Culture

Songs of Solomon: Armenia’s Oscar hopeful

songs of solomon film

Armenia might get its hands on an Academy Award next year, thanks to a timely film looking at the bonds of friendship across ethnic divides, all set to the music of composer Komitas.

Amidst a time of war, Armenia has announced that Arman Nshanian’s visually arresting and emotionally stirring historical drama Songs of Solomon (Nshanian’s feature film directorial debut) will be its official submission to the 93rd Academy Awards in the International Feature Film category.

Written by Audrey Gevorkian and based on the book The Past Unsung by Sirvart Kavoukjian, the film explores the life of iconic composer Komitas, whose impact on ethnomusicology still prevails to this day, while also addressing the first genocide of the 20th century.

Cathartic experience

Released in Armenia on November 26, Songs of Solomon resonates even louder today in light of the September 2020 invasion of Armenian inhabited Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijani and Turkish forces.

The filmmakers hope is that the picture will not only act as a cathartic experience to all Armenians, but also touch and educate us all to help eliminate such atrocities from ever occurring again anywhere in the world.

Inspired by true events, Songs of Solomon is a film about a childhood friendship, torn apart by the horrific Hamidian massacres carried out by the Ottoman Empire.

A brave Turkish woman at a time of dire prejudice risks her own life – and the life of her family – to save her best friend who is hunted down for her religious beliefs. This epic portrayal spans from 1881 to 1915, taking us on an emotional journey to the last concert given by Archbishop Solomon. It is a biographical film which takes place to the backdrop of the sacred and ancient music of the archbishop, also known as Komitas.

A strong emerging Europe line-up

The film stars Samvel Tadevossian, Arevik Gevorgyan, Tatev Hovakimyan, Sos Janibekyan, Arman Nshanian, Artashes Aleksanyan and Jean-Pier Nshania, and introduces three wonderful child actors: Slava Seyranyan, Iren Ayvazyan, Mery Hovsepyan.

The feature is produced by two-time Oscar Winner (for Green Book) Nick Vallelonga of Vallelonga Productions and Hollywood-based producer Asko Akopyan of Oscar Gold Productions.

Other films from the emerging Europe region which have a good chance of success at next year’s Oscars include Collective, a Romanian film about corruption in the health sector, Slovakia’s The Auschwitz Report, and Never Gonna Snow Again, a Polish production.

Never Gonna Snow Again

Never Gonna Snow Again is a particularly strong contender, described by Variety magazine as “a searching, cryptic satire of bourgeois insularity in modern Poland”. As the script explores how self-absorbed, middle class characters treat their employees, their children and each other, it’s often comic, with more than a hint of the absurd.

Co-directing and writing with director of photography Michal Englert, director Małgorzata Szumowska revels in blending genres in this acutely observed festival hit.

“Whether focusing on contorted faces mid-massage or the surreal green forests the customers retreat to in their minds, Englert’s cinematography is superb,” wrote Anna Smith in Hollywood journal Deadline. “Never Gonna Snow Again builds on themes raised in his other work with Szumowska, from the intimate Elles to the cult drama The Other Lamb. This collaboration takes the pair’s achievements to another level.”

The 93rd Oscars ceremony, originally scheduled for February 28, 2021, will now take place two months later on April 25, 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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