each other as they sneak off for an ocean swim.
The core conflicts of the "Carnivore" derive from notable toxic masculinity behaviors of proving one's "manliness", where everything takes a turn for the worse. Instead of commenting on it in the story, Aloyan's film holds up a mirror to the Armenian community in ways that forces audiences to reflect on themselves at their own pace.
You feel the bubbling anxiety throughout the film. Your minds wanders into where the world could continue. You see Armenian characters who you "know".
There is a scarcity of Armenian films being made today, yet Golden Apricot's perseverance is a testament to the purity of the power of film and the community it brings together.
"Obviously getting to see all these people in one place is incredible; it's kind of hard to to meet these people individually that are spread all around the world. But it hasn't just been filmmakers here at Golden Apricot; it's amazing meeting cool journalists and documentarians doing things from a different aspect. Everyone just loves movies," says Aloyan, who is was in Yerevan with his film's supporting actor Edgar Damatian and his composer Arman Aloyan, who is also his brother.
"Carnivore" is an example of where Armenian filmmakers are heading towards. More and more filmmakers are focusing their prowess towards Armenian stories, with perhaps a turn even more so towards narrative filmmaking as a route to connect Armenian culture with the rest of the world.